By Maria Angels Anglada, Bantam, $20.00, 128 pages
“At his carpenter’s bench, Daniel felt alive again, but when he and his co-workers left at the end of the shift, he had the impression that he was entering a nightmare where he was caught in a monster’s slimy tentacles.”
The Violin at Auschwitz by Maria Angels Anglada is the story of Daniel, a luthier masquerading as a carpenter while in a concentration camp. With his true profession revealed, two camp officials bet on his ability to create a violin. The conditions of the bet? Daniel’s life.
In the existence of the violin this book reaches from the present to the past, increasing the intrigue. Although the survival of the violin is clear, that of the humans is uncertain until the final pages. I admire Anglada’s ability to create the horror and emotion of the camps in just a few brief words. One sentence, one image can stop you—branding the reality of the time into your brain forever. Beyond the basic story, Anglada also raises larger questions by revealing humanity in some Germans.
Although the movement from one chapter to the next sometimes feels choppy, that may be due to the translation from Catalan to English. The choppiness also mirrors Daniel’s life as he moves each day from creating beauty to working in a war factory. Between death and protection.
This is a book that will make you think about much more than one man’s story.
Reviewed by Jodi M. Webb