I Believe the Correct Term Is “Worlds War II”: Short movie & book reviews on a theme

Eve Tushnet | 2/8/2019 | Staff
maddyb7 (Posted by) Level 3
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Arts and entertainments from four nations caught in the catastrophe of the century of progress. Or, four very different World War IIs.

First, the book: Andrzej Szczypiorski’s The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman, which I read in Klara Glowczewska’s translation. This is a fractal portrait of Poland, in which every chapter follows a different person from prewar life to death. All these people get caught up in one microcosm event: the arrest of Irma Seidenman, who is living under an assumed name on the Aryan side of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. The novel’s form makes the case for Poland as a reality, “Poland is a thing” as the youth of today would say. The novel’s events make the case that, as most cultures are defined by their characteristic conflicts, Poland is defined by the dichotomy of innocent suffering (it is “the Christ of Nations,” or so the Poles tell us) vs. complicit villainy, the victim or the henchman.

Book - Mass - Arras - Shares - Book

This is a more easily-intelligible book than A Mass for Arras, though it shares that book’s concerns with home, homelessness, and complicity. Szczypiorski gives many of these characters flights into lyricism, though they’re flights in different directions: nostalgia for the age of the Habsburgs, betrayed socialism, Jewish belonging and Polish nationalism and Christian faith. Toward the very end we even inhabit the mind of a Nazi officer and get a taste of the kitschy lyricism of the Reich–although Szczypiorski does this character the kindness of sending him to a Soviet prison camp, where his mind goes animal-silent and numb with hunger. There are bafflingly sad trajectories, like the rebellious Jewish kid who turns into a hidebound anti-Semitic elderly Pole; a doctor has a vision of his dead father while his home is being raided. (The noises of soldiers ransacking his home come to him like “the ticking of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Eve Tushnet
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