Wednesday, May 14, 2014

World War, take II

Book: Tales of Grabowski: Transformations, Escape, and Other Stories
Author: John Auerbach
Published: 2003 (The Toby Press) (this collection)
Pages: 307

This is another set of War stories, these about World War II and the Jewish guy who disappears into his new identity as a German clerk to escape persecution. 

 It's an interesting exercise in dual identity and how a new identity can take on its life on its own and basically suffocate the old one until the grief sort of explodes in exactly the wrong place and time. The new identity is basically written as a whole separate person who for some reason keeps flashing back to this other dude's much grimmer life.

 And believe you me, this doesn't skimp on the grim. World War stories have all earned their grit and the right to hand you their realities on a chipped tin plate with no fork in the middle of a trench next to a corpse that doubles as the dining room table if you care to sit at it. But I don't blame you if you pass that up.

 I read these right after I finished Pat Barker's trilogy, and unlike that I didn't take breaks between the stories because they weren't full novels, not really, and they were a bit more sparse on the psychoanalysis so they read faster, but other than that they felt very similar, just moved up thirty years.

 That's what makes war interesting (and horrible) to study yet kind of boring to read about in fiction - that unrelenting grinding sense of dingy dull dread stays constant across all levels and eras of combat. When it's written well like this, that's the best I can say about it - it's written well, and I will keep this on my bookshelf because of that, but I think maybe something a lot lighter and more speculative should go between these. Probably not deadly serious lit fic, though, because if the protagonist ends up being any sort of whiny I will want to seize them by their entitled neck and shove them behind a tommy gun and see how well they'll turn out.

 Did not mean for this review to get, uh, violent. But no, this is good, and based a lot on the author's own experiences, so if you haven't read a lot of war fiction I recommend this because it's no-nonsense while still being completely descriptive and feels achingly real.

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