Tattooist

December 3rd 2019

Today I stayed up late to finish reading The Tattoist of Auschwitz. It’s a novel based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp during the second World War.

Inexplicably, it is a love story.

Lale is put to work as the Tatoweirer, or the person who tattoos numbers on the arms of the prisoners in order for the SS (read, Nazis) to identify them. One prisoner he tattoos, Gita, he falls in love with almost immediately. Before that, though, is the description of the holocaust. Lale Sokolov is a real person, with a real story, and so is Gita. And reading about the holocaust through the eyes of a real person made the book, at times, unbearable.

It’s unbearable because of how matter-of-fact the description is. At one point Lale goes into one of the gas chambers, and the description is… well, it’s unbearable. I had to put it down a few times. I mean, I know what happened. I was taught what happened. But good writing puts you into the mind of a character, and I didn’t like being in Lale’s head, or seeing through his eyes.

And yet, with all of that going on, it’s a love story. And it’s a really good story. Lale is fantastic, cunning, courageous, brave, idiotic, reckless and stupid, and it was both a heartache and a joy to follow him around for three years.

It’s a really important book. It’s a really good book. I don’t usually tend to read books like that — I don’t do historical fiction — but this book was highly recommended to me, and I can see why. And so here’s me recommending it to you, whoever you are.

Until tomorrow, I won’t spoil it.

Jacn

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