January 14th 2020
Today I finished reading my first book of the year: Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. The last book I read last year was Heather Morris’ The Tattoist of Auschwitz, so apparently I have a little unintentional World War II theme going on right now. I said that I liked The Tattoist of Auschwitz because it revealed details to me that I, perhaps ashamedly, didn’t ever know or perhaps fully realise about the war.
In the same way that The Tattoist of Auschwitz is only kind of sort of about World War II, The Book Thief is only kind of sort of about World War II. They are both just stories that take place in the context of World War II. The Tattoist, from the inside, and The Book Thief, from the outside. The two books have this odd interlinking quality that makes you think that they are part of some combined Cinematic Universe™, but then you realise that that Cinematic Universe is just, well, history.
It’s strange, because although The Book Thief is, indirectly, about Nazi Germany and World War II, it is also, indirectly, about how people are mostly good.
It’s about stealing apples because your sister is hungry. It’s about leaving a book by an open window because you know the girl has to steal it instead of asking for it. It’s about hiding a Jew in your basement when the consequence for both of you is death. It’s feeding bread to a dying man and taking the whip that lashes you for doing so.
The obvious primary antagonist in The Book Thief is Hitler, who is, you’d say, a fair example of people being bad. But everywhere else in The Book Thief is people doing good. And it’s tiny things. Miniscule moments of kindness that don’t measure up to the magnitude of evil that could overwhelm your perception of people.
I genuinely believe that people are mostly good. Sometimes it’s easy to think the other way, because when people do bad things we hear about them more often, and the dark of one man’s madness casts a shadow over the glow of a thousand bright lights. That last sentence isn’t about Hitler any more, but just about people in general. And people, I think, are generally good.
Until tomorrow, yet death is haunted by humans.