Tuesday 30 October 2007

The Diary of Petr Ginz: 1941 - 1942 edited by Chava Pressburger

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketPublished by Atlantic Monthly Press - An Imprint of Grove/Atlantic Inc.
Distributed by Publishers Group Canada

This diary is an account of Petr Ginz's life as a 14 year old boy in the time of the Holocaust. It is written in a wonderfully - and often heartbreaking - open and frank style that couldn't possibly fail to touch the reader deeply.

The events, which led to the discovery of this diary, are almost as fascinating as the book itself. The following is taken from the back of the book:

In 2003, before setting out on the ill-fated Columbia space shuttle, Ilan Ramon - the first-ever Israeli astronaut and a son of Auschwitz survivors - sought to bring something on his voyage to commemorate the Holocaust. At the suggestion of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, he took Moon Landscape, a small drawing made in 1942 by a Prague teenager, Petr Ginz who died in Auschwitz.

After the shuttle's tragic explosion on February 1, 2003 - what would have been Ginz's seventy-fifth birthday - news reports of the teenage prodigy and his painting reached Prague, where a man made a startling discovery: he was in possession of Ginz's wartime diary, which had been hidden away in his attic for decades. Soon thereafter, the diary made its way to Petr's sister, Chava Pressburger, who instantly recognized her brother's handwriting and his playful but precociously perceptive voice in its pages. The diary has since been published throughout Europe, where it has moved thousands of readers and become an international best seller.

I have read many books on this subject and as tragic and devastating as many of those books are, few are written from the eyes of a child and I think for me it was the backdrop of hatred, brutality and despair mixed with such innocence, hope, and playfulness that made this one of the most touching accounts I have read.

I liked that the book is sprinkled throughout with some of Petr Ginz's artwork and the drawings are just incredible. It's a great pity that he died so young, as I could see from the artwork, and from his writing, that he had a great deal to offer the world. I think the thing that struck me most, was the fact that regardless of how tough life became, he was dedicated to learning and exploring culture. He comes across as so much older than his actual years. His knowledge of music and authors is great and it is clear in the entries where he discusses school, that he is probably the brightest student in the class, if not the whole school.

This was a fantastic book and I loved that Petr's sister added notes throughout to explain the background a little on some days, and shares extra information about this wonderful boy.

The Diary of Petr Ginz is one of my favourite reads of the year. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not being incredibly moved by it.


Jeane said...

This sounds like a wonderful book. How would you compare it to "Diary of Anne Frank?"

Charlene Martel said...

Keeping in mind that I haven't read Diary of Anne Frank since my teen years (for some strange reason I keep forgetting to buy a new copy), I seem to remember that Anne Frank contains some of the same qualities. The same innocence shining through even though all was going to hell around her is one thing that springs to mind.

I honestly don't recall it affecting me to the same extent that Petr Ginz's diary did but in all honesty I couldn't tell you whether it is because I don't recall it really well, or maybe because I read it in my early teens (if not younger), I didn't have the same appreciation for her situation that I do as an adult.

I will have to revisit that book sometime very soon and do a comparison post perhaps.

Jeane said...

I need to read Anne Frank again myself; you have reminded me it's missing from my library as well!

Charlene Martel said...

Don't you love when that happens?

I am currently reading a book called Time Out: 1000 Books to change your life. I decided to challenge myself and see if I can eventually read all 1000 of them and it was amazing how many of them I had read, and loved, but no longer own. Classics like Alice In Wonderland, The Narnia books, Black Beauty and so on. I need to buy all those again.

Jeane said...

All of those you mentioned I do have! Is that book Time Out an analysis of these titles? I hope you review it when you're done.

Charlene Martel said...

It seems to be a mix of critical reviews of titles, articles about certain themes (for example: History Rewritten) in which numerous books are cited and talked about, and personal anecdotes of how a book changed that persons life. For example there is a little blurb on Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and how it changed the life of Jasper Fforde. It seems like a really great book.

Charlene Martel said...

Oh, and yes.. I will be reviewing it when done!

I have so many books to put the reviews up for soon. I have been in a reading frenzy and it's still going on with the reading of The Custodian of Paradise.