Władysław Szpilman - The Pianist. PDF

PDF The last live broadcast on Polish Radio, on September 23, 1939, was Chopin'sNocturne in C# Minor, played by a young pianist named Wladyslaw Szpilman, until his playingwas interrupted by German shelling. It was the same piece and the same pianist, when broadcasting resumed six years later. The Pianist is Szpilman's account of the yearsinbetween, of the death and cruelty inflicted on the Jews of Warsaw and on Warsaw itself, relatedwith a dispassionate restraint borne of shock. Szpilman, now 88, has not looked at his descriptionsince he wrote it in 1946 (the same time as Primo Levi's If This Is A Man?; it is too personally painful.The rest of us have no such excuse.

Szpilman's family were deported to Treblinka, where they were exterminated; he survived onlybecause a music-loving policeman recognised him. This was only the first in a series of fatefullylucky escapes that littered his life as he hid among the rubble and corpses of the Warsaw Ghetto,growing thinner and hungrier, yet condemned to live. Ironically it was a German officer, WilmHosenfeld, who saved Szpilman's life by bringing food and an eiderdown to the derelict ruinwhere he discovered him. Hosenfeld died seven years later in a Stalingrad labour camp, butportions of his diary, reprinted here, tell of his outraged incomprehension of the madness and evilhe witnessed, thereby establishing an effective counterpoint to ground the nightmarish vision ofthe pianist in a desperate reality. Szpilman originally published his account in Poland in 1946, butit was almost immediately withdrawn by Stalin's Polish minions as it unashamedly describedcollaborations by Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles and Jews with the Nazis. In 1997 it waspublished in Germany after Szpilman's son found it on his father's bookcase. This admirablyrobust translation by Anthea Bell is the first in the English language. There were 3,500,000 Jewsin Poland before the Nazi occupation; after it there were 240,000. Wladyslaw Szpilman'sextraordinary account of his own miraculous survival offers a voice across the years for the faceless millions who lost their lives. —David Vincent


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