As promised, here is my non-fiction book to counter the last two fiction books, and this totally counts even though I found it in the ‘Fiction’ section, because if it had been fiction, Keneally would have fudged a bit more to make it more interesting…not that it wasn’t, because it was…I’m getting all turned around.
Schindler’s List – Thomas Keneally
Ok. I thought this book was historical fiction, but it’s a whattayacallem – a paper-documentary. There was more ‘This happened on N’th Street on the X’th of Ybember’ than I like, but I can deal. To be honest, knowing that it was as true-to-fact as possible, with conversations recounted by the Schindlerjuden (Schindler’s Jews) and all facts checked against public records (such as they are), made it all the more powerful a story. The things this man did to protect and eventually rescue such large numbers of people – people whom he was patriotically required to hate – are beyond comprehension.
Oskar Schindler was never a moral man. He was a shameless womanizer, a drinker, a gambler, and an advocate of high-living. He was also clever, manipulative, and more than willing to buck the system. Keneally argues that it is this quality, at first, that compelled him to flout the Nazis and build a factory to employ several dozen ‘skilled’ Jewish workers.
As the book wears on, the man Schindler becomes more and more the myth Schindler. He sweeps in at the last minute to save a beloved worker from deportation to a concentration camp. He builds booze-fueled friendships with highest-ups so that when higher-ups report him for his Jew-kissery, they are laughed at. He rapidly builds his work force, erecting a dormitory of sorts on the factory site to remove his workers from the ghetto, and accepting their children into his employ (‘But Herr Schindler,’ the higher-up Nazi supervisor would say, ‘you can’t possibly tell me that these children are skilled metalworkers?’ ‘But of course,’ Schindler would reply smoothly. ‘Skinny arms, long fingers. I use them to clean machines.’ And then the Nazi supervisor would report his suspicions to his supervisor, who would laugh them off while smoking one of Schindler’s cigars).
Because this isn’t fiction, it lacks the sweeping plot line found in the movie. Events are disjointed, tales are almost anecdotal. But Keneally has crafted as coherent a tale as could be hoped for out of Schindler’s bizarre life story, painting the man as a hero, though not a saint. This tale would make for awesome historical fiction, with lots of moving dialogue and grateful glances, but I suppose that’s why we have film.