The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I am in all truthfulness attempting to be cheerful about this whole topic, though most people find themselves hindered in believing me, no matter my protestations. Please, trust me. I most definitely can be cheerful. I can be amiable. Agreeable. Affable. And that's only the As. Just don't ask me to be nice. Nice has nothing to do with me. -- Death

There's a multitude of stories ... that I allow to distract me as I work. -- Death

I am haunted by humans. -- Death

So many more who could have contributed to the rescue did not ... I see the savers as true noble souls of the human race, and when I meet with them I feel somewhat inferior to them. For I know that if I had been in their place I wouldn't have been capable of such deeds. -- Baruch Sharoni

Occasionally, if we are lucky, we encounter and read a very powerful novel. This was certainly the case when my lovely Russian friend Alissa recommended that I read My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, an author until then I had never heard of.

It was also the case when I picked up a copy of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak to read, another author I had never previously heard of. Not that I had heard of the book either, so why I picked it up I do not know, other than I seem to have a knack of picking up good books.

The Book Thief is narrated by Death. Death is haunted by human beings. Death likes stories as it distracts from the work. One of the stories Death allowed to distract was The Book Thief.

The book thief is Liesel Meminger. The first book she stole was The Gravedigger's Handbook, it had fallen from the pocket of a gravedigger who had just buried her brother. The time and place is Nazi Germany 1939. The book thief goes on to rescue books from the burning pyres of books, a dangerous occupation in Nazi Germany. The narrator is Death.

It seems somehow appropriate if not symbolic that Max Vandenburg, a Jew who Liesel's adoptive parents hide in their cellar, writes and illustrates a strangely beautiful short story for Liesel over whitewashed pages from a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

In My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk, we have various narrators, one of whom is the Devil. In The Book Thief by Markus Zusak the narrator is Death.

Death sees everything as colours, he is haunted by humans.

The style is very strange and at the same time strangely reminiscent of Orhan Pamuk in My Name is Red, so similar in fact, that if I had to guess the name of the author I would have incorrectly guessed Orhan Pamuk.

Markus Zusak was inspired to write The Book Thief by two real-life events related to him by his parents: the bombing of Munich, and a teenage boy offering bread to an emaciated Jew being marched through the streets, ending with both boy and Jewish prisoner being whipped by a soldier

The Book Thief has all the makings of a classic if not cult novel.

Australian author Markus Zusak (1975- ) was born in Sydney the son of an Austrian father and German mother, the youngest of four children. He currently lives in Sydney with wife and daughter.

A copy of The Book Thief has been registered as a BookCrossing book. [see BCID 5879648]

BookCrossing books are released into the wild and their progress checked on the Internet via a unique BookCrossing ID (BCID).

Books Worth Reading
(c) Keith Parkins 2008 -- February 2008 rev 0