On April 26 the Bailieborough Reading Group got together to discuss "The Pianist", our second title in the Dialogues Through Literature programme. Within minutes it became clear that we were all in absolute agreement about this book; this is a very powerful book containing the heartbreaking true story about how one man managed to survive the German occupation in Warsaw, Poland.
Some members commented on the fact that the way in which the story is told seemed somewhat detached, while others pointed out that this was because Szpilman wrote the book almost as soon as the war was over, without allowing time for long reflection on what he had just gone through. And, some members felt, it was probably easier on the reader that the story was told in this way. There are more than enough heartbreaking and horrific aspects to this narrative to think that it might have been next to impossible to read if it had been any less detached.
Special mention was made of the role the one German officer plays in Szpilman’s survival and we all felt that it was a horrible shame that Szpilman didn’t know the officer’s name and wasn’t able to find him again after the war.
And that thought brought us on to the observation that if we had to point at a similarity between this book and our previous read for Dialogues Through Literature – “Bear in Mind These Dead” – it would have to be that no matter what the conflict, it is never a case of everybody on the one side being completely right with all those on the other side being wrong. While it is tempting and easy to think in terms of “us against them” or “white versus black” in any conflict, that is never the way it really is. A message that will be re-enforced in our next read in this programme: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak.