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The Pianist: The Extraordinary True Story of One Man’s Survival in Warsaw, 1939-1945 Hardcover – Apr 11 2001

4.9 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Apr 11 2001
CDN$ 95.00 CDN$ 37.22

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (April 11 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312244150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312244156
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.3 x 21.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 417 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #905,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Written immediately after the end of World War II, this morally complex Holocaust memoir is notable for its exact depiction of the grim details of life in Warsaw under the Nazi occupation. "Things you hardly noticed before took on enormous significance: a comfortable, solid armchair, the soothing look of a white-tiled stove," writes Wladyslaw Szpilman, a pianist for Polish radio when the Germans invaded. His mother's insistence on laying the table with clean linen for their midday meal, even as conditions for Jews worsened daily, makes palpable the Holocaust's abstract horror. Arbitrarily removed from the transport that took his family to certain death, Szpilman does not deny the "animal fear" that led him to seize this chance for escape, nor does he cheapen his emotions by belaboring them. Yet his cool prose contains plenty of biting rage, mostly buried in scathing asides (a Jewish doctor spared consignment to "the most wonderful of all gas chambers," for example). Szpilman found compassion in unlikely people, including a German officer who brought food and warm clothing to his hiding place during the war's last days. Extracts from the officer's wartime diary (added to this new edition), with their expressions of outrage at his fellow soldiers' behavior, remind us to be wary of general condemnation of any group. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in Poland in 1945 but then suppressed by the Communist authorities, this memoir of survival in the Warsaw Ghetto joins the ranks of Holocaust memoirs notable as much for their literary value as for their historical significance. Szpilman, a Jewish classical pianist, played the last live music broadcast from Warsaw before Polish Radio went off the air in September 1939 because of the German invasion. In a tone that is at once dispassionate and immediate, Szpilman relates the horrors of life inside the ghetto. But his book is distinguished by the dazzling clarity he brings to the banalities of ghetto life, especially the eerie normalcy of some social relations amid catastrophic upheaval. He shows how Jewish residents of the Polish capital adjusted to life under the occupation: "The armbands branding us as Jews did not bother us, because we were all wearing them, and after some time living in the ghetto I realized that I had become thoroughly used to them." Using a reporter's powers of description, Szpilman, who is still alive at the age of 88, records the chilling conversations that took place as Jews waited to be transported to their deaths. "We're not heroes!" he recalls his father saying. "We're perfectly ordinary people, which is why we prefer to risk hoping for that 10 per cent chance of living." In a twist that exemplifies how this book will make readers look again at a history they thought they knew, he details how a German captain saved his life. Employing language that has more in common with the understatement of Primo Levi than with the moral urgency of Elie Wiesel, Szpilman is a remarkably lucid observer and chronicler of how, while his family perished, he survived thanks to a combination of resourcefulness and chance. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on July 11 2004
Format: Paperback
I was thirteen when The Pianist movie was made. I begged my parents to let me see it, and I finally watched it at age fourteen. That night, I could not sleep. I had heard of the Holocaust before and we had studied it in 8th grade and I had seen movies about it, but there was something so gripping about this man's story that it seemed to be in another league of any Holocaust story I had ever heard about or seen.
The movie piqued my intrest in the Holocaust and also in this incredible man who survived all odds. A few months after I had watched the movie, I went out and bought the book. After I started the book, I could hardly put it down. I finished the book in two days, facing another two sleepless nights, haunted by his passages from Dancing on Chlorea Street, and feeling his emotions as he ran into Captain Wilm Hosenfeld for the first time.
I would recommend this book to anyone, no matter the age. The book is truly haunting and Wladyslaw Szpilman's words and memories are bound to stay with you.
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Format: Paperback
We saw the movie "The Pianist" on tv, which was excellent and left us wanting to know more about this man Szpilman. We bought his book and it is truly a horror story as well as a story of courage and survival. Lest we ever forget what happened to six million people simply because of their 'mere biological fact of being a jew' (as quoted from Szpilman in his book). This man brings it all down to the personal level, one man against all the odds of survival in such a cruel and murderous occupation. My wife went to bed some nights (while reading this book) unable to sleep, trying to put herself into the position of these people who were starved, treated worse than animals, humiliated, separated from their families, murdered and discarded. It will always beg the question: How can one human being be so cruel to another human being? We both highly recommend this book to hear this man's powerful story.
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Format: Paperback
A man is playing Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor on the piano on September 23, 1939 in a Polish Radio broadcasting building. The Germans have invaded Warsaw and the broadcast is interrupted and the lives of people in Warsaw are changed forever.

The man playing the piano was Jewish and his name was Wladyslaw Szpilman. He turns out to be one of the few Jewish survivors of the war. To say his music saved him is true, while his family, with him included are about to be shipped off to Treblinka and exterminated, a music loving policeman grabs Wladyslaw from the crowd and thus saves his life, but it is excruciating to Wladyslaw to lose his family. The work to learn how to play the piano to the degree that Wladyslaw did is an extremely long and patience filled road, which I am sure molded Wladyslaw's character and made it possible for him to survive the war. Wladyslaw often retreated into his mind to survive the long hours and days without end, he went over measure by measure music scores in his head. While he starved and lost touch with humanity (if it still existed where he was) he still used his mind and his music training was a blessing. He often contemplated suicide, but never committed the act.

When Warsaw's Jewish ghetto is demolished and Wladyslaw is barely hanging on in hiding a German officer named Wilm Hosenfeld finds him and feeds him and brings him eiderdown and encourages him to hang on. Wladyslaw survives and lives on to write his memoirs for us to read and to study and to learn from.

The diary of Wilm Hosenfeld at the end of Wladyslaw's memoir is intriguing. It is a relief to see a hope in humanity, to read his words and how he felt about his country being at war and what they were doing to the Jews.

The book ends six years later with Wladyslaw playing Chopin's Nocturne in C# Minor. Of 3.5 million Jews at the beginning of the war in Poland only 240,000 remained at the end, Wladyslaw was one of the survivors.
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Format: Paperback
This book was absolutely amazing, well written, and beatifully described. The scenes and the book were so vivid, you felt as if you were actually there and felt those moments. This is a sad story, but the fight and survival of this one man was truly something.
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Ok so where to start? This book is not sugarcoated, this book is not in any way poetic or overemotional.
It's deliciously real, Wladyslaw brings you inside hell and out with him, nothing artificial added to the trip, just him, telling about his life, with some detachment but a flawless logic.
The thing is that when a book is so simple, it is easy to travel, you will be in Warsaw with him at the time instantaneously.
I have read some holocaust books, they all have this guilty and painful nature, but in this one everything feels so crude and simple, there is a difference to it, because he wrote it just after the war had ended, not decades later.
So you get to see human nature, a courageous man that even in the worse of the cases was thankful for the many simple things life had to offer, not a hero, not a character, a human being that when is confronted to the worst finds no other than to deal with it, with an uttermost discipline and faith in his own sixth sense. It was really a treat, I recommend it plainly
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The Pianist is a true and inspirational story of one mans survival in Warsaw during the German Occupation in WWII. Wladyslaw Szpilman was a young pianist who performed pieces on polish radio before the Germans invaded his home in Warsaw. Although Szpilman's endures prolific hardships he manages to forgo the fate of so many others around him and ultimately live to tell about it. While the world around him is desecrating Szpilman, a young musician, relays on intuition and talent to get him through each day. Despite the loss of his entire family Szpilman conjures the courage to survive, which was perhaps the hardest thing to do in the Jewish Ghetto.
The degree of hope that Szpilman has is displayed in many instances. One remarkable moment in the memoir occurs when Wladyslaw is being supervised by the Germans while working in the cold. Being so small he is worried about not being able to perform the work properly which could consequently lead to his death. However, the amazing thing about the situation is that he is more worried about his fingers freezing up in the brutally cold weather. His hope throughout the entire book is that he will someday be able to run his fingers across a piano again and play the music that he once loved. This is truly an inspirational moment in the novel that proves his continuous hope in the future.
Another element of the story that I appreciated was that throughout the entire novel Szpilman never expressed hatred for the German people. Not to say that he held no discontent with the way things were, but he in no way droned upon the fact. He told the story the way it was, and that meant exposing the atrocities of the Germans but not relying on the element to carry the novel. He told a story of survival, one that focused on his life and how he found the courage to make it where so many others had fallen.
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