Psalm 44, a novel by Danilo Kis, is an example of analogies of life within the realms of pending doom and death.
The story line is extremely intense and filled with tenseness that breaks the heart of the reader, and also cements the horrific events that occurred during the Holocaust. Psalm 44 is extremely detailed with word-imagery that astounded me.
Marija, the main character is faced with the unbearable within the concentration camp, and she veers from the forces of of disbelief and denial to the realities of the situation she finds herself and her baby boy, Jan, in. She is confronted with the issues of trying to plan and complete an escape, with her baby and with Zana, her prison mate, to the issue of reuniting with Jakob, the baby’s father. Jakob is a Jew, and a doctor in the concentration camp. He is Marija’s lifeline.
Marija is in a constant state of flashbacks, flashbacks that constantly ramble on, intermingling with the present. I think that Kis was brilliant in portraying the situations of the past leading up to the imprisonment. His use of rambling self-dialogue is consistent with the circumstances Marija finds herself in.
There is a lot that is never told within the pages, and the reader has to sort those circumstances out, through underlying and subtle prose. For one thing, “Max” is the secret name given to the leader of the resistance within the camp. At times we think we might know who the person is, and at other times, we are at a loss to understand who is the actual person. It is not necessary to know, yet, the underlying hints did have me wondering.
Danilo Kis is masterful at details, leaving no minute detail unturned. His portrayal of Marija and Zana is vivid, and the reader’s senses are filled with the horrors and atrocities of their situation. Marija’s innermost feelings are prevalent and it is as if we are reading her mindset or inside her head.
Psalm 44, is a well-detailed and book and psychological study on the effects and affects of Holocaust imprisonment. The names of some individuals have been changed for the story line, although the individuals did exist, in reality. The story is filled with metaphors for life and death, survival through strength of purpose and willpower, and filled with remarkable and brutal scenarios that take the reader’s breath away. The truths are told concisely and with precision, as the author strives, quite successfully, to write with moral and ethical input.
As an aside: Danilo Kis’ father, a Jew, was killed during the Holocaust, in a prison camp, along with other family members. Kis’ writings reflect his Jewishness and social issues regarding Jewish identity.
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