The Druggist of Auschwitz
A Documentary Novel
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
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Dieter Schlesak's haunting novel "The Druggist of Auschwitz"--beautifully translated from the German by John Hargraves--is a frighteningly vivid portrayal of the Holocaust as seen through the eyes of criminal and victim alike.
Adam, known as "the last Jew of Schaburg," recounts with disturbing clarity his imprisonment at the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. Through Adam's fictional narrative and excerpts of actual testimony from the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial of 1963-65, we come to learn of the true-life story of Dr. Victor Capesius, who, despite strong friendships with Jews before the war, quickly aided in and profited from their tragedy once the Nazis came to power. Interspersed with historical research and the author's face-to-face interviews with survivors, the novel follows Capesius from his assignment as the "sorter" of new arrivals at Auschwitz--deciding who will go directly to the gas chamber and who will be used for labor--through his life of lavish wealth after the war to his arrest and eventual trial.
Schlesak's seamless incorporation of factual data and testimony--woven into Adam's dreamlike remembrance of a world turned upside down--makes "The Druggist of Auschwitz "a vital and unique addition to our understanding of the Holocaust.
Dieter Schlesak is a German-Romanian poet, novelist, and essayist. He is a member of the German PEN Center and the PEN Centre of German-Speaking Writers Abroad, and has received scholarships and awards from numerous organizations, including the Schiller Foundation and the University of Bucharest. Schlesak was born in Transylvania in 1934 and has lived in Italy and Germany since 1973.
John Hargraves has taught German literature at Yale University and Connecticut College. He is the author of Music in the Works of Broch, Mann, and Kafka and has translated works by Hermann Broch and Elias Canetti, among others. His translation of Michael Krüger’s novel The Executor was awarded the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. Hargraves lives in Manhattan and Connecticut.
Dieter Schlesak's "documentary novel," translated from German, puts Auschwitz's pharmacist on trial. The book employs interviews with concentration camp survivors, letters and camp records, and testimony and evidence from the druggist's actual trial, which took place in the 1960s. More at NPR.org
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