Searching for Schindler
By Thomas Keneally
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385526173, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 14, 2008
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This is the captivating story behind Schindler’s List, the Booker Prize–winning book and the Academy Award–winning Spielberg film. Keneally tells the tale of the unlikely encounter that propelled him to write about Oskar Schindler and of the impact of his extraordinary account on people around the world.
Thomas Keneally met Leopold “Poldek” Pfefferberg, the owner of a Beverly Hills luggage shop, in 1981. Poldek, a Polish Jew and a Holocaust survivor, had a tale he wanted the world to know. Charming, charismatic, and persistent, he convinced Keneally to relate the incredible story of “the all-drinking, all-screwing, all-black-marketeering Nazi, Oskar Schindler. But to me he was Jesus Christ.”
Searching for Schindler is the engrossing chronicle of Keneally’s pursuit of one of history’s most fascinating and paradoxical heroes. Traveling throughout the United States, Germany, Israel, Poland, and Austria, Keneally and Poldek interviewed people who had known Schindler and uncovered their indelible memories of the Holocaust. Keneally’s powerful narrative rose quickly to the top of bestseller lists. Steven Spielberg’s magnificent film adaptation went on to fulfill Poldek’s dream of winning “an Oscar for Oskar.” (Keneally’s anecdotes about Spielberg, Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley, and other cast members will delight film buffs.)
Written with candor and humor, Seaching for Schindler is an intimate look at Keneally’s growth as a writer and the enormous success of his portrait of Oskar Schindler.
Thomas Keneally has won international acclaim for his novels Schindler's List (the basis for the movie and the winner of the Booker Prize), The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates, Gossip from the Forest, The Playmaker, Woman of the Inner Sea, A River Town, Office of Innocence, and The Tyrant’s Novel. His most recent works of nonfiction are A Commonwealth of Thieves, The Great Shame, and American Scoundrel. He resides in Sydney, Australia.
"Had I read Searching for Schindler before making the film, I may have made it an hour longer. I owe you so much. The world owes you more."
“In this touching and often humorous memoir, [Keneally] recounts months traveling to Germany, Israel, Austria, the U.S. and Poland with Poldek to interview 'Schindlerjuden' - the survivors rescued by Schindler…. Keneally engages the reader with tales about himself as well. He writes about becoming a novelist, his creative anxieties that fueled the writing process, his experiences with publishers and the toll writing the book took on him and his family. Hollywood anecdotes about Spielberg and the film's stars, including Liam Neeson, Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes, provide a fascinating insider view of how movies are made. What's hard to fathom is that before Keneally walked into Poldek's shop nearly three decades ago, Schindler was hardly known. This is the story of how that changed forever.”
“The Australian author is a genial, unaffected companion in this leisurely voyage around Schindler’s List (1982)…. In prose so clear it glistens, he describes working on early drafts of the screenplay with Steven Spielberg (who eventually, gently, fired him) and the production of the film, much of which he observed…. An essential companion to the original novel.”
“Keneally provides some interesting insights into the process of turning a series of decades-old remembrances into a great book. The strength of this work, however, are the stories of the survivors and their efforts to live with a degree of normalcy.”
“The star of Searching for Schindler, from beginning to end, is not Mr. Keneally but Mr. Page [the Holocaust survivor who introduced Mr. Keneally to Schindler's story]. He begs, he exhorts, he presses money into the hands of the needy, he opens every door Mr. Keneally needs opened, often through sheer force of will and personality. He even turns out to be friendly with Leah Adler, Mr. Spielberg's mother, from the kosher dairy restaurant she ran in Beverley Hills. Next to him Mr. Keneally seems like a wallflower. Both the comedy and the horror contained in this memoir are present in a throwaway comment Mr. Page makes to Mr. Keneally: 'You wouldn't have lasted two weeks with the Nazis. They loved killing guys like you. Poetic guys.'”
-The New York Times