A European book with a global perspective. There is only this way to define the book titled “ The pace of breath”, written by the Romanian author and Nobel Prize for Literature Herta Muller. I read the Italian version of the work, titled “ L’altalena del respiro”, translated from German by Margherita Carbonaro. This is an historical and biographical book at the same time, a poignant account about one the darkest times of human history. We are in January 1945, the war has not finished yet and Russians order the deportation of the German – Romanian minority to the labor camps in Ukraine.
And here, it has also begun the story of seventeen year old Leopold Auberg, gone to the lager as naïve and unaware as a guy who looks forward to escaping the anguishing and annoying town life. In these labor camps, his awful experience lasted for five years. Five long years to struggle against starvation, cold, extreme fatigue and the daily death. To write this book, the author has collected the survivors’s memoirs and first of all, the one of German- Romanian poet Oskar Pastior. It had to be a work written along with him, that the author decided to continue alone after Pastior’s death in 2006.
It is, indeed, through the eyes of the latter, the ones of Leopold, the guy in the book, that the lager reality has been described to readers. The gaze and the memoir tell with a hard and poetic language, poor and metaphoric, as real and unreal simultaneously as it is the same mind condition when the body suffers from cold and starvation. Based on the real experience of the lager, intertwined with its passion and items, nearly with the obsession for details like real essence of memory and perception, The pace of breath is a powerful narration, a great literary work, a masterpiece.
This is a book of love and hate, but also hard to forget and just for this reason I decided to translate into English the words you have just read. That is the review written by the Italian publisher that released the book, namely Feltrinelli. There are books that can’t be forgotten, because too many times the truth of human history has been unfairly hidden, maybe to cloud many atrocities. At the end of the Second World War, indeed, governments and people believed to get rid of Nazi deportation and instead, those who the other States regarded as saviours did the same things of their enemies.
One more time, readers are forced to learn that lagers and concentration fields were used like an extreme solution to punish and kill the suspected enemies. But who were these enemies? In this book, they were only men, women, guys like Leopold, the main character, girls, children forced to do hard works like dig or carry tons of coal loads amid snow, rain, ice, intense cold or heat.
The author describes this framework with a language sometimes thin and short but greatly poetic. Readers can observe all this through the titles of the several chapters such as, for example, the one titled the Angel of Starvation, painful and touching pages dedicated to telling the endeavours of prisoners to find some piece of bread that often it was only some crumb unable even to feed an only person. And while the bony bodies became more and more slim and bony, another cruelty of history has been consumed. Impossible story to overlook and forget and for this, very important to read right now!
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