Saturday, 25 December 2021


Finished December 17
Kapo by Aleksandar Tišma, translated by Richard Williams, Afterword by David Rieff

This novel has a central character who is hiding his past. Lamian was born to Jewish parents, but baptised in an attempt to avoid prejudicial treatment. He went away from his small town to university in the city, and was drafted into the Yugoslav army. That was followed by his taking on another identity as he tried to return home, but he was captured by the Germans and sent to Auschwitz, where he survived by catering to the officers and becoming a kapo. He is haunted by a woman that he took advantage of, one of many that he provided with food and other "gifts" for sexual favours. It was only after his encounter with her that he realized that she was a Jew like him, but one labeled with the yellow star. Because he had assumed another identity, he was a secret Jew.
After the war, he came back to Yugoslavia, resumed his old name, and hid his WWII actions, becoming a government administrator. He now lives in the Bosnian town of Banja Luka, and lives a respectable quiet life. When he sees a name in the paper, one of the woman who he knew from the camp, he is haunted by the possibility of discovery. This is the story of how he reacted, how he got to where he is now, and his feelings around it all.
He has guilt, fear, and a desire to be both seen for himself, and to bury his own past. This is a very intense, brooding book, and is the third book in what is known as his Novi Sad trilogy. It is the saddest of the three, a tale of a man who is both a victim and a terrorizer. 
Despite its sad nature, it drew me in, wanting to see what happened to this man who was so conflicted and who had lived his life alone, damaged by his past.

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