The Seventh Well

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Overview

"Shockingly brutal, profoundly transcendent." —Seattle Times
Already considered a classic of Holocaust literature, The Seventh Well is a novel of total absorption, a heroic achievement, and one destined for literary transcendence. Fred Wander demonstrates that the survival of a single man is a collaborative enterprise, and The Seventh Well, named after the well of truth, recalls Dante's Inferno with its mesmerizing descent into evil. Its ...

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Overview

"Shockingly brutal, profoundly transcendent." —Seattle Times
Already considered a classic of Holocaust literature, The Seventh Well is a novel of total absorption, a heroic achievement, and one destined for literary transcendence. Fred Wander demonstrates that the survival of a single man is a collaborative enterprise, and The Seventh Well, named after the well of truth, recalls Dante's Inferno with its mesmerizing descent into evil. Its existence is a miracle.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times
A superb new translation.”— Jascha Hoffman
Cynthia Ozick
“Here you will meet humanely civilized souls who are named and known and felt.”
Jascha Hoffman - New York Times
“A superb new translation.”
Jascha Hoffman
The Seventh Well [is] a novel narrated by a young man who attempts to maintain his own sanity in the death camps by immersing himself in the lives of his fellow prisoners. Originally published in 1971, it is now available in a superb new translation by Michael Hofmann. Wander does not guide the reader on his own journey from boxcar to barbed wire, as Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi have done. Rather, his anonymous narrator undergoes a sort of spiritual education as he studies the doomed men and boys around him. The result is an indirect portrait of a man trying to grasp an unthinkable trauma.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

An Austrian Jew and photojournalist who was interned at 20 different Nazi camps between 1939 and 1945, Wander (1917-2006) first published this loosely structured novel in East Germany in 1970. Spare, haunting anecdotes memorialize Jews who died senseless, undignified deaths in Nazi concentration camps. In the Hirschberg camp, Mendel Teichmann, a 50-year-old atheist, keeps the other prisoners occupied with his wry tales; a Polish boy, Yossl, freezes after guards taunt him and shovel snow over him. While most prisoners gulp down their meager rations, the narrator describes how "men like Pechmann... turn a crust of bread into a seven-course meal." On the eve of Buchenwald's liberation, the narrator watches Joschko, 10, patiently push food into his exhausted younger brother. The book is much more than a catalogue of horrors and of courage, as Wanders's narrator struggles to find the language to describe what he has seenn. This is a worthy addition to Shoah literature. (Dec.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Wander, who was born in Vienna and died in 2006, has crafted a series of tales that make up this novel based on his experiences in such German camps as Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Although the stories may at first seem disconnected, they form a clear picture of the camp experience. Wander brings his characters harrowingly alive, in most cases right before their deaths. Grim as it may sound, the book is a poetic meditation on human existence under unbelievable circumstances, effectively translated by Hoffman. It is remarkable that beauty can come out of such horror. A map is provided showing the actual paths of the forced marches that took the author and so many others from one infamous Nazi detention site to the next. Originally published to little attention in East Germany in 1971 where Wander was living, it was republished in a reunited Germany in 2005. The ennobling account of this witness deserves the widest audience. [See Prepub Alert, LJ8/07.]
—Edward Cone

Kirkus Reviews
The experiences of Galician Holocaust survivor Wander, who died in 2006, are starkly fictionalized in this lyrical novel originally published in East Germany in 1970. The episodic narrative chronicles hardship and an endangered culture's communal will to survive. It is presented by an unnamed narrator who honors his comrades in suffering by describing their ordeals and retelling their stories. Wander's resonant title, taken from a 16th-century poem by Rabbi Loew of Prague, offers an image of unshakeable faith-as do the prisoners whom we encounter at Auschwitz, during an arduous mountain crossing in flight from the Nazis' enemies, and at Buchenwald-where the first things the arriving prisoners see are "stacks" of dead bodies. The details may be (alas) familiar, but their cumulative power is considerable. Comparisons to both classic concentration-camp memoirs and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich are as justly earned as they are inevitable. Among the most memorable of the narrator's companions: "storyteller" Mendel Teichmann, an ironical atheist who nevertheless confirms his hearers' stubborn hopefulness indomitable; "Parisian laborer and resistance fighter" Jacques; rich farmer Meir Bernstein, who stoically refuses to believe that everything will be taken from him; and teenaged Tadeusz Moll, who eventually runs out of the astonishing good luck that had magically attached to him. A slight tendency toward sentimental oversimplification is effectively balanced by Wander's gift for understatement (wonderfully rendered by Hofmann's beautiful translation). And no reader will be unmoved by lucid homespun metaphors (e.g., "Mornings when a sun comes up bloody as out ofa battle") or such scenes as a "demonstration against barbarism" accomplished by "educated" prisoners discussing favorite literary works. A story we cannot hear too many times is grippingly retold in this blistering report from hell on earth. Wander's legacy thus becomes a gift bequeathed to all of us.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393333626
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/15/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 1,403,014
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Liberated at Buchenwald in 1945, Fred Wander was born in Vienna in 1916, where he died in 2006.

For his translations, acclaimed poet Michael Hofmann has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Dublin International IMPAC Award, the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Prize, the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and The Schlegel-Tieck Prize (four times). He is the highly acclaimed translator of, among others, Kafka, Brecht, and Joseph Roth.

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