“There is among people no greater or more absolutedividing line than between the happiness of some and the suffering of others. Affairs great and smalldivide people, yet none so sharply as the inequalityof fate.”
from Holy Week
“Creates in one slim volume a vivid world peopled by believable and sympathetic characters whose lives depict with gripping accuracy an entire historical era.... Urgently recommended to all readers with an interest in world history.”
Library Journal, starred review
“A tight, dramatic novel.... If its immediacy proved off-putting to contemporary readers, today that urgency is its greatest strength.”
“Andrzejewski here turns an unsparing eye on the ways in which professed Christians dealt withor failed to addressthe annihilation of their Jewish compatriots.... The world Andrzejewski conjures here may be relentlessly grim, but his tale is, as always, compelling.”
BookForum, Dec/Jan 2007
“The relentless conflicts between and within these characters transform what appears to be a simple issue of national neglect into a hauntingly real drama of agonizing personal decisions and personal failures.”
Virginia Quarterly Review
“With the first English edition of Holy Week a tightly wound story that can be devoured in one long sitting we can at last discover a little-known work from one of Poland's leading 20th century novelists.... Holy Week ably translated by a team of (University of Pittsburgh) students under the guidance of Oscar Swan has an immediacy and verisimilitude impossible for someone not on the scene.”
Los Angeles Times Book Review
“The understated quality of this nominally realistic yet strangely allegorical short novel contributes to Holy Week’s mesmerizing power.”
Magill Book Reviews
As armed battle rages in the Warsaw ghetto during the week preceding Easter of 1943, Jan Malecki, a Polish architect and cold, indecisive leftist, reluctantly takes in his Jewish old flame, Irena Lilien. Irena was a wealthy, bewitching beauty, but is now an embittered homeless fugitive with forged Aryan papers. Jan's pious and pregnant wife, Anna, is kind if condescending to Irena, and Jan's revolutionary brother identifies with the Jewish insurgents. But Irena, almost raped by a neighbor, is informed on by the neighbor's acidly anti-Semitic wife. Outside on the street, Polish children flush an emaciated Jewish boy out of hiding, chasing him into the grip of a German soldier who shoots him dead, and curious bystanders vie for a glimpse of the bloodletting inside the walls of the burning ghetto. Andrzejewski (1909-1983) writes blocky characters, and the translation, much of which was done by students of University of Pittsburgh professor Swan, is awkward. But the book, first published in 1945, remains a landmark for its scathing indictment of everyday Warsaw's savage indifference to the plight of Jews during WWII. (Dec.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Like his great post-World War II classic Ashes and Diamonds, Polish writer Andrzejewski's (1909-83) Holy Week, published in Poland in 1945 and only now appearing in the West, creates in one slim volume a vivid world peopled by believable and sympathetic characters whose lives depict with gripping accuracy an entire historical era. The story unfolds during Holy Week set against the ghastly backdrop of the Germans' annihilation of the Warsaw ghetto. Andrzejewski never takes us close enough to the ghetto to see what is actually going on there. Instead, he relates the mundane but harrowing lives of Jan and Anna Malecki, who are expecting their first child, and Irena Lilien, a young Jewish woman they are hiding from the Nazis. This work, with its ironic title, portrays how the church utterly failed to provide moral guidance during the tragedy. Urgently recommended to all readers with an interest in world history. Edward Cone, New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The first English translation of this 1945 Polish novel, the author (1909-83) of which is best known for Ashes and Diamonds; both books were made into films directed by the renowned Andrzej Wajda. The title is misleading. Yes, this short work does take place just before Easter 1943, but the uprising is merely the backdrop for a story about two Gentiles who shelter a young Jewish woman in their suburban Warsaw home; more precisely, the Jewish resistance provides a litmus test for Polish attitudes toward the Jews. The three principals are architect Jan Malecki; his wife, Anna; and the Jewish Irena Lilien, who was once infatuated with Jan. He meets her by chance outside the burning ghetto; the uprising is under way, and the streets are filled with danger. The once fun-loving Irena has retained her beauty but is now consumed with bitterness; only bribes have saved her from the Gestapo. Jan is cold but feels obligated to take her in. The pregnant Anna has the instinctive humanity Jan lacks. A devout Catholic, she sees the fate of the Jews as a test for Christian conscience. In Warsaw, they generally receive little pity. A contrived scene in Jan's office covers the spectrum of views. There's a fascist who defends Hitler, and a gutsy typist who calls the dictator a disgrace; in the middle is Jan, equivocating. The next day, Good Friday, Jan tries to find another refuge for Irena and is gunned down in an improbable wrong-time/wrong-place development. Back home, Irena fends off a neighbor, a would-be rapist, while the neighbor's wife, an anti-Semite, screams at her to leave. Irena returns her curses before heading back into Warsaw, and likely death. Skimpy characterizations and a thrown-togetherending make for an unsatisfying story, though Andrzejewski's work certainly has value as social history.