We may be accustomed with the narrative of death being nothing but darkness that is eager to engulf all the light there is. But Markus Zusak portrays Death in The Book Thief with an uncanny and unaccustomed affection. This story is narrated by Death. It deals with the horrendous era of Holocaust, of blood-bath, of a violent definition of nationalism, of nightmares, of friendship and of love. Love of a girl for her father, her best-friend, her mother and some strangers.
Leisel is a German girl who is raised by her foster parents. And in the maniac times that they were, her parents particularly her father (Hans Hubermann) are the island of hope and compassion who could not hate a single being be it a Jew or not. Hans to Leisel was, what Atticus was to Jane in To Kill a Mockingbird, i.e. a true gentleman and a sensitive father. Leisel treasured this relation well. On one instance, Hans jovially offers her a glass of champagne. She liked the taste of it like many, but unlike many she liked the moment more than the alcohol. Hence she vowed never to have champagne again as it would never taste the same as it did on that summer afternoon of July with Papa. If only we all could value our moments and people more than we value our money, life would be little more happy and content.
Next what comes to our mind when we hear the word Death? Cruel, dark and sadistic. But here when the Death narrates the story, it looks like a completely different “person“. When the Germans were hiding in basements in order to protect themselves from air-raid, Death did pity on them. However Death also acknowledged that these people had atleast a chance than the ones who were tortured by these very people’s blind ideology. That basements were no washrooms. That they were atleast not purposefully sent there for shower.
This book in a nutshell is a highly sensitive dramatization of people and Death too. While reading it I laughed like idiots and cried like maniacs. The book also makes one appreciate the fact that the world has seen so much of bloodshed. The times we live in are so peaceful. Holocaust shouldn’t have happened but now that it has already marked its place in history, let’s learn handsome number of lessons from it. Or else the dead died in vain and so will we.
Five hundred souls. I carried them in my fingers, like suitcases. Or I’d throw them over my shoulder. It was only the children I carried in my arms.Death in “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak