Block 11: A Novel

Piero degli Antoni; Erin Waggen­er, trans.
  • Review
By – February 25, 2013

Piero degli Antoni, an award-win­ning Ital­ian thriller author, brings read­ers an engross­ing nov­el about the Holo­caust which rais­es seri­ous eth­i­cal ques­tions. It begins in present-day New York as an elder­ly cou­ple sits down for a sim­ple break­fast at a table set for ten. Eight of the chairs are emp­ty. The scene then shifts to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. Some pris­on­ers have suc­cess­ful­ly escaped, so ten oth­ers have been round­ed up for exe­cu­tion. At the last minute, the com­man­dant can­cels the exe­cu­tion because he needs labor­ers. Only one inmate will be killed, but the group must decide which one. Locked in an emp­ty laun­dry room with noth­ing but a pen­cil and paper, they must choose one mem­ber of the group. If they fail, all will die. The dis­cus­sions reveal hor­ror, secrets, and betray­al as well as love and human­i­ty. The author has read­ers turn­ing the pages as they await the out­come. The end­ing will sur­prise them. This is an excel­lent book for both teens and adults who would like to expe­ri­ence the world of a camp inmate to bet­ter under­stand the Holo­caust. It pro­vides meaty dis­cus­sion top­ics for book groups as well. The issues of redemp­tion, for­give­ness, and jus­tice are only the beginning.

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

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