Saturday, October 1, 2022

The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel based on the Novel by Antonio Iturbe, adapted by Salva Rubio, illustrated by Loreto Aroca, and translated by Lilit Žekulin Thwaites

Available January 3, 2023
I loved reading comics as a kid and I wasn't above reading a Classic Comic or two or maybe more instead of the book the comic was based on. In school, I was an undiagnosed dyslexic and reading was sometimes difficult. So it stands to reason that as an adult and a teacher, I'm a big fan of books done in graphic format. They are just what some readers need instead of a large and for them, for whatever reasons, unwieldy novel. And for others, they are just a fun way to read. But, the graphic needs to be well done, and in today's world, most of the time, they are. Which is why is pains me to say that I did not like The Librarian of Auschwitz: The Graphic Novel.

This graphic novel is the same story as the novel by the same name and written by Antonio Iturbe, so I'm not going to summarize it again. Suffice it to say it is the story of teenage Dita Adlerova, who was first sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Czechoslovakia with her parents and other Jews, and who were all later transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, they were living in a separate area of Birkenau, called BIIb and referred to as the Theresienstadt Family Camp. These Jewish prisoners were allowed to keep their clothing and their hair wasn't shaved, though living conditions were still as deplorable as in other parts of Auschwitz. If you haven't read the novel, you can read what I originally wrote HERE. The novel is a big book but one that is totally worth spending time with, IMHO. 

Back to the graphic. First, let me begin by saying I did like the art. I found the full color cells were clearly and cleanly drawn in such a way that it was easy to follow the story. The illustrator did a great job at capturing the full range of intense emotions felt by the prisoners of Auschwitz as well as the hate and disgust exhibited by their Nazi captors. Interestingly, none of the characters, Jewish, gay, or Nazi, were portrayed as stereotypical. 

And it wasn't so much that I found the graphic novel to be bad, just lacking. I read the novel back in 2017 and so I'd forgotten some details. Reading the graphic, I found myself confused about a few of the things that went on in Auschwitz and that impacted the main character, Dita, personally. I also didn't feel the importance of the eight books that made up the library was made plain, and how Dita so lovingly cared for them, nor did I feel the reverence with which the borrowers of these books felt for them. 

Some of the characters, like Dita and Fredy Hirsch, as based on the actual people, and of course, so are some of the Nazis like Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele, known as the Angel of Death for his experiments of the prisoners in Auschwitz. There is a great epilogue at the end of the book that does go into detail not just about what happened and the people involved.

Ultimately, though, I found this version of The Librarian of Auschwitz to be simplistic and a little stiff. I realize that taking a large novel and synthesizing it down to just 144 pages is not easy task and this was a valiant effort. It just didn't work for me. 

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