Antonio Inurbe (2019) The Librarian of Auschwitz (based on the true story of Dita Kraus) translated by Lilit Zekulin Thwaites.

Reading is my religion. This book is billed as a true story, marked down as a genre somewhere between The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Choice. The latter was a life-affirming, marvellous book, beautifully written with a clear moral message. The former – I only read the first fifty pages. I find myself in the same misgivings with The Librarian of Auschwitz as I did with The Tattooist

Here are a few examples.

A black shadow, darker than all the rest is walking along the Lagerstrasse…Dr Mengele…Mengele studies her at length. /‘I never forget a face.’/His words carry a deathly stillness. If Death were to speak, it would do so with precisely this icy cadence.   

If I was marking this I’d give it a B2. Not bad. No face ever forgotten. No cliché left unused in the cliché box.

What about a warning sign for novice writers? *Shoehorning something you really want your reader to know –  I wonder where the key to the car is that’s under the plant-pot variety?

*Dita rushes off to reassure her mother, who will have already found out about Block 31 inspection. As she runs down the Lagerstrasse she comes across her friend Margit.

“Ditnka, I hear you had in inspection in Thirty-One?”

‘That disgusting Priest!’

“Did they find anything? Did they detain anyone?”

“Absolutely nothing; there’s nothing for them to find there.’ Dita winked. ‘Mengele was there, too.”

“Dr Mengele? He’s a madman. He experimented with injections of blue ink into the pupils of thirty-six children in an attempt to produce blue-eyed people. It was horrible Ditnka. Some died of infections and others were left blind. You were lucky to escape his notice.”

In other words, you were lucky to find the car key that was under the plant pot. B2 or not B2 that is the question?

How does the author plan to tell the reader about lousy bunks and people that just won’t share?

“*It’s cold, and your parents are outside, Dita. Won’t they catch pneumonia?”

“My mother prefers not to be inside with her bunkmates, who has a lot of horrible boils…although she’s no worse than my bunkmate!”

“But you’re lucky— you both sleep on top bunks. We’re spared among the lowest bunks,” said Magrit.

“You must really feel the damp seeping up from the ground.”

“Oh Ditnka, Ditnka,”

Oh, reader, oh reader, I will not go on. Perhaps you will. I feel no sense of place. This could be Butlins, not Auschwitz. Something lost in translation? Read on.