This book puts my 'problems' in perspective. Image courtesy of Wikipedia
I just finished reading “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. It is undeniably among one of the best books I have ever read.
The actual narrator of the book is Death itself. He describes himself as “a circular being” of whose being is infinite by nature. He has been there since the beginning of humanity, and will be there at the end.
However, the focus for Death’s narrative in “The Book Thief” is “collecting the souls” that are delivered to him, by the millions and more, during the period from 1939 to 1945: World War II.
Death tells his story through the eyes of Liesel Meminger, a young German girl who is adopted by foster parents, after her brother dies by her communist mother. It's on the train to her foster parents that she stumbles across her first book - of which she cannot yet read about gravedigging correctly. It is from here that her mother buries Liesel's brother, Werner.
Her parents are the Hubermanns, Hans - her “Papa” who plays the accordion, smokes cigarettes, and along with Rosa, her foster mother hides a Jew, Max Vandenburg in their basement.
This was at great detriment to themselves as non-Jewish Germans who didn’t condone the propaganda spread by the Nazi’s were placing themselves at risk of the same outcome, or at the very least, a flogging.
Her father Hans, along with Max, teach Liesel how to read and write.
Later, she continues to steal books from the mayors wifes house to read to Max. This is after Rosa loses her regular employment of washing for the mayor.
"Mein Kumfe" or “My struggle” worded by Hitler at that time is used by Max. He uses the ripped out pages to tell his story to Liesel, and later by Liesel to read to Max. Max rips out the pages to tell a story to Liesel about his life.
Liesel reads to calm the adults and children later as Munich is bombed, and the souls are taken up by Death. By now, Death describes how busy he is over most of Europe.
As Liesel progresses from childhood to adulthood, she progressively loses more of those she loves.
She loses her friend Rudy, who is chagrined for rolling in charcoal to imitate his hero, Jessie Owens.
She, along with her Papa, Mama and Rosa try to keep Max from wasting away. He eventually too is discovered. Liesel, remaining true to her ideals, breaks from the crowd of Germans to rush to Max. She is whipped with him and will not move. She watches him take his final steps into the camp where he dies.
Toward the end of the novel she loses who is most precious to her - her Papa. He brought Liesel up with his ideals that despite what the Nazi’s were doing, he knew it was wrong, and his actions would stand by that. He throws bread to the Jews being marched down to the camp. Both endure a flogging.
Before losing Rudy, he along with Liesel do the same thing.
In the end, Liesel loses everyone she knows. She actually lives to a very old age, but when Death finally takes her, he agrees with Liesel that “he is haunted by humans.”
If I ever start feeling sorry for myself again, I think it would be very valuable advice to myself to re-read it. It is the biggest lesson regarding perspective that I’ve ever read.