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Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, 1991)
When Israeli author Orlev, who drew on his own ghetto experiences in The Island on Bird Street (1984; Batchelder Award), met a certain Polish journalist, they found that both had been boys in Warsaw during WW II; Orlev kept "Marek's" extensive confidences secret (including his discovery in 1942 that his father--executed in 1934 as a Communist--was Jewish) until his death in 1987. Now, Orlev shapes Marek's account into a powerful novel about a devout 13-year-old Catholic in a virulently anti-Semitic society, responding to his experiences by coming to champion the Jews walled in near his home. With stepfather Antony, Marek already knows the ghetto: traveling through sewers, they take food to sell there at high prices, often returning with a baby to hide with the nuns (no charge). Still, Marek is casually anti-Semitic until he helps rob a Jewish escapee and is caught by his mother, who points out that "You sentenced him to death" and reveals his own heritage. Deeply shaken, Marek sets out to make amends. He befriends a man he sees crossing himself the wrong way and ultimately leads him back, underground, to the ghetto, during the heroic ghetto uprising. Orlev's characters are sobering, believable blends: e.g., Antony dislikes Jews but, knowing Marek's background, wants to adopt him; he turns others' dire needs to profit but has "nothing against human beings." Many others in this richly authentic story are equally complex. Subtle, beautifully crafted, altogether compelling. 1991, Houghton Mifflin, $13.95. Starred Review. © 1991 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
A true story of WW II Warsaw, this novel relates events so dramatic as to be cataclysmic. But the voice of its 14-year-old narrator, Marek, would be gripping given any plot, so candid that it tolerates admissions of less-than-exemplary behavior as well as a more-than-exemplary atonement. A Pole, Marek helps his stepfather smuggle goods into the Jewish ghetto, enduring trips through the foul sewers not from altruism but in order to reap lucrative profits. When two streetwise buddies decide to mug a runaway Jew, he helps: ``They will `shave' some Jew anyway, so what difference does it make if I join them?'' he tells himself. But Marek's mother finds his share of the loot and, appalled, explains that he has consigned his victim to certain death, then reveals that Marek's long-dead father was born Jewish. Marek, who has imbibed much of the local anti-Semitism, decides to use the money to help another Jew, and his actions lead him into the ghetto during the peak of the uprising. A survivor of that ghetto, Orlev neither demonizes nor glorifies, whether portraying Poles or Jews, fighters or collaborators. His refusal to exaggerate gives the story unimpeachable impact. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Dan Dailey (The Five Owls, May/June 1991 (Vol. 5, No. 5))
In future histories of civilization, the twentieth century will be remembered as an era that tested the limits of racism. As masters or servants, the magnitude of death, suffering, and cruelty we and our grandfathers have inflicted on ourselves is unprecedented in recorded history. In the killing fields of Auschwitz and Cambodia, and in the mean streets of Belfast and Palestine, there lurks a common horror that we profess not to understand. We blame our acts of "inhumanity" on madmen and fanatics. We try to distance ourselves--yet we know the truth, that a shadow resides deep within each of us. We ask and cannot answer: "In like situation, what would I have done?" Those who read this book, while they still may not be able to answer the question for themselves, will nevertheless have the benefit of experiencing how it was answered by Marek, a fourteen-year-old boy living outside the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Pressed into helping his stepfather smuggle food through the sewers to sell in the ghetto, Marek's attitude towards Jews typifies the apprehension and prejudice prevalent then (and maybe now) among Poles. One day two young Polish thugs press Marek to shake down a Jew they have caught escaping from the ghetto. Deprived of his money, the Jew faced almost certain capture and death. This knowledge was troubling to Marek, but came to a head only when his mother discovered the money and learned of his crime. She then told Marek that his real father, a Communist who had died in prison, had changed his name and identity to hide the fact that he was Jewish. With this knowledge, the reality of Marek's world was turned upside down. Marek experiences a change of heart, and seeks a way to use the stolen money to atone for his crime. His efforts lead him back into the ghetto where, for a single day, he becomes a part of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising which, in the dark history of the Holocaust, has become a paramount symbol of Jewish resistance and pride. As literature, The Man from the Other Side is well written, dramatic, compelling. This book is all the more powerful because it is a true story. But the story's essential power rests in the example it provides of the individual change of heart that is needed to erase prejudice, promote understanding, and foster cooperation and love in human affairs. 1991, Houghton Mifflin, $13.95. Ages 10 up.
|Language||Call Number||LCCN||Dewey Decimal||ISBN/ISSN|
|English (eng)||PZ7.O633 Man 1991