The Violin of Auschwitz
This is the story of Daniel, a Jewish violin maker who describes himself as a “carpenter, cabinetmaker” when placed in Auschwitz. This declaration spares him from more difficult manual labor and eventually leads to the camp’s commandant ordering Daniel to make a violin. Daniel is a master craftsman and his work creating this musical art piece becomes, for him, a reason to live.
In places the writing is painfully beautiful; Tennent has translated Anglada’s Catalan into quiet poetry. The details surrounding the building of the violin are delicately relayed, and we can feel Daniel’s focus, patience and love.
The rest of the story falls flat in comparison. Anglada has chosen not to develop Daniel’s relationship with his fiancée Eva, so when he mentions he misses her, we don’t feel his anguish. Daniel despises the commandant, but we aren’t given a story to go with his feelings and so we cannot share Daniel’s emotions. Even the horrors of the concentration camp are relayed from afar, keeping the reader at a distance.
Perhaps Anglada’s lack of development is intentional. At 128 pages, The Violin of Auschwitz is a skeleton of a story, as Daniel, being slowly starved by the Nazis, is a skeleton of a man. Nevertheless, I was left wanting more.
The Auschwitz Violin