The Wall

Written by H.G. Adler Peter Filkins (trans.)
Review by Elena Maria Vidal

Many books have been written about the Shoah, and many more will be in the future. Few, however, are as haunting and utterly heart-wrenching as The Wall, which takes the reader inside the head of a man who has survived the hell on earth of the Nazi death camps. The Wall is not only a literary masterpiece, but literary history is made as well. Translated by Peter Filkins, this edition is the first English version of the magnum opus of H. G. Adler, scholar and Holocaust survivor. The novel is the continuous stream of consciousness of its protagonist, Arthur Landau, a former professor, who returns to his native city like one come back from the dead. He is overwhelmed by the feeling that he himself no longer exists as he stumbles into people he used to know as well as new acquaintances, who try ineffectually to help him. Written without chapter breaks, the story veers from reality to dreams to memories and back to reality again, as Arthur tries to absorb everything he has survived as well as the basic fact that he is still alive. While few experiences compare to the horrors of a concentration camp, many who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder will identify with the main character’s sense of alienation and dissociation. It is only through the healing relationship with his loving wife, Joanna, and having the courage to start a family does Arthur begin to find a foothold in the world, and see life as a gift instead of a curse.