Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H.

George Steiner's book succeeded in shedding new light on a subject that was, for me "all part of a school syllabus and television past." Thanks to the history channel and Schindler's List (and our culture's propensity for reducing things to the lowest common denominator) I had a very one dimensional perspective on WWII, Hitler, and the holocaust. I can't say this book reshaped my understanding of those events, but it gave me a new and unique perspective on them.

Steiner describes the places so well you can really feel what's it's like to be there. I enjoyed the structure of the story; many chapters and characters have only the thread of A.H., and the possibility of his existence, connecting them. I think this allowed Steiner to set a variety of scenes, further highlighting his ability to really put you somewhere, and still keep the book focused.

I'm going to have to read the ending again. It would have been nice to be in the dark until the end, because it's quite a climax.


Anonymous said...

Can you expand on what you mean?

Jared said...

Well, after you read the end of the book (I assume that's what you meant?), you get the sense that Steiner started with the ending and worked his way backwards. So in a way I wish I didn't know what to expect. On the other hand, I might not have persevered (or even encountered the book) had I not known the ending. Guinness references it and quotes from it in "The Call".