Friday, January 9, 2015

"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak [Quotable Quotes]

This book wormed its way into my heart, it took a bit, but the author's writing was so beautiful that I knew I would regret putting it down. I am so thankful I pushed through the first few chapters because it made my top ten list. 

Mark Zusak's style of descriptive writing was so uniquely beautiful that I had quotes galore, just because of the picture he painted with his words. Starting with a Jewish section of town that broke my heart...

Markus Zusak

“It was a place nobody wanted to stay and look at, but almost everyone did. Shaped like a long, broken arm, the road contained several houses with lacerated windows and bruised walls. The Star of David was painted on their doors. Those houses were almost like lepers. At the very least, they were infected sores on the injured German terrain." (p. 51)

His comparisons to a broken arm, lepers, infected sores gave such tremendous insight into how the Jews were seen and treated in Germany during WWII. My little blurb on this particular quote gives it zero justice, but I can't seem to put the significance of this statement -considering the Jewish laws dealing with lepers and infected sores- so I doubt I'll be able to give due credit for any of the other quotes either...

“For now, Rudy and Liesel made their way onto Himmel Street in the rain. He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without the words. Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.” (p. 80)

And when you read her words you'll need to wring out a box of tissues. The next quotes were simply wonderful, with no description needed of me...

“ opportunity leads directly to another, just as risk leads to more risk, life to more life, and death to more death.” (p. 83)

"[Mama's] voice was surprisingly calm and caring. As you can imagine, this worried the girl a great deal. She'd have preferred to hear them arguing. Whispering adults hardly inspired confidence." (p. 95)

Okay. Did anyone else literally laugh out loud after reading the first few sentences of the next quote? Please tell me I'm not alone...

“Many jocular comments followed, as did another onslaught of "heil Hitlering." You know, it actually makes me wonder if anyone ever lost an eye or injured a hand or wrist with all of that. You'd only need to be facing the wrong way at the wrong time or stand marginally too close to another person. Perhaps people did get injured. Personally, I can only tell you that no one died from it, or at least, not physically. There was, of course, the matter of forty million people I picked up by the time the whole thing was finished, but that's getting all metaphoric.” (p. 111-112)

I can imagine someone losing an eye from an enthusiastic "heel Hitler" but his last two sentences of that quote stopped my laughing instantly. 

The next quote was taken from a book burning that I thought were beautiful...

“The orange flames waved at the crowd as paper and print dissolved inside them. Burning words were torn from their sentences. ” (p. 112)

How true (but I don't think it applies to eleven-year-olds alone): “Eleven-year-old paranoia was powerful. Eleven-year-old relief was euphoric.” (p. 132)

This description of Max, a Jew, hiding in the basement, fearing every noise, every movement was moving... “Everything was so desperately noisy in the dark when he was alone. Each time he moved, there was the sound of a crease. He felt like a man in a paper suit.” (p. 140)

Liesel and her best friend Rudy did their fair share of name calling. "Saumensch" means girl pig and "Saukerl" is male pig. This particular quote made me giggle (lots): “He was waving. "Saukerl," she laughed, and as she held up her hand, she knew completely that he was simultaneously calling her a Saumensch. I think that's as close to love as eleven-year-olds can get.” (p.144)

Remember that as you read this quote, the narrator of this book is death: “They say that war is death's best friend, but I must offer you a different point of view on that one. To me, war is like the new boss who expects the impossible. He stands over your shoulder repeating one thin, incessantly: 'Get it done, get it done.' So you work harder. You get the job done. The boss, however, does not thank you. He asks for more.” (p. 309)

I took the next quote out of Max's book describing Hitler:
“The young man wandered around for quite some time, thinking, planning, and figuring out exactly how to make the world his. Then one day, out of nowhere, it struck him - the perfect plan. He'd seen a mother walking with her child. At one point, she admonished the small boy, until finally, he began to cry. Within a few minutes, she spoke softly to him, after which he was soothed and even smiled. 

The young man rushed to the woman and embraced her. "Words!" He grinned.


But there was no reply. He was already gone.

Yes, the Fuhrer decided that he would rule the world with words.” (The Word Shaker, p. 445)

Mark Zusah hit the nail on the head with that one. Hitler used words to turn a nation against a group of people. He used words to intimidate, to hurt, to kill, to ruin... Imagine if we all viewed words with such intensity? But with the opposite intention. To love, to respect, to honor, to cherish, to nourish...

Aaaaaaand let's do a 180 with a quote from death that'll make ya laugh...

“For some reason, dying men always ask questions they know the answer to. Perhaps it's so they can die being right.” (p.469)

... and another that'll make you cry...

“For a long time, she sat and saw.

She had seen her brother die with one eye open, on still in a dream. She had said goodbye to her mother and imagined her lonely wait for a train back home to oblivion. A woman of wire had laid herself down, her scream traveling the street, till it fell sideways like a rolling coin starved of momentum. A young man was hung by a rope made of Stalingrad snow. She had watched a bomber pilot die in a metal case. She had seen a Jewish man who had twice given her the most beautiful pages of her life marched to a concentration camp. And at the center of all of it, she saw the Fuhrer shouting his words and passing them around.

Those images were the world, and it stewed in her as she sat with the lovely books and their manicured titles. It brewed in her as she eyed the pages full to the brims of their bellies with paragraphs and words.” (p. 520-521)

I loved that quote because it was the perfect summation of Liesel's life. The next quote was taken from a section of the story where her reaction to pain and heartache left me in a state of reflection...

"She tore a page from the book and ripped it in half. 

Then a chapter.

Soon, there was nothing but scraps of words littered between her legs and all around her. The words. Why did they have to exist? Without them, there wouldn't be any of this. Without words, the Fuhrer was nothing. There would be no limping prisoners, no need for consolation or worldly tricks to make us feel better. 

What good were the words?" (p. 521)

In my own experience, words have been the most effective tool to change my life. I have hated words and I have loved words. Perhaps it was that reoccurring theme that helped me form a love towards the words in this book and events such as this, when Ilsa gave Liesel an empty journal to fill with her very own words...

“As it turned out, Ilsa Hermann not only gave Liesel Meminger a book that day. She also gave her a reason to spend time in the basement, her favorite place, first with Papa, then Max. She gave her a reason to write her own words, to see that words had also brought her to life.
"Don't punish yourself", she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be happiness, too. That was writing.” (p.524-525)

What a beautiful comparison and an extremely sad part of the book described here... “Papa sat with me tonight. He brought the accordion down and sat close to where Max used to sit. I often look at his fingers and face when he plays. the accordion breathes. There are lines on his cheeks. They look drawn on, and for some reason, when I see them, I want to cry. It is not for any sadness or pride. I just like the way they move and change. Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.” (p.527)

I loved the narrator, even though the narrator was death. Markus brought death to life with words such as this: “I wanted to tell the book thief many things, about beauty and brutality. But what could I tell her about those things that she didn't already know? I wanted to explain that I am constantly overestimating and underestimating the human race - that rarely do I ever simply estimate it. I wanted to ask her how the same thing could be so ugly and so glorious, and its words and stories so damning and brilliant.

None of those things, however, came out of my mouth.

All I was able to do was turn to Liesel Meminger and tell her the only truth I truly know. I said it to the book thief and I say it now to you.

I am haunted by humans.” (p. 550)

Be sure to check out my review.

1 comment:

  1. In regard to the quote re lepers it could be a reference to the way lepers were isolated from the main community and left to fend for themselves. So too the neglected houses would have had paint peeling and things falling off also like lepers. Finally there is a hint of irony as Jesus helped the lepers and we all know what the Jewish community did to Jesus.