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|Schindler's Ark (Schindler's List)|
First edition cover
|Publisher||Hodder and Stoughton|
|Publication date||18 October 1982|
|Media type||Print ( Hardcover and Paperback)|
|Pages||380 pp (hardcover edition)|
|ISBN||ISBN 0-340-27838-2 (hardcover edition)|
Schindler's Ark (released in America as Schindler's List) is a Booker Prize-winning novel published in 1982 by Australian novelist Thomas Keneally, which was later adapted into the highly successful movie Schindler's List directed by Steven Spielberg. The United States version of the book was called Schindler's List from the beginning; it was later re-issued in Commonwealth countries under that name as well.
The book tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Party member, who turns into the unlikely hero. By the end of the war, Schindler has saved 1,200 Jews from concentration camps all over Poland and Germany. It is a historical novel which describes actual people and events with fictional dialogue and scenes added by the author. Keneally wrote a number of well received novels before Schindler's Ark. It won the Booker Prize for fiction in 1982.
Keneally was inspired to write the book by Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. After the war, Pfefferberg had tried on a number of occasions to interest the screen-writers and film-makers he met through his business in a film based on the story of Schindler and his actions in saving Polish Jews from the Nazis, arranging several interviews with Schindler for American television.
Keneally's meetings with Pfefferberg, research and interviews of Schindler's acquittance are detailed in another of his books titled Searching for Schindler: A Memoir (2007). In October 1980 Keneally went into Pfefferberg's shop in Beverly Hills to ask about the price of briefcases. Keneally had just finished a book-signing in Beverly Hills and was on his way home to Australia. Pfefferberg, learning that Keneally was a novelist, showed him his extensive files on Schindler, kept in two cabinets in his back room. After 50 minutes of entreaties, Pfefferberg was finally able to convince Keneally to write the book; and Pfefferberg became an advisor, accompanying Keneally to Poland where they visited Kraków and other sites associated with the Schindler story. Keneally dedicated Schindler's Ark to Pfefferberg: "who by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written."
After the publication of Schindler's Ark in 1982, Pfefferberg worked to persuade Steven Spielberg to film Keneally's book, using his acquaintance with Spielberg's mother to gain access. The awarding of the Booker Prize caused some controversy at the time: as this award is for the best fiction, it was debatable whether Keneally wrote fiction or was reporting history.
A carbon copy of the original 13-page list, of which only a few exist, was discovered in 2009 in a library in Sydney, Australia.
This novel tells the story of Oskar Schindler, self-made entrepreneur and bon viveur who almost by default found himself saving Polish Jews from the Nazi death machine. Based on numerous eyewitness accounts, Keneally's story is unbearably moving but never melodramatic, a testament to the almost unimaginable horrors of Hitler's attempts to make Europe judenfrei (free of Jews). What distinguishes Schindler in Keneally's version is not, superficially, kindness or idealism, but a certain gusto. He is a flawed hero; he is not "without sin". He is a drinker, a womaniser and, at first, a profiteer. After the war, he is commemorated as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, but he is never seen as a conventionally virtuous character. The story is not only Schindler's. It is the story of Kraków's dying ghetto and the forced labor camp outside of town, at Plaszów. It is the story of Amon Goeth, Plaszów's commandant.
His wife Emilie remarked in a German TV interview that Schindler did nothing remarkable before the war and nothing after it. "He was fortunate therefore that in the short fierce era between 1939 and 1945 he had met people who had summoned forth his deeper talents." After the war, his business ventures fail, he separates from his wife, and he ends up living a shabby life in a small flat in Frankfurt. Eventually he arranged to live part of the year in Israel, supported by his Jewish friends, and part of the year as a sort of internal émigré in Frankfurt, where he was often hissed at in the streets as a traitor to his "race". After 29 unexceptional postwar years he died in 1974. He was buried in Jerusalem as he wished with the help of his old friend Pfefferberg.