Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectre of Spielberg

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectre of Spielberg

Article excerpt

SEARCHING FOR SCHINDLER by Thomas Keneally Sceptre, £20, pp. 312, ISBN9780340963258 £16 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Which would you rather read, The Great Gatsby or F. Scott Fitzgerald's day-by-day account of the whisky he drank and the cigarettes he smoked while writing it? La Comédie humaine or a list of the cups of coffee Balzac downed, between midnight and sunrise, while putting all of those words down on paper? Barchester Towers or Trollope's fond recollections of the time he spent in composition (wake up at 5:30, write until 8:30, leave for the post office, go home. Next day: wake up at 5:30, write until 8:30, leave for the post office, go home...) Descriptions of the process by which novelists come to create their works are invariably far less interesting than the works themselves.

And that, unfortunately, also proves to be the case with Schindler's Ark, the book which became the movie, Schindler's List, and which has now inspired the memoir, Searching for Schindler. In this not entirely necessary work of non-fiction, the Australian novelist, Thomas Keneally, recounts, in breathless detail, the amazing coincidence (an encounter in a Beverly Hills leather-goods shop) which led him to the Schindler story; the travels around the world (to Israel, Poland, Germany) during which he put together the manuscript; the various legal and publishing squabbles which preceded the book's publication; and, of course, the serendipitous set of circumstances which led the director, Steven Spielberg, to make the film which made Keneally famous.

Very occasionally, stories like this one do make good books. I am thinking, for instance, of the American philosopher Daniel Mendelson's book The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million, which was an account, superficially similar to Keneally's, of how the writer travelled the world in order to discover the fate of some relatives of his who died in the Holocaust. It too was a story of coincidences and serendipity, but along the way he pondered bigger questions, from family secrets and relations between brothers to the mystery of what motivated the Germans to murder children.

Searching for Schindler isn't exactly in that league. There are flashes of literary interest: Keneally's description of Poldek, the Beverly Hills leather goods salesman who led him to the Schindler story, is very compelling, for example, though repetitive. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.