The editors at NYRB have done us two more favors. While a prisoner, Czapski reached back to his Paris days and prepared a lecture series on Marcel Proust's Á la recherche du temps perdu. These have now been published in a slim volume, appropriately titled Lost Time. (What time is more lost than time in prison?) More a tour de force than a contribution to the Proust canon, it is a tribute to Czapski's incredible memory, to the determination of the half-starved men who attended his lectures, and to the devotion of the two who transcribed for us to enjoy.
Finally, NYRB has published the first biography of this remarkable man: Almost Nothing: The 20th-Century Art and Life of Jozef Czapski. The author is Eric Karpeles, who also translated Lost Time. I have the biography on order and will post a review in April.
Good grief! We keep hearing about the insane cost of tuition at Harvard and lesser schools, but have you lately checked the price of academic publications? Hitler's Wehrmacht, 1935-1945 goes for an eye-watering $65 in hardcover, $30 digital! But if you can find it at the university library, it's very much worth reading. It's an edited translation from the German, so the author was freed from the politically correct rubbish of ascribing every activity of a German soldier to the "Nazis," as British and American writers tend to do, and even referring to the Wehrmact as the "Nazi army." (If a Nazi army did exist, it was the Waffen SS, which wasn't part of the Wehrmacht!) It's dry as dust, of course, but all the more astounding for that. My God, what a bloodletting the German armed forces went through, and not just the army on the eastern front, but the submarime service and the Luftwaffe as well. Fascinating too how porous the boundaries between those services were. The Noble laureate Günther Grass first tried to join the navy, but there was a lull in recruitment so he was assigned to the air force auxiliary and the labor service, before being drafted as a Waffen SS "volunteer" on the eastern front. (He was lucky enough to be wounded, sent back home, and captured by the Americans just as the war ended.) Blue skies! — Dan Ford
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