“Lyrical and deeply unsettling.” The New York Times
The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman
978-0-8021-3502-5 • $12.00 • Paperback • Apr. 1997
In the Nazi-occupied Warsaw of 1943, Irma Seidenman, a young Jewish widow, possesses two attributes that can spell the difference between life and death: she has blue eyes and blond hair. With these, and a set of false papers, she has slipped out of the ghetto, passing as the wife of a Polish officer, until one day an informer spots her on the street and drags her off to the Gestapo.
The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman is the story of the thirty-six hours that follow Irma’s arrest and the events that lead to her dramatic rescue as the last of Warsaw’s Jews are about to meet their deaths in the burning ghetto. A handful of people conspire in Irma’s escape, forming into a pattern of intersecting lives and miraculously defying the duress of time to leap from the present into the past and forward into the future: eighteen-year-old Henryczek Fichtelbaum, condemned by his Jewish looks to be hounded from every hiding place until he returns to embrace death in the ghetto; his little sister, Joasia, who owes her survival first to Suchowiak, a small-time thug who smuggles her out for a price, and then to Sister Weronika, who manages to overcome her dislike of Jews in order to guide the child onto the path of salvation; Kujawski, the Polish patriot who tailors smart riding breeches for German officers; and Stuckler, the SS man who speculates about the nature of harmony and truth.
In this masterful novel, a huge best-seller in Europe, the great Polish writer Andrzej Szczypiorski puts an uncanny eye and an astonishing range of moods at the service of a deeply moving tale. At times a dark lament, and then again sly and sardonic yet always compassionate, this book embraces not only the fate of Poland or that of the Jews, Poles, and Germans, but also the experience of all tortured mankind in our terrible age. The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman wondrously testifies to the undiminished power of the art of literature.