a book by william styron

sophie's choice

sophie’s choice (1979) narrated by stingo, a 22-year old aspiring writer from the south trying to make a start in new york city, is the story of his friendship with two broken souls / nathan, destroyed by paranoid schizophrenia & sophie, a polish catholic ravaged by a cruel choice she was forced to make at a nazi concentration camp  \ it won the national book award in 1980 and is considered as styron’s best work & as one of the major works of the 20th century 

i saw the movie version of “sophie’s choice” in the early ‘80s \ i found it profoundly depressing & troubling that from then on i consciously avoided movies & books with the themes of the holocaust, war & slavery / the only other similar movie that i have seen without any inkling that it was as depressing & troubling was “atonement” <2007> an adaptation of the novel of the same name \ the heartbreaking plots & unfortunate characters of both novels are masterfully explored & expressed

with the story’s main characters & their backgrounds, styron draws parallels to the dark histories of slavery & lynching in the american south and nazi germany’s anti-semitism <which is an interesting perspective i had not read before> \ and explores the impact of the holocaust on non-jews / sophie, a polish catholic, was conflicted by her professor-father’s unbridled anti-semitism though he himself was killed by the nazis \ as with other explorations of the subject, the holocaust showcased the human capacity for evil / while sophie physically survived the concentration camp, she forever carries the guilt & torment from her decision to give up her daughter <in favor of her son> to be killed in the gas chamber \ a choice forced upon her by the camp doctor | whom i consider to be the embodiment of supreme evil

how can one survive that kind of guilt? \ two of the most profoundly painful emotions one can ever feel are guilt & regret / that is why i found the movie to be utterly depressing \ the book is less so because of its humor which fit the characters & situations well \ it’s worth a read not only because of the story itself & the historical perspective but also to savor styron’s use of the english language | for a novel, there are a number of complex words gracing the pages

other similarly sad noteworthy books are “atonement” <2001 | ian mcewan, heartbreaking twist of a revelation in the end>,  “angela’s ashes” <1996 | frank mccourt, laugh & cry both> and “the human stain” <2000 | philip roth, you wouldn’t detect its racial theme till halfway through the book>

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