Thursday, April 29, 2010

Imminent psychotic break

Current book: Sophie's Choice
Pages read: 408 - 498

Not a whole lot of new information in this section, really. We're pretty much getting details and a greater understanding of what happened to Sophie while she was at Auschwitz.

In the end, she secured a promise from Höss to have Jan enrolled in the Lebensborn, but was never able to determine whether it actually happened. She's still unaware of his fate. Her daughter, Eva, it's clear, was sent to the gas chambers of Birkenau (an adjunct camp to Auschwitz designed solely for genocidal exterminations). Wanda, her friend from the resistance, made it to Auschwitz, too, and spent a considerable amount of time urging Sophie to use her privileged position to try to help the resistance within the camp by passing on information and trying to steal a radio. Sophie was unsuccessful at this, but she did make an attempt to steal a radio from Höss's daughter's room, and was almost caught. Höss and his family ended up leaving Auschwitz when he was reassigned by the Reich, and Sophie was relegated to the (still privileged) role of typist and translator to the camp itself. That's all the more we know of the camps at the moment.

In the present, Stingo and Sophie come back from the bar where she's telling him about Auschwitz to find that Nathan has returned, contrite, and wishes to move back in at the boardinghouse. Both he and Sophie do, and immediately everything is hunky-dory again. (Which, in my opinion, shows that Stingo is an idiot for believing that this guy can ever be a normal and functional human being.) After a week or two, Stingo gets a call from Nathan's brother, and, at his request, goes to see him in Forest Hills. There he learns that Nathan's a paranoid schizophrenic with violent tendencies (yeah, could have told you that), and is not, in fact, a biological researcher. He does work for Pfizer, but only in an unimportant office job, and is, in general, incapable of performing even that work consistently well. Knowing all this, Stingo agrees to keep an eye on Nathan and try to get him to stop taking coke and amphetamines.

In the meantime, Nathan and Sophie get engaged, which is pretty horrifying, and Stingo goes on a trip upstate to see a family friend. His trip is cut short by a phone call from Sophie, whom Nathan has beaten and threatened with death for the purported crime of cheating on him with Stingo. Stingo returns to the city immediately, and, after being threatened by Nathan himself, spirits Sophie off on a train to Virginia.

We're rapidly approaching the conclusion and therefore also the revelation of what it is that Sophie is truly haunted by. Her guilt stems from something far worse that a few collaborationist tendencies and her failure to steal a radio, so we can tell that there's some terrible secret that she has yet to tell our hero. (Like I said, I know what the secret is, so I guess it's been spoiled for me, but watching the book lead up to the secret is as fascinating knowing what it is as not, I suspect.)

Still having bad Holocaust dreams. I really like this book, but I won't be sorry to finish it and move on to something a little less, "Hi, we're the bleak horrors of human existence. How are you?"

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