By Peter Matthiessen
In Paradise by Peter Matthiesen What’s it about? “In Paradise” is the final book that Peter Matthiessen wrote before his death. The book centers on a group of people who have come to a death camp in Poland to pray, meditate and remember the events of the holocaust. The central character, Clements Olin, is an American scholar who has a tie to Poland.
What did I learn? I had never thought about the idea that words cannot capture the true essence of evil and when we try to do so we diminish the actual events. To me this was the main point of the book; but it also asks other thought provoking questions. How we deal with evil that seems incomprehensible? If words are inadequate to describe this horror how do we pass along what happened? What did the survivors do in order to make it through? In history where do we assign blame and to what degree will those in future generations suffer (the Catholic Church, Germany as a whole)? Are we in the present day still perpetuating the seeds of evil by subtly persecuting those we consider to be beneath us?
Should I read it? Is this book for everyone? NO. Did I enjoy it- not always? Did it make me think- yes. Would I recommend it- yes. It shifted my views and that is why I read so I would recommend it.
Quote- “Art he believes-not appreciation but the creation of it- is the one path that might lead toward apprehension of that ultimate evil beyond all understanding. ‘The hand can speak when words cannot’, he adds. ‘The only way to understand such evil is to reimagine it. And the only way to reimagine it is through art, as Goya knew. You cannot portray it realistically.”