Monday, October 6, 2008

Raving Over Research

I'm pleased as punch right now, because by chance I came across an obscure memoir from the 1980's, The Private War by Bruno Shatyn, and it's turned out to be such a gem for my ever-on-going historical research.

The author, a lawyer in Krakow before the Nazi invasion, details his experiences during the war, everything from tricking the German occupiers into stamping approval on a forged pass to transfer his wife to the Russian-occupied sector of Poland on their own trains, to rescuing his family and his inlaws on false papers and setting them up to hide in plain sight, working right under the noses of the Nazis. (His brother-in-law worked in the Nazi labor department, under the charge of a German official.)

But the most important treasures are the details of everyday life under the Nazis, of the coping mechanisms people developed and the normal sights and sounds, details that are often left out or taken for granted, but are essential for developing true historical accuracy. The author's analytical approach to telling the story gave me priceless glimpses into how so many Underground operations were carried out, step by step, and how people thought and felt and talked.

My delight in reading this latest addition to my collection has reminded me once again about just how important reading is to a writer's development. Not only in honing their skills and keeping them open minded and invigorated, but also in building the base of knowledge that lends authenticity to a story and makes it real in the eyes of the reader. For historical fiction writers, especially, it's essential to gain a well-rounded understanding of the time period and location of the story, including the sensory details that make it come alive.

And now I am off to request more of the books on my long list through the inter-library loan... :D

1 comment:

Jenny Graman Meyer said...

That sounds like a totally awesome find! Congrats. Don't you love stuff like that.
I think I found someone to translate my 12 pages from a Polish book about gypsies. Keeping my fingers crossed!