Issue 9,  Poetry

The Book Thief by Anannya Uberoi

(A response to the novel by Markus Zusak)

“Ahead of all parting” weighs 2 pounds, or 48 ounces, 
or 1360 grams, a single volume by Modern Library, 
new edition, 1995. Four centimeters short of an A4, the
brobdingnagian book, upon falling by a slip of
the hand on the streets of Munich, blasts a ‘thud’
thunderous enough for all eyes to turn to you.

Sunday, 10 a.m.
the boulevards of Munich
branch out into tiny alleys
bustling with carpets and 
candies for Oktoberfest,
Hans Zimmer is playing 
on the radio as Ms. Emilia
is prepping up her flowers
for another day of sales
in her book café, Jasmin
that grows its rosemary in 
jam jars and lights candles
within hedges of garden clippings –
they look like funny Finnish
reindeer with mouths of glass.

My third day in the city, I am 
flicking through the appendices 
of Modern Library, when a woman 
in her thirties, with golden balls
of yarn for hair bundled into 
thick braids run by the sides 
of her rose-cheeks (looking 
strangely like Liesel Meminger 
from a book I once read on a
train to the Alps), walks in. 
She’s German, but as 
lost as I: we bond over Rainer 
Maria Rilke’s single volume 
edition I am holding on to, 
tighter than before. In our 
conversation, she pretends 
to be Liesel, and speaks to 
me in castles and daydreams. 
I play along in this unexpected 
diversion, our cups full with 
wine and caramelized sugar.

The Book Thief has stopped 
thieving books; she picks them
up from happy libraries and 
goes her way, whistling. They 
don’t burn books on gargantuan 
pyres anymore as they did in
Nazi Germany; I am relieved. 
They leave books like leaves, 
freshly-bought and supple 
from red-rush in the spring,
neglected in the fall in quiet 
corners by the hearth until 
their yellowing pages buried 
by the winter snow.

The winter is what I look for, 
like broom-dust I pick these
forgotten books in shovels and 
bring them home to the world 
of twenty children, with eyes 
picking magic and their rose-lips 
enunciating rune after rune
in innocent wonder. She visits 
Munich in remembrance of 
her foster parents and Max, 
and Rudy, the boy with blond hair
and blue eyes. She can jump 
from the World War II and 
the Munich crisis, 1938, to 
the world of today with a snap 
of her starched fingers, quantum
phenomenon taking after like 
a game of Chinese whispers 
in the brutal contractions of 
the German winter.

2 p.m., she is she is walking 
northward, accordion in 
hand, leaving behind a trail 
of sparkles in my dusty eyes.
To my right, the Müller 
Bookstore proudly displays 
On Hauntings” by Liesel Meminger
through the glinting glass.

____________________________________________________________

Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid. Her poems and short stories have appeared in JaggeryLandLockedDeep WildTiptonLapis Lazuli, Marías at Sampaguitas, and eFiction India. Her writing has also featured on The Delhi Walla and The Dewdrop, among other literary blogs.

One Comment

  • Christian Barragan

    It came as such a surprise to me, seeing the title of this work. I was just about to open the very same novel this piece is responding to, which I have been reading the last few days. Such an exquisitely realized voice in your work!

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