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The Seventh Well: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, December 17, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (December 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780393065381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065381
  • ASIN: 0393065383
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,954,336 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An Austrian Jew and photojournalist who was interned at 20 different Nazi camps between 1939 and 1945, Wander (1917–2006) first published this loosely structured novel in East Germany in 1970. Spare, haunting anecdotes memorialize Jews who died senseless, undignified deaths in Nazi concentration camps. In the Hirschberg camp, Mendel Teichmann, a 50-year-old atheist, keeps the other prisoners occupied with his wry tales; a Polish boy, Yossl, freezes after guards taunt him and shovel snow over him. While most prisoners gulp down their meager rations, the narrator describes how men like Pechmann... turn a crust of bread into a seven-course meal. On the eve of Buchenwald's liberation, the narrator watches Joschko, 10, patiently push food into his exhausted younger brother. The book is much more than a catalogue of horrors and of courage, as Wanders's narrator struggles to find the language to describe what he has seenn. This is a worthy addition to Shoah literature. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


[Stories] which both profoundly dismay and yet somehow exalt, and in doing so become crucial to our spiritual history. -- C. K. Williams, author of Repair: Poems

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
I don't want to talk about it.
Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso'
The unique value and story of each individual brought the loss of these individuals to life and the horror of the Holocaust became real to me.
Marina J
If one existed, it might well be the single best fictionalized book ever written on the Holocaust.
C Libanoff

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Kerry Walters VINE VOICE on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Some books are easy to review. Fred Wander's The Seventh Well isn't one of them. This is meant as an accolade, not a criticism.

Wander (born Fritz Rosenblatt; he changed his name in 1950) was a Viennese Jew who was interned by the Nazis in 1939, when he was 22 years old. He managed to escape into Switzerland (the internment camp was in France), but was sent back to spend the next six years in one camp after another. He was eventually transported to Auschwitz and endured the forced march to Buchenwald in the war's final days. His ordeal came to an end in April 1945 when the Allies liberated the camp. The rest of his family wasn't so fortunate.

Wander calls The Seventh Well a novel, but I suspect it's so in the same way that Eli Wiesel's Night is: more autobiographical than contrived. In it, Wander provides us with 12 different stories about life in the camps. The chapters aren't offered in any sort of chronological order. They jump from Auschwitz, to the Buchenwald march, to flashbacks about life in French internment camps, back to the march. This atemporal presentation is entirely appropriate, because Wander isn't telling a history so much as groping for a series of tales that gesture at truths about humanity. It's no accident that the first chapter is entitled "How to Tell a Story," and centers on Mendel Teichmann, the man who taught Wander how to observe a situation and describe it in such a way as to capture its deep significance.

And that's precisely what Wander does in his stories. The reason the book is hard to review is that each of the stories and each of the stories' characters cry out for individual scrutiny.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Grey Wolffe VINE VOICE on April 19, 2008
Format: Hardcover
How would you react if you were taken away from everyone and everything you knew and placed in a 'level of hell' that you didn't know could exist? How would you live day-to-day in a section of Dante's Inferno? That is what Fred Wander did for six years (1939 through 1945) while being moved from camp to camp (twenty in all) and finally being 'death marched' to Buchenwald where he was liberated by the American forces.

What would be your explanation, not of why so many died, but of how you managed to survive? What would you remember? What would you take from the experience? Wander has given us the stories of individuals (all who later died) an how their lives gave his meaning. Stalin said, "the death of one man is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic". The number is too large to get into any kind of perspective. It's only when you look at the actual people, that you can put it into any meaningful place.

One of the most striking symbols of the stories is that only the inmates have names and identities, the guards and workers are referred to only as 'jackboots'. They are uninteresting and interchangeable, they are just murderers and sadists, without any humanity. They are to be endured and fooled, and in some cases made the butt of jokes. But they are at all times, un-human.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By mel9000 on February 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
There is such an incongruity to this book: beautiful, lyrical descriptions of wasteland and horror; characters that come to life for the reader as they head towards death, or are even already dead by the time Fred Wander discovers them (the dead man in the children's barracks); feral children whose instincts are honed to survival but whose minds cannot comprehend hope; sadness and cruelty; scorn and fellowship; the will and unimaginable capacity to survive, juxtaposed with the deaths that come about because of something inside that betrays (Tadeusz Moll; those who answered the final order to death as the Allies advanced toward Buchenwald). This ought to be a book that everyone reads along with Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Simon Barrett 'Il Penseroso' on June 19, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
..but it has NOT 'taken almost four decades' (back cover of my Granta edition) to be translated - unless versions published in the DDR (former East Germany) don't count? Marc Linder's appeared in 1976, a scant two years after the German original, Wander's seventh work. Linder's 'East German English' inflections, demotic vigour and plangent, almost magic realist cadences are vastly more evocative of doomed Yiddishkayt than Hofmann's buttoned-up (but sloppily structured) Anglo version. And my evidence?

He doesn't get about much any more, the old man, his bones are kaput [Linder]; He's not long for this world anyway, the old man, his bones are all crocked [Hofmann]
He died a senseless, undignified death. I don't want to talk about it. Forgotten are his verses.. [Linder]; He died a senseless an undignified death, let me pass over it in silence. His poems are forgotten.. [Hofmann]
But he is withdrawn, he marvels at the sublime face of the dead, and an ice crystal, he breathes the fragrance of pristine woods and searches, searches for the forgotten traces of beauty in his life [Linder]; But inside him he is alive, he is astonished by the noble expression on the face of a dead man, or the beauty of a crystal of ice. He fills his nostrils with the smell of the woods, and looks about him, looks for the vanished traces &c [Hofmann (53 hobbling words to Linder's 36!]
You can say that I have lived like an idiot and was a snob, a damn snob. Good, I'll say you're right! But I have lived. And how! [Linder]; You can tell me I lived like a fool, that I was a snob, a bloody stuck-up snob. All right, I tell you, you're right. But I was alive. Deeply alive.. [Hofmann] 'I tell you'?!
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