Chasing the King of Hearts, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (1 rating)


The internationally acclaimed Polish bestseller about the Holocaust, now for the first time in English.

A remarkable true story of love and survival. The Warsaw Ghetto 1942: When Izolda's husband, Shayek, is imprisoned, she sets out to release him.

She changes her name, her hair, her religion. Eventually she is captured and deported to Auschwitz.

But even there, she trusts that her love will save them both. ------ Why Peirene chose to publish this book: 'This is a beautiful love story but also an incredible account of one woman's quest to be heard.

Told with astounding simplicity, the book recreates the Holocaust not as an historical event but as a terrifying, shared, experience.

I am amazed - and honoured - that it was left to Peirene to publish this book for the first time in English.' Meike Ziervogel, Publisher


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Izolda is Jewish and living in Poland at a time when being Jewish is dangerous. Her husband, Shayek, has been arrested by the Nazis. And Izolda is left to fend for herself. She is nothing if not determined – determined to escape the Ghetto, determined to evade arrest herself, determined to survive, determined to find her husband who she loves. Even when she finds herself in Auschwitz, she clings to hope and trusts she will survive the war and be reunited with Shayek.Based on a true story, Hanna Krall’s novella, Chasing the King of Hearts, is a poignant story of love and survival. Written in a surprisingly off-hand style, the book exposes the horror of the Holocaust. Krall has a way of showing just how arbitrary life and death were within the Warsaw ghetto, the concentration camps, and elsewhere in Poland during this horrible time in history. There are moments of humor mixed in with unimaginable images of torture and suffering. Izolda is a captivating character who comes alive on the page. To survive she must use her finely honed sense of what is safe and what is not, she must keep moving, she must accept help where she can and risk everything.Krall includes real black and white photos in her short book which reminds the reader that this is not wholly fiction, but something between fiction and reality. I found myself moved by these simple photos, faces looking out at a camera that reminded me that yes, there were these people…real people…who lived through something we can only vaguely imagine.Peirene Press is known for their short, literary works and this one is particularly good. Krall’s writing is poetic with a simplicity that transforms her story into something amazing. This is a book which will appeal to readers who love literary and historical fiction.Chasing the King of Hearts is a translated work and is only now available for the first time in English. The book won the 2013 English Pen Award, and was shortlisted for the Angelus Central European Literary Award.Highly recommended.