Sophie's Choice

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Novel by William Styron, published in 1979.

Narrated by the author's autobiographical persona, Stingo, a young would-be novelist from Tidewater Virginia, it tells of his experiences in New York City, where he was first a publisher's reader, then a resident of the Bronx, able to be jobless and to concentrate on the creation of his first novel thanks to a small legacy of money deriving directly from the sale, generations before, of a family slave. In his boardinghouse Stingo becomes the devoted friend of Nathan Landau, a slightly older, brilliant but drug-deranged manic-depressive Jewish intellectual, and his beloved Sophie Zawistowska, an émigré Polish Catholic beauty, with whom he has a tortured relationship marked by frenzied sex. The account of her frightful experiences during World War II as told to Stingo make him recognize “a sinister zone of likeness between Poland and the American South,” thus creating another dimension for the novel and its narrator. Her father, a professor of law, and her husband had been killed by the Nazis, and she and her children had been imprisoned in the concentration death camp of Auschwitz. From it she had escaped, first by becoming the secretary of its commandant, Rudolf Höss, then by appealing to him by diverse means, including a pamphlet written years before by her anti-Semitic father. Although thus saved from death, she suffers her own perdition in the years of life left to her.

Subjects: Literature.

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William Styron (1925—2006)

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