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Book Review: In the Memory of the Forest by Charles Powers

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The book was written by American journalist who was living in Warszawa, Poland, during 1886-1991. The novel In the Memory of the Forest closely describes ordinary Polish life. The main emphasis of the novel is a country’s sense that has been challenged by historical memory liberation in the time when Poland was in the shadow of Soviet Union. However, the main character of the novel is Leszec. He is a farmer in little Polish village. In his mid-twenty years, he went sleuthing after his best friend and closes neighbor was found killed in the forest. During his trip, Leszec meets different people. All such meetings affect him. Admittedly, later, he arrived to his native village. The novel brightly describes Poland unspoken history (Kalfus). It identifies the Polish nation’s trauma, which was left by Nazis occupation, anti-Semitic propaganda, and complicity of the holocaust.

Jewish history is bloody and terrible. The last century has brought holocaust and genocide of Jewish population. Millions of people were murdered because of their nationality. Jews were sent to concentration camps without any explanation. There, people were forced to hard work or sent to gas chambers. Anyway, it was dreadful period of human history. The novel In the Memory of the Forest evokes the widespread aura of paranoia and cynical disillusionment in the country where informer could be the next-door neighbor or even the relative. The novel expresses fears and sorrows of Jewish people during World War II.

The novel starts with murder of the main character Tomek. However, this accident closely relates to the event that happened before World War II, when eighty percent of Jewish population disappeared in the village. Such disappearance is not a mystery at all. It was a distraction of Jewish population by Nazis. Over 3 million of Polish Jews were sent to concentration camps. Since the beginning of the war, Polish citizens have been occupying Jewish homes and shops. The Jews came back to protect their property. In the book, the author depicts that there were no word in Polish to describe the Jewish murders. The key element of the novel is the determination of the past, identity, and destiny (Kalfus). According to the Powers’ point of view, even after the war ended, Poland remained preoccupied.

The book describes that the Poland was proclaimed to be the “Christ of nations”, so it expresses reduplication and suffering that excluded other people. Powers has made a flesh with characters, which creates the provocative ideas of the novel. The novel In the memory of the Forest is highly remarkable for its moral vision, language, and vivacity. The persuasive hopelessness makes the story extraordinary. The main particularity of the novel is that it was written by American author. It signifies that people cannot honestly face their ethnic and history without losing sense of their identity.

While reading the novel, one can understand that Israel is the place of origin of Jews. Basically, they are living all over the world in its own communities. For many centuries, Jewish population was separated from the general population by particular laws and restrictions. As for religion, Christianity is introduced in Israel. Therefore, there are many anti-Jewish laws that were enacted. Anyway, by sixth century, Jewish population turned out to be minority in their own land. During the history, there were plenty of events that made Jews leave the Israel. So there are only few thousand Jews in Israel.

To sum up, I greatly enjoyed reading the book because of its fresh and liberal expression. It is really interesting to see the historical events by the prism of another nationality. The American writer used exciting and extraordinary elements to retell the story of Jewish population during the World War II. Powers’ novel expresses the national history of Jews using personal example of main characters.

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