“It amazes me what humans can do, even when streams are flowing down their faces and they stagger on, coughing and searching, and finding.”
The Book Thief is narrated by Death, who tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a 12-year-old girl who is living in Nazi Germany and is forced to live with foster parents Hans and Rosa Hubermann, and befriends a Jewish man who hides in their home during World War II.
Lovers of this modern day classic should read the following 10 facts you won’t know about The Book Thief.
1. The Inspiration
The Book Thief may be based in Nazi Germany during World War II, but the novel was actually written by Australian author Markus Zusak, who wrote the novel in Sydney back in 2005.
2. 200 Redrafts
Markus Zusak redrafted The Book Thief a massive 200 times, believing the rewrites would make the novel stronger. It looks like he was right, as it has sold eight million copies worldwide and has been translated into thirty languages.
3. New York Times Best-Seller List
The Book Thief was so successful that it remained on the New York Times bestseller list for 230 weeks.
4. Real Life Inspiration
Some parts of the novel were inspired by Zusak’s parent’s experience. Markus said: “One of my mum’s stories was about something that happened when she was six. She heard a noise that sounded like cattle being herded down the street. It was people being herded to a concentration camp. There was an old man who couldn’t keep up, and a boy gave him a piece of bread. They were both whipped, one for giving the bread, one for taking it. When you see a soldier chase a boy down and beat him to the ground for being kind to somebody, when you see that when you’re six, what could you possibly make of that?”
5. The Narrator
Death was not the original narrator – Liesel was. He even tried writing in the third person. Death was inspired by the last line in the book ‘A River Runs Through It’, which offers the line “I’m haunted by waters”.
Markus Zusak extensively researched the book to ensure accuracy. On top of interviewing his parents and reading books, he flew to Germany once the manuscript was finished to check the little details. While a few errors were flared, he stated that his writing was pretty accurate.
7. Rudy’s Death
Markus Zusak stated that Rudy became his favourite character after he paints himself black with charcoal to become Olympian runner Jesse Owens. He loved the character so wrote early on that Rudy would die to prepare the reader and himself for the 14-year-old’s death.
The description of colour is used to distract Death the narrator to, in the words of Zusak, “to distract himself from al the mysery that surrounds him”.
The author originally wrote the book for himself, as he thought no-one would ever read it.
10. Three Years
It took Markus Zusak approximately three years to write The Book Thief. He has stated it was one of the most challenging books he has ever written, as it was so different from anything he has ever done. He stated he must have failed with the book over a thousands of times, but each failure brought him a little closer to what he needed to write.
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