The Book Thief


Is it going to be the Books or the Movies? The question never sears down but can a bucket of popcorn and 120 minutes justify the art of an author?

As I close my eyes tonight, my mind steps into another world that is full of bliss. I spin and twirl and skip and prance. I dance around with souls that I have never met. I savoured every moment until the darkness caught me up and my eyes closed again. The dawn breaks and I open my eyes to realise it was my whimsical world that offered contentment which no mortal could. That is how it feels when one turns pages after pages to know what happens next. Reading a novel is like living through an indescribable world. Our minds have the capacity to imagine the world beyond the stars. This capability brings a never ending argument of whether a book is better than a Movie or vice-versa. Surely, many would find Movies entertaining and eye-catchy because of the glitzy narration but does it justify the author’s 600 pages?

I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.

-Liesal Meminger, The Book Thief

Why choose reading books when you can watch the story within 120 minutes. Seems reasonable when we live in a fast pacing world but don’t the loose ends of the movie spark a curiosity in your mind? When the movie, ’Book Thief’ ends with a narration by the death, it did give us closure but not the minutes that we were searching for. While it would have been impactful to show the conversation between death and Liesal (which was depicted in the book), nevertheless we had to settle with the short and abrupt ending that Brian Percival had to offer.

This makes me come back to my original argument about choosing the book. Well, a book displays the raw and original thoughts of the author and a movie enjoys the so-called ‘creative’ freedom. The latter makes the story bend in ways that none of us would speculate. As a result, the details and the visions of the author could not be comprehended correctly. When a book is read, it makes us slip into a boundless world. The moment our eyes engage with a book, an ocean of possibilities unlocks that make us completely engrossed into the story. It paves the way to a greater imagination for us, perhaps granting the ‘creative’ freedom that our mind seeks.

And then there are books, which you can’t tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like a betrayal.

-John Green, Author of Fault In Our Stars

The fighting thoughts between picking the movie or the book continues but can the 120 minutes justify the author’s heart? Fault in Our Stars, a story of “okay” becoming their “always”, embarks us on an emotional roller coaster. After all the struggles that Hazel and Augustus go through, to know the fate of the characters from the former’s favourite book, ‘An Imperial Affliction’ , it is revealed near the end of the book that the protagonist, Anna Van Houten, dies of the same type of cancer as Augustus had. However, the movie misses the part where it tells the audience about the same, leaving the cord of the character’s curiosity tangled. Another stark issue that is quite noticeable is when Augustus is diagnosed with his deteriorating cancer condition. The book shows us how his parents were concerned about his trip to Amsterdam due to the same. Also, Hazel was the one who picked him up for the airport. Nonetheless, the movie decided to present the scenario in quite a different way. It
not only missed out on the concern but showed Augustus arriving in a Limo to pick Hazel up for the airport. The movie did miss out on these peculiar and intricate details which led to distort the way the story was written. This further widens the connection between the audience and a particular character. While the glam of the movie stars does catch our attention, most of the movies miss the charm that the book embraces. The latter builds our understanding about a character in a way that makes us feel and relate to them. We feel a sense of attachment that we never knew we needed.

Even though the aforementioned “creative” freedom leads to ruining our favourite moments from the book sometimes, it is quite non-viable to include each and every detail in the film. To adapt the entirety of those 900 pages into 120 or 180 minutes seems too far fetched. Yet, there are a few movies which do not disappoint us like ‘The Notebook’, ‘Harry Potter’ and even ‘Lord of The Rings’. Nevertheless, nobody likes incomplete films to be presented to them where either the character is missing or some other salient detail. When the boxing career of Max was left out in ‘The Book Thief’ and when Augustus’ plight was not shown in its true sense in ‘Fault in Our Stars’, it brought us a sheer amount of displeasure that we were definitely not looking for.

Rolling back to the primary contention of a book or a movie, the argument boils down to a war of words. Nevertheless, the essence of the original story should not be lost in any way. So, the question comes down to how should a movie truly justify an author?

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Featured Image Credits: smashboom.org

Ankita Baidya

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A book needs only a humble mention a couple of times somewhere in the middle of an incessant and impromptu pillow talk when the narrator itself is Death, for even the slightest recognition of something so ominously stupefying is enough to draw the listener’s attention. Needless to say, ironing out the scruples of even a novice reader, Markus Zusak has produced a master piece in “The Book Thief”.

Set in the backdrop of Nazi Germany, the story commences with Death’s perseverance through the mundane drudgery of collecting souls. Human souls. What Death finds particularly bothersome is the breathing humans and as a way to distract itself from this vexatious element, Death picks up some intriguing stories from round the world. The Book Thief being one of them. The writing follows the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year old girl who is sent away from her family to live in a foster home. Amidst the intensity of separation and nightmares of her dead brother, Liesel finds solace in the company of her foster father and books. Her subsequent non-sacrilegious lust for books leads her onto different directions; even some audacious excursions, letting her meet different people. Liesel is a portrayal of a mature child who is highly sensitive to the emotions of people around her.  Her personality is a unique blend of traits of dauntlessness, which also includes her  fluency in sophisticated abusages, and consideration of other people. The uncertain times have given her more than her due of unexplained heaviness on shoulders and mind, and for her, the only refuge is the bosom of the books she has stolen. And yet, despite her fears and woes, at the end of the day she is just another nine-year old.

What is commendable about Zusak’s work is that the reader gets a chance to see the world both from Death’s eyes (dark and grim) as well as from a nine-year old’s (utterly picturesque). The book caters to the needs of both the pessimists and the optimists; one will find a dead-end but realize the very next moment that there is still hope. Sweetly enough the writer has neatly concealed the perpetual melancholy behind the moderate facade of good humor. Another thing that is worth mentioning is the author’s writing style. Undoubtedly, there has been a game of dice involving words; the author HAS played with words. The embroidery of words has given the text a beautiful pattern so much so that one has to admit that when Liesel’s world shatters into snowflakes of memories and she, after all, meets Death for one last time, there is a mystique finality to the whole scene that conjures a spell, keeping us captivated long after we have replaced the book on our shelves.

-Read this book because it is not everyday that you get an opportunity to step into the Grim Reaper’s shoes.


 Shreya Bharadwaj([email protected])