Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Book Thief: Reading Respond IV


Part 4: The Standover Man

The Accordionist (The Secret Life of Hans Hubermann)


Max finally met Hans, and asked if Hans still played the accordion.


The story flashbacked to WWI in France, Hans was a 22 years old soldier who became best friend with Erik Vandenburg – a German Jewish man – due to their common interests of gambling, smoking, and surviving the war. Erik taught Hans to play his accordion and would later end up torn to pieces on a grassy hill under the milky sky. Hans barely escaped the same fate with one reason; he didn’t go into battle that day.


That day, Sergeant Stephan started asking random questions and gave the answerers equally random tasks that, while seemingly undignified, would save them from battlefield from battlefield for another day. After the first case, the soldiers knew that those who volunteered themselves would be shunned for the rest of their time together. Thus, when the Sergeant asked who had the best handwriting, Erik nominated Hans. Hans was given the honor to write letters while the rest of the men went into battle. Because none of them came back, this was the first time Hans managed to escape Death.


The accordion was too large to be shipped home, so Hans carried it with him to visit Erik's wife after the war. He played her "Blue Danube Waltz" as she silently wept for her husband, and gave her his address in case she needed any help. Before he left, Hans met Max, Erik's young son. They next encounter would be 20 years in the next war.


When the WWII started, Hans did not immediately join the Nazi party, because afterall, a Jew saved his life. Four years later, just when Hans caved into joining the party, he witnessed a Jewish shop being torrorerized and showed doubt in the Nazism in front of the party. He then reprinted the ruined shop, only to have new slur being painted on it again less than a day later. Because of this, Hans was put onto the waiting list and was not granted the membership. Not yet.


And then, on June 16, 1939, Hans met Kugler Walter.


A Good Girl


Back to the present, Max was now in the kitchen with his head low. There, it was the first time he saw Liesel, and was told that she was a 'good girl.'


A Short History of the Jewish Fist Fight


This part was dedicated to Max's background. He was born in 1916 in Stuttgart and he loved a good fight. 7 years after his father died, he and his mother sold their apartment and moved in to live with his uncle. There, Max lived with 6 cousins, where he fought with the eldest almost every night. His uncle, a humble man, passed away when Max was 13 with such acceptance to death that it triggered Max's stubbornness. He vowed that he would punch Death in the face when it was his time. Personally, Death like that a lot. 


Over the years, he became friend with Kugler Walter through fists. They fought each other 13 times and that cemented their friendship. Until 1933, they started to walk in separated paths as due to the dawn of Nazism. On November 9, 1938, the night of broken glass, Kulger helped Max escaped the Gestapos with the cost of Max's family. Before he went, his mother gave him Hans' address in hope it would help her son. Max left, and that was the start of his survivor guilt.


With Kulger's help, Max went in hiding for 2 years. During that time, they decided that it was too risky to depend on Kulger as he was in the party. Kulger went to meet Hans to make the arrangement. Midway through May 1940, Max went for Hans' hospitality.


The Wrath of Rosa


Liesel woke in the. Idle of the night and went to the kitchen. In there, she saw Max eating Rosa's soup and Rosa standing with a look of triumph on her face. Soon enough, Max rushed to the sink and vomited from eating too much. From this scene alone, Liesel wondered if she ever knew her foster parents at all.


Liesel's Lecture


That night, Max slept on the best next to Liesel's. On the next day, her parents told the school that she was sick in order to give her a much needed talk. Liesel entered the washroom with her father, and he began to tell her of his past. After an hour long tale, Hans reminded Liesel of the promise she made with him on the Fuhrer's birthday: to keep a secret. He then proceeded to threaten her with the consequences of telling anyone about Max: he would throw all her books into the fireplace, she would be taken away from them and they would never see each other ever again. Sobbing, Liesel promised her Papa.


The Sleeper


While Max slept for three days straight, Liesel developed a slight obsession of watching him asleeped; to check if he was still alive. During this time, Max sometimes muttered names: of family, friend, enermy. Liesel noticed that upon their arrival to the Himmel Street, they both have had nightmares. What disorientated Max actually woke up, he scared Liesel and she screamed for her Papa. Hans, on the other hand, took the situation rather well and briefly commented that now they had met each other.


The Swapping of Nightmares


Max apologized for scaring Liesel and blamed his excitement for the kind acceptance for going as far as sleeping in a bedroom. He then migrated himself to the basement, where he was given blankets and a mattress to battle the cold. Hans tried to conceal the scene by setting up paint cans to cover it, but a few arrangements could reveal Max's existence. The Hubermanns tried to think of a better hiding place, but could find none. Meanwhile, Max begged Rosa to only gives him the leftover food, but she insisted on feeding him as best as she could. She also bathed him.


One day, her parents made Liesel go to the basement to give Max his dinner. There, she was greeted with the sight of him holding Mein Kampf. She attempted to ask him whether or not it was a good book, but shied off and went practicing her line in the washroom.


Each night, Liesel would hear Papa and Mama discussing what had to be done. One particular conversation regarding to Hans' work came closest to an outburst.


As time went by, Liesel started to see another side of her foster mother; how she remained calm and rational in spite of the situation. Liesel herself also had to cope with the pressure. She starved for normality and, luckily, she had Rudy to provide that to her through jokes and harmless insults. She also continued to read in the mayor's library, where her attention was caught by one mystery book that could send chill down her spine: The Whistler. Meanwhile, Max borrowed Liesel's The Shoulder Shrug for pass-time reading.


After a considerable absence of the reading practice, Hans urged Liesel to resume it along with Max. Liesel hesitated and tried to make up excuses. However, Hans touched Max and was shocked by how cold he was. The reading class was put into stop again and Max was to be bathed immediately. Hans and Rosa then came up with a routine where they would light fire in their room at night for Max to warm himself. Sometimes he would bring Mein Kampf with him. On the third time he did, Liesel finally got the courage to ask her question. Max replied that the book saved his life, and then began to tell how so. He spilled out the survival guilt and accidentally touched the flame. The only respond he got from his outburst was a concern over his burnt elbow.


One evening, Hans told Max how Liesel was as good a reader as she was a fist fighter. Embarrassed, Liesel jumped and demanded to know how Papa found out. She then proceeded to timidly ask whether Mama knew, which Hans then joked about it. On the same evening, he asked if Max ever learnt to play the accordion. Max said he lost interest in it and called himself foolish. Hans insisted otherwise that he was just being a boy.


Both Liesel and Max dreamed. Liesel decided to visit Max after he woke up gasping in the middle of the night. There, they made an exchange of what they saw in their nightmares. Even though neither of them stopped having bad dreams, Liesel told hams afterward that from then, she would handle it on her own.


On her birthday, Liesel received another used book called The Mud Man. Max apologized for not having anything to give her besides the Mein Kampf, which he refused to let a German girl getting her hand on a Nazi propaganda. Instead, Liesel gave him a hug, which was what makes Max determined to gave her something in return.


Pages from the Basement


The Hubermanns kept Liesel out of the basement for a week, during which time Max was making a book for her. He cut several pages out of Mein Kampf and painted white on top of them. When they were dried, he then illustrated his life story on thirteen pages, where he drew himself as a bird because Liesel once made a comment how his hair was like feathers. Max named it The Standover Man. In one early morning, Max came up to Liesel's room and put it on the floor. After reading it three times, Liesel went to thank Max in the basement. There, she found him asleeped, so she leaned in and let sleep took her as well.

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