I was made aware of The Tattooist of Auschwitz back in February when my mother-in-law received the hardback as a birthday gift. She had nothing but great things to say about it, so when the opportunity came up to see the author and hear her discuss the genesis of the novel, I didn’t want to miss out.
I love Blackwell’s Bookshop on
With the Norrington Room as our venue, the audience chattered amongst themselves, waiting for our guest to arrive. After a slight delay, there she was; unassuming but with an air of confidence that I guess must come from having an international best-selling first novel. Morris’ background is in screenplay writing, and indeed, that’s how The Tattooist of Auschwitz began life. But I’m getting ahead of myself. The novel is based on the true story of Lale Sokolov, the Jewish man who tattooed concentration-camp numbers onto the arms of newly arrived prisoners. It came to Morris via a friend who, over coffee one day, asked her if she’d like to meet a man who had a story to tell. The man’s only request was that his conduit was not Jewish. Morris’ interest was piqued and, meeting his only requirement, she went along to meet Lale for the first time. While his story may have been set in
Morris speaks of Lale with great warmth and it’s clear that over the three years that she visited him (or he visited her) they became friends. She seems honoured to have had the opportunity to get to know him, and that he has allowed her to tell his story. While it may have started life as a screenplay, Morris soon became aware that it was nigh on impossible to get anything commissioned for the screen, so she worked tirelessly to re-write it in its current novel format. Ironically, it’s now been snapped up to be made into a mini-series.
The evening was thoroughly enjoyable, with anecdotes of Lale introducing Morris to his friends as his mistress, dancing around with his dog Tootsie, convincing a cinema full of people that Ryan Gosling will be playing him in the adaptation and many more. But what comes through, both in listening to Morris and, apparently, in the novel (I’ve yet to read it) is the strength of his love for Gita. Neither of them spoke of their time in