A train winds its way through a wintry forest; nine-year-old Liesel watches as her young brother dies in their mother’s arms. After the burial, the book thief’s first acquisition is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, fallen from the pocket of the gravedigger. Just as Great Expectations begins in a graveyard, the film The Book Thief begins with this unavoidable end of all earthly quests.
Liesel is soon separated from her mother, whose political views attract the unwanted attention of the Fuhrer. She is assigned a foster family, an elderly couple living on Himmelstrasse – Heaven Street. There she finds a gentle foster father who teaches her to read and to sing through fear, and a stern but sacrificial foster mother who teaches her to love, though haunted by insecurity. And there she also finds a true friend who teaches her to hate evil and cling to good.
After being out of town for a couple weeks, I climbed the stairs to my apartment, dropped my suitcase to the floor, and noticed the light had changed. The sunlight no longer blared with cool blues and purples; it filtered through thin chloroformed leaves leaving fluorescent green slatted across my wood floors.
Even now I write this in the light from my laptop screen. An unchanging, medical light of pure white. My cursor blinks with black insistence to cover the light with words.
When Justinian rebuilt Hagia Sophia, after conquering Istanbul and overthrowing her Islamic rulers, he sought to fill the halls with a holy light. Small windows circle the dome so closely set it appears to be floating. Under the dome, our position is not fixed; we are awash in illusionary light and shadow.