Dear Liesel


It is the middle of the night, and I can’t sleep- so I am reading your book. Not in the dark corner of a basement, struggling near a flickering candle or dim bulb, as bombs drop above me; but comfortable, in a bed with a dog and a lamp.

The first time I read it, I drank it in like water in a desert. These days, I have trouble with the words. It’s been a long time since they’ve come easily to me, through my own fault and through the fault of no one but the universe. My bones ache, and my thoughts are thick, sometimes. Finding the words requires wading through a fog, and I’ve lost the desperation for them that I once had.

Did you ever write again after they pulled you from the rubble of Himmel Street, or did the words drift away from you, like the ash billowing up and away in the heat of the fire?

People say that tragedy makes for good art, but I’m not sure that I believe that. They all want believe that suffering can create beauty, because it makes it a little more bearable. No one ever talks about the times when the sky opens up, dropping bombs that blow the words right out of you. Do we need to have both tragedy and joy to find meaning? Is it just a lie we tell ourselves to make sure we keep going? Would your papa’s accordion have sounded just as beautiful if the world around heaven street wasn’t going to hell? I don’t know.

Hell, I don’t know much of anything, and I especially don’t know how to say it. There are just nights like this, where I feel empty of words and full of words all at the same time and can’t seem to find a damn thing to do about it. I read and I write and I feel better but none of it makes any damn sense because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that everything is a contradiction.

You need suffering to feel joy. But you also don’t. The world is both more or less beautiful because a Jewish fist fighter starved in a concentration camp and a boy with hair the color of lemons saved a book from a river. We need the words. The words are worthless. It’s all a pile of shit and I don’t know how anyone can hope to describe why or how that is, but I’m glad for poetry and music all the same.

God, I want to go to sleep. I don’t ever want to sleep again.

Some nights, I feel like the words were stolen from me, and I want to shout up at the sky in all its colors at the unfairness of the universe. So tonight, please, help me steal just a few back.


An Admirer




Liesel Memminger is from the novel The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


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