We mourn the recent loss of Czech writer Arnost Lustig, whose stories and novels that primarily deal with the experiences of children in the Holocaust earned him broad acclaim. Lustig had been sent to Theresienstadt in 1942 when he was 15 years old, a concentration camp that he survived and, later, Auschwitz and Buchenwald. While being transferred to Dachau in 1945, Lustig escaped from the transport train to freedom, as his mother, father, and many other family members were killed in the Holocaust. After the war he lived in Prague, where he worked as a journalist and became associated with a group of writers that included Vaclav Havel. Lustig managed to escape the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that overtook the reform movement with which he had been involved, and moved to the United States in 1970, where he lived the remainder of his life, writing and teaching at American University in Washington.
In 1996 Northwestern University Press, one of the noblest of publishers of literature in translation, received a grant to promote some of its authors. Square Books and the Oxford community were the grateful beneficiaries of several visits from these authors, including two Holocaust survivors, Lucien Duckstein and, later, Arnost Lustig, considered by many as the greatest Holocaust novelist, author of Children of the Holocaust and Street of Lost Brothers and winner of the Jewish Book Award and acknowledgment from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Duckstein came to Oxford along with the translator of the book about his Holocaust experience, Lucien's Story, and reading at Square Books and meeting with two classes at Oxford High School. Lustig gave a memorable reading at the old Off Square Books on a cold night, November 8, 1996. He later signed to Lisa and me a copy of his novel, The Unloved -- "with thanks, and love." RHFor more info read this article in the New York Times here.