My Report to the World: The Story of Jan Karski: On Monday night, I went to a workshop staged reading of a new play (written by Clark Young and Derek Goldman and starring David Strathairn. I was slightly familiar with Jan Karski, whose story came out in the movie Shoah. The short version is that he was a courier for the Polish underground during World War II, escaped from a Nazi prison, and was later smuggled into the Warsaw Ghetto and the Izbica Nazi transit camp. He then went to the London and to Washington to report on what he had seen, with, essentially, no effect.
It’s an interesting and dramatic story, but was obviously still a work in progress, so was a bit choppy at times. Strathairn was a very effective performer and the (limited) staging worked well, for the most part. I do have issues with one of the things I often have issues with, namely the failure to address the complicity of many Polish people with the persecution of the Jews. (I had this same problem with the museum exhibits at Auschwitz, by the way.) The most dramatic (and appalling) moment involved Karski’s meeting with Felix Frankfurter, who just outright refused to believe him. Grr.
There was a discussion afterwards with Strathairn, Goldman (who directed the play, in addition to co-writing it), and a senior curator from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I have to admit to not having found any of the conversation particularly memorable, but that is probably because it was late for me. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how this play develops in the future. And I should probably actually read Karski’s book.
Weather Whine: It’s a bit better now, but it was bloody hot on Monday and Tuesday. When I got off the metro on Monday night (after having walked from Sidney Harmon Hall to Metro Center and waited for the Orange Line home, in addition to the metro ride itself), I was a bit dehydrated. And I really thought I might collapse on the (short) walk home. Fortunately, I didn’t. But as soon as I got inside, I set the air conditioning to stun and drank 3 glasses of water. Can we fast forward to October?
Favorite Slang of the Year: I am reading Alexandra Fuller’s Scribbling the Cat, which has a lot of Southern African slang terms in the conversations she recounts. I absolutely love the use of the term "Henry the Fourth" for HIV infection. (I do not, of course, love the prevalence of HIV in Zambia and Zimbabwe, where life expectancy is down to about the mid-30’s.)