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Very few writers can adequately convey the scale of suffering in the Holocaust, or what it meant to those who survived. Perhaps the most articulate, Auschwitz survivor and author Primo Levi, also warned against searching for redemptive human qualities in the quagmire of hell, because survival is often feral and instinctive, not heroic. The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a dramatised account (historical fiction, if you will) of the experiences of Lale Sokolov, born Ludwig Eisenberg, who is 25 when he is sent to Auschwitz in 1942. Author Heather Morris interviewed Sokolov over three years, when he was aged 87 to 90. The book is inexorably numbing and sorrowful but, like any other, a novel set in the Holocaust can be flawed. The plot is turgid. Fate flips Sokolov a fortunate coin and he is saved from torturous work, instead being seconded to tattoo identity numbers onto prisoners. Early on, he tattoos an 18-year-old girl, Gita, and falls in love instantly. Mostly, the rest of the novel is a...

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