The Street Sweeper

The Street Sweeper

A Novel

Book - 2012
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A novel encompassing both the personal and the political in its exploration of such seminal events of twentieth century history as the Holocaust, the American civil rights movement, Chicago unions, and New York City racial politics, and the role of those who bear witness to it.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Bond Street Books, c2012.
ISBN: 9780385665629
Characteristics: 554 p


From Library Staff

debwalker Mar 10, 2012

"A superb multistrand epic that stretches across continents and over a century of history as it depicts racial prejudice and its consequences."
Sarah Johnson
Globe & Mail

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inthestacks Jan 21, 2013

Perlman deftly weaves together multiple storylines in this powerful tale that recounts the horrors of the Holocaust and the struggle for African American civil rights. In one of the two main narratives, a young black man, Lamont Williams, just out of prison and a janitor at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, befriends patient Henryk Mandelbrot, a former inmate of Auschwitz. Mandelbrot recounts in harrowing detail his job as a member of the Sonderkommando, whereby he prepared other Jews for the gas chamber and disposed of their bodies after their deaths. In the second storyline, a depressed and failing Columbia professor, Adam Zignelik, inadvertently comes across a collection of recordings of the experiences of Holocaust survivors that were made in the DP camps by a Chicago psychologist just after the war. Perlman seamlessly moves back and forth through time telling the personal stories of the many characters that populate his novel, some of whom are based on real people. Despite its subject matter, Perlman manages to imbue the novel with the spirit of hope.

May 01, 2012

I stumbled upon this book while pursuing something else. That's how I find most good things. I was listening to an Irish radio station interview actor David Tennant a few weeks ago, and Elliot Perlman was promoting this book on the same show. I hadn't intended to listen longer, but when I did, I went to the library web site and put a hold on the book.

"Dickensian" was the word that sprang to mind as I was reading it and I notice the word has been used in other reviews. Don't let me mislead you. This book is very much about the present and the past seventy years. It touches on the civil rights struggle in the United States and goes into great detail about how the killing machine that was Auschwitz worked.

What does the civil rights movement have to do with the Holocaust? Well, Elliot Perlman has the gift for weaving seemingly disparate events and people together. That's how he resembles Dickens, although Dickens, even in his most passionate flights of horrific description, could not have come up with the details of how a gas chamber works. I found those passages difficult to read even though there was nothing described I hadn't encountered before. If you're new to what happened in the death camps, you're in for a shock.

This book is cleverly woven together, moving back and forth in time, and in and out of story threads. For me, there was only one coincidence that jarred, but I'll spare you. It's a small one. I'll be placing holds on more Elliot Perlman books.

debwalker Mar 10, 2012

"A superb multistrand epic that stretches across continents and over a century of history as it depicts racial prejudice and its consequences."
Sarah Johnson
Globe & Mail

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