A magnetic debut novel from world-renowned violinist Eugene Drucker
Set during the final weeks of World War II, The Savior is the story of Gottfried Keller, a young German violinist. Exempted from military service, Keller is burdened with the demoralizing task of playing for wounded soldiers in hospitals and makeshift infirmaries.
As he leaves his apartment one morning to pick up a new assignment at headquarters, Keller finds an SS driver waiting for him and is escorted without explanation to a labor camp outside his town. There he is introduced to the camp's Kommandant, who tells Keller that he will spend the next four days performing for the inmates as part of an experiment in reviving hope in those who have lost it completely.
Overwhelmed by fear and compelled by the temptation of using his talent to affect others so powerfully, Keller finds himself playing a series of concerts for the prisoners -- and seeing with his own eyes the horrifying truths within the barbed-wire fence. As he plays the music of Ysaÿe, Hindemith and Bach, most notably the searing Chaconne, Keller's own questionable past unfolds, revealing the loss of his closest friend and the Jewish fiancée from whom he fled in fear of being caught as a Jew-lover. As he bears witness to the camp's atrocities, Keller's horror toward the perpetrators and their crime begins to fade, revealing his own culpability.
Beautifully conceived and gracefully written, The Savior is a complex and illuminating character study of a man severed from his past expectations and an artist struggling with his identity in the face of human catastrophe.
Violinist for the magnificent Emerson String Quartet, whose interpretations of Beethoven and Shostakovich are unparalleled, Drucker has written a haunting novel of the waning days of WWII. When a Kommandant orders him to play the violin for an audience of near-death concentration camp detainees, young musician Gottfried Keller is forced to participate in a ghastly experiment with hope. Repelled, Gottfried reluctantly complies: "it would have been easier to face a row of corpses in a morgue." Over the four days he serves as camp musician, Gottfried reminisces about his treatment of his Jewish former girlfriend, Marietta, and of his Jewish schoolmate friend, Ernst, a violinist who fled as the Nazis took power. (Drucker's own violinist father emigrated to the U.S. in 1938.) As the days wear on, Gottfried attempts to separate himself from the nightmare of the camp by trying not to comprehend what is taking place there, and it is here, Drucker intimates, that his culpability lies, especially as Gottfried begins to draw inspiration from his audience. Drucker writes lyrically about the music Gottfried plays (including Ysa e's "L'Aurore"), and his morality tale has bite.