Why Canada Reads author Max Eisen wrote a book about escaping death during the Holocaust
Max Eisen is a Hungarian Jew who was deported to Auschwitz in the spring of 1944. As an author, public speaker and Holocaust educator, Eisen travels throughout Canada giving talks about his experiences as a concentration camp survivor. By Chance Alone is his memoir based on his painful ordeal.
It was a finalist for the 2017 RBC Taylor Prize and the 2017 Non-Fiction Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature.
"I was in Auschwitz with my father and uncle. There was a selection process in the middle of the night. It was July 9, 1944 and my father and uncle were selected out. I only had a short time to say goodbye to them. Through the wire — they were in a quarantine area — my father gave me his blessing. He told me that if I managed to survive, I'd have to tell the world what happened there."
Getting the words down on paper
"Writing By Chance Alone was like a Gordian knot: I didn't know where to pull the first string. I decided it could be a very simple process of seeing it as a movie playing in my head and writing it down. I decided that I'm not going to write in a chronological order — looking at my life in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, to deportation to Auschwitz — but I would pick and order how best to tell my experience.
He told me that if I managed to survive, I'd have to tell the world what happened there.
"As I was writing, the nightmares came back. I would wake up around two in the morning from these dreams. I couldn't go back to sleep. I would pick up my pencil and paper and keep writing."
Always tell your truth
"I think it's important for everybody to put down their thoughts, no matter the subject. I have been a public speaker for 32 years and I like to encourage young people to write. My motto in life is to never, ever give up."
CBC Books's Why I Write series features authors speaking on what literature means to them.
- Episode #1: Catherine Hernandez
- Episode #2: Shyam Selvadurai
- Episode #3: Drew Hayden Taylor
- Episode #4: Farzana Doctor
- Episode #5: Trish Salah
- Episode #6: Adam Dickinson
- Episode #7: Pasha Malla
- Chuck Comeau defending Homes by Abu Bakr al Rabeeah with Winnie Yeung
- Lisa Ray defending Brother by David Chariandy
- Ziya Tong defending By Chance Alone by Max Eisen
- Yanic Truesdale defending Suzanne by Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, translated by Rhonda Mullins
- Joe Zee defending The Woo-Woo by Lindsay Wong