Rawicz's instinctive balance of literary virtuosity and extreme subject matter helps explain the impact of this deeply shocking work. Blood from the Sky is existentially complex and "often horrifyingly funny" (Angus Wilson). It re-presents terrifying and cruel historical events without complicity and without frisson.
Few serious novels, even in the literature of the camps and ghettos of occupied Europe, contemplate such violence and cruelty so openly. The book's original American publisher, Helen Woolf, said: "it is the only work which totally transmutes the actual events into a kind of dark poetry".
Peter Wiles's highly praised English translation was published in 1964. This newly revised edition by literary critic and translator Anthony Rudolf, in addition, restores passages not included in the 1964 translation.
I carefully closed the garden gate after us. Naomi was standing in the doorway in her dark blue dressing gown. She turned a bit pale when she saw I had someone with me. She recognised Gerard and sized up the situation in a flash.
She's got what it takes, she's got what it takes, I thought with fleeting satisfaction. She became cajoling, bubbly, all smiles.
'But, Boris, what a lovely surprise! You've brought such a dear and unexpected guest. Somebody from the good old days... But what about your wife, Mr. Gerard, what about dear Martha? Why isn't she with you?'
'Well you see. Miss, I'm here on business...'
'Business, business, these men are insufferable with their business...' A small icy gleam appeared in Naomi's eyes. A gleam that was new to me. She was affability itself. 'But come in, come in. I'll be back right away, and I'll bring a tray of drinks.' Her voice grew lilting. 'And for once I'm going to have a drink too. Do you know, Mr. Gerard, Boris never allows me to drink. So I'm jolly well going to take advantage of your being here...'
She went out, leaving the door ajar. It was imperative that I should join her, but I was afraid to leave Gerard unattended and thus destroy the flimsy shell of camaraderie that at the moment enveloped our relationship.
The urgency of his greed came to my rescue.
Piotr Rawicz, born in L'vov in 1919, survived much of the war in ghettos, on the run and then in Auschwitz, before moving to France, where he wrote his two books in French. He committed suicide in 1982.