‘Hamlet’, by Hanna Krall, translated by Madeline G. Levine

Born in 1930s Poland to a Jewish family, Hanna Krall survived the Holocaust by “passing” as a child in a gentile family. The trauma of survival, as well as mourning for the victims, propels her later work in journalism and non-fiction narrative. She gathers and weaves true tales of the genocide and its aftermath in The Woman from Hamburg, but narrates them with all the shaping and subtlety of fiction. ‘Hamlet’ traces the unlikely career of the gay, Jewish pianist Andrzej Czajkowski. He too survived the war – dyed blond – “on the Aryan side”. Around his fantastic, melancholy voyage, Krall knots other unsettling strands of the post-war Polish-Jewish story. Settled in England, Czajkowski eventually bequeathed his skull to the RSC. David Tennant wielded it, and addressed it, in his Hamlet.

Collected in The Woman from Hamburg, and Other True Stories, Other Press, 2005