As a teenager, one of the innumerable books that I read was The Diary of Anne Frank which made an indelible impression on my mind. Six decades later, to come across the Hindi translation of Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, and reading it in one sitting, gave me goose pimples.
A battered suitcase with the name Hana Brady 625 gab 16/v 1931 Waisenkind (Orphan) engraved on it is loaned by the Auschwitz Museum to the Tokyo Holocaust Educational Centre set up by an anonymous donor. And thus begins the relentless search by Fumiko Ishiko, a young woman who heads the Centre, to trace the lost life and world of Hana. The child visitors to the Centre and the eight-to-eighteen year old members of Small Wings (an organization set up by a dozen Japanese youth in the belief that the future of world peace is in the hands of the young), fuel Fumiko’s passion to somehow re-create the short life of the little girl Hana.
The book must be made compulsory reading in all schools. It has the photographs of Hana and her family when they led a happy life in Czechoslovakia, and pictures and drawings made by Hana when she was in Auschwitz. The long and arduous path taken by Fumiko to retrieve them has been told in a fascinating manner, swinging from the last century to the present, and taking Fumiko across three continents. To say more about this pilgrimage, for one can call it nothing else, would be a crime against the reader. Translated into twenty languages, the book by Karen Levine is being read by thousands of children. It has bagged several noted awards for the Best Children’s Book, including the Red Cedar Book Award, UNICEF/UNGARI Award, and the Silver Birch Award.
If Eklavya would like to consider bringing out another edition of the Hindi translation with better quality paper and get up, they will not lack sponsors.
Chandra Chari is Editor, The Book Review.