You have probably heard the term, "the pen is mightier than the sword."
It is something many have wished to be true in real time. That we could somehow write our way out of trouble. That we could avoid the major conflicts which have defined humanity so negatively. History has taught us the opposite more than once. A cruel reality.
In reading horrific stories of yesterday something occurred to me. No matter how cruel the oppressor, the story manages to survive. Often it is a matter of not having killed all the witnesses. Or maybe a participant in history eventually decides to let the story escape in a vain attempt to ease a conscience. Whatever the reason, the story somehow gets told.
Does this make the pen mightier than the sword? Maybe. Maybe not. At a minimum it provides a salient lesson for future tyrants of humanity. The pen will always find a way to tell your story. There are so many examples. Winter of The World by Ken Follett. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.
Though these novels are works of fiction, each provides a level of real truth.
Winter of The World reminds us how liberators can be oppressors in hiding. There is a part in this book where we learn many German citizens lived in poverty and fear. As the war neared its conclusion, it become obvious to those citizens that Germany was losing. The hope of liberation surfaced. For many, liberation became a cold disappointment in the face of Russian brutality.
The Book Thief teaches us even the harshest environments can spawn a gentle soul. In this story you become witness to the edge of cruelty through the eyes of innocence. The manner in which this story is told, and the subject it reminds us of, places Markus Zusak's book in the category of must read.
Between Shades of Gray will teach you why Lithuanians, as well as the Ukraine for similar reasons, will hate Russians for generations to come. This novel takes human suffering to a level that should never be witnessed, much less experienced. It is a story which had to be told.
It would be wonderful to declare the inevitable "resurfacing of the pen" a deterrent to future kings of cruelty. Life and history lead me to believe different. But I attain a small amount of satisfaction in knowing the story will eventually be told. At a minimum, the cruelest oppressors will be judged by literature.
Though the pen may not be mightier than the sword, it has power no tyrant can defeat. It will always surface to tell a story. Do the perpetrators want that story told? Many times the answer is no, but the mighty pen will not be stopped. We can only hope this lesson is not lost on future tyrants. Literature will always be there to judge. The pen will always find paper.
Check out my reviews of each book