There have been many books written about the Jewish experience during World War II. Athar by Shlomo Kalo is a Holocaust novel that will stand out from all the others. It tells the author’s experiences as a teen-age partisan in a concentration camp for Jewish criminals in his native Bulgaria. Day-to-day life is outlined in stark, uncompromising terms. The author’s style is unique, a kind of staccato, stream-of-consciousness writing that flits from thought to thought, image to image, much like the mind does. This choppy style will probably be off-putting to some readers, but I think it conveys the sense of desperation and surrealism of the period most effectively. This is not an easy book to read, and not just because of the author’s style. It lays bare the reality of life in a situation when there is little or no hope, and when prisoners are stripped of their humanity, becoming ‘sub-animals.’ It punches you in the gut, and then while you’re curled in a fetal position, clutching your midsection in agony, it kicks you in the face. This is one hard journey, though, that you’ll thank yourself for taking.