The day was cold and bright like a Nazi scientist. The night was different, haunted by invisible moans and the taste of ash rising from the crematorium. It filled the huts and choked men in their sleep, making them call out aloud.
Elias cherished the few moments before his emaciated body fell into exhausted sleep. As he lay against his fellow prisoners, five of them crammed into the tiny space, his mind took flight from the camp, like a bird rising on damp, hot air, as elusive as freedom.
To make Antipasto di Melanzane you must first fry the eggplant in a good lug of olive oil. Slice the dark, round vegetable (as dark as the night around the camp) into thick slices and again, into long, thin slivers. Fry in batches and remove with a perforated spoon. Forget, as you are doing that, the corpses collected from the showers, the blood around their nails where they struggled and tried to dig their way against the stone walls. Instead, peel and crush a clove of garlic. Add it to the oil and smell its frying, savour the way it leaves a promise of its taste on your tongue. Add three peeled, chopped tomatoes, a little water, and let it simmer. Imagine that, and perhaps you could sleep, lean back against Menachem, who was Polish, feel David’s weight resting against your chest (he was from Hungary, and worked in the extraction of gold teeth). Perhaps he could sleep. His body craved sleep the way, once, it needed cigarettes. – listen to the story.