This debut novel by German/French writer Gila Lustiger takes the form of a series of vignettes about the ordinary lives of Germans before, during, and after World War II. In spare but effective prose performed smoothly by Tara Ochs, Lustiger shows how Germans got caught up in what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil". From the German officer witnessing an execution to the Jewish dentist who survives by plucking gold teeth from corpses' mouths, Lustiger's multifaceted work illuminates the horrors of this period, and the political, social, and religious tensions that led up to them.
Beginning with a love story and ending with a ledger of its character's fates, The Inventory examines the ways in which the lives of ordinary citizens intersect in a society where persecution and extermination become daily events. We see Volker Tilling, a high-school student tortured by the Gestapo because of his vague association with the Young Socialist Workers brigade; Werner Kurig, a renowned opera singer who is beaten for suspicion of homosexuality; and little Anna Rossner, whose mental disability sends her - trustingly - to the camps. Written with a surprising, analytic tone, ringed with irony and sarcasm, The Inventory bears the authenticity of reportage in its terrifying register of the Holocaust.