Group Reader Guide: World Literature


Gift of Diamonds embodies several literary techniques and traditions: picaresque hero, künstlerroman, and holocaust memoir


  • The picaresque novel comes from the Spanish tradition of “pícaro” for rascal or rogue. Usually the hero details the adventures that he or she encounters as they travel through a corrupt society. The hero usually survives, and does so “by his or her wits.”
  • As indicated by its name, this style of novel originated in 16th century Spain, with “Lazarillo de Tormes” and then followed by Voltaire’s “Candide” in French.
  • Mica, similar to a picaresque hero, passes through one episode after another, lives and survives by her wits, and is caught up in a corrupt society.


  • The Künstlerroman comes from the German words: artist and novel. It is a sub division of the Bildungsroman, the development of a young protagonist until he or she reaches maturity. The Künstlerroman is more specific, using as a protagonist, the artist, and depicting their development as a young person to the point that they develop into a mature artist.
  • The Künstlerroman novels often depict the struggles of a sensitive youth against the values of a bourgeois society and/ or family.
  • The literary genre incorporates a “voyage” theme, for the young protagonist voyages through adventures and experiences that influence the individual’s artistic struggle and character.
  • Mica is an artist. We see this in the beginning of the narration as she is rehearsing in the play, Romeo and Juliet and preparing for her debut as Juliet. We see her developing into an artist at the American Embassy in Budapest as she performs her Salome dance. In the latter part of the novel, we learn that Mica is studying to be a dancer in New York and upon completion of her training, joins the Martha Graham Group.


  • Holocaust Literature represents writings in poetry, prose and/or drama, of works related to the experiences of prisoners and victims of Germany’s Third Reich and Fascist regime. The majority of works have been written by those individuals who were prisoners and survived Nazi concentration camps. Learning about their sufferings gives us insight into the inhuman and horrific practices of the German Nazis during World War II.
  • For some holocaust survivors, the need to write about their horrific experiences began as soon as the war ended; for others, it is their advancing years that have created the need to publish their personal testimonies. These memoirs have become a vast body of knowledge for the rest of the world.
  • Interspersed in Mica’s story, is the story of Mengele. I chose to introduce the story of Mengele because it is part of Mica’s world. It is one of the lessons from her father. It is also one of the lessons that I wanted to share with my children. My motif is not only for religious reasons but for a humanitarian.
  • This narration of Mengele has been inspired by Holocaust literature. Some works of the literary genre are:
    • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
    • Night; Dawn, by Elie Wiesel
    • Defiance: The Bielski Partisans, by Nechama Tec
    • Auschwitz, by Dr. Miklos Nyiszli
    • Children of he Flames, by L.M. Lagnado and S.C. Dekel
    • The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, by Giorgio Bassani
    • Sophie’s Choice, by William Styron
    • Is This a Man, by Primo Levi
    • Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl
    • The Odessa File, by Frederick Forsyth
    • The Devil’s Workplace, by Adolf Burger

Gheorghe Zamfir–Invertita