As the Second World War draws to a close, several inmates manage a successful escape from the Auschwitz concentration camp; there will be consequences for those remaining. Ten prisoners are locked inside Block 11, the "prison within the prison," and given instructions: by dawn, they must choose one member of the group to be turned over to the firing squad. If they fail to comply, they'll all be shot. Meanwhile, at home with his son, the camp's commander engages in a game of chess, through which he attempts to mirror and predict what is occurring in the block that night.
The selected prisoners are intentionally representative of the camp's population, and in some cases their complicated relationships with one another predate their current circumstances. These relationships will be revealed and reshaped over the course of the night, through conversation and argument and momentary outbreaks of horrific violence. And as they struggle with their orders, the commander--who seems to possess a surprisingly intimate amount of knowledge about each of these prisoners--tweaks the rules, orchestrating a human chess game from afar.
Piero degli Antoni manages keep the large cast individually distinct as the night goes on; the prisoners will surprise each other as they confront their terrible conflict, and they may surprise the reader too. First published in Italian in 2010 and now translated into English for the first time, Block 11 is an intense, morally complex psychological thriller. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness