Excerpt of Witold Pilecki’s biography in "The Times"

The British daily newspaper "The Times" published in Monday's edition excerpts from the biography of cavalry captain Witold Pilecki entitled "The Volunteer" by the British writer Jack Fairweather. A week ago, the book received the Costa Book Award for 2019 in the biography category. 

“Jack Fairweather first heard of Witold Pilecki’s story in 2011 from a friend with whom he’d covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who had then travelled to Auschwitz and been intrigued to learn about an underground cell in the camp. The cell leader was Witold Pilecki, a Polish underground operative who had allowed himself to be arrested by the SS to document Nazi crimes. Little had been written about him because after the Second World War Pilecki fought against the Soviet takeover of Poland and was captured and executed, with all trace of his wartime records destroyed,” writes "The Times" in the introduction to the published excerpt of book.

On 6th January, the book was awarded the Costa Book Awards in the biography category, which means it still has a chance to win the main prize - the title of Costa Book of the Year, that is winning one of the most prestigious literary competitions in the UK.

Jack Fairweather, 40, from Wales, is a writer and journalist; he was, among others, the head of the office of the British ‘Daily Telegraph’ in Baghdad and a photojournalist for the American ‘Washington Post’ in Afghanistan. He has previously written two other books: books, "The Good War" and "The War of Choice", about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has won prestigious journalistic awards.

"I stumbled across this historical figure and wanted to know more. When he arrived at the camp in 1940, it was a brutal place for political prisoners and he witnessed the steps of the Nazis arriving at the ‘final solution’. He smuggled messages out to London, and this book covers why we did nothing,“ said Fairweather about his book.

Since 1971, the Costa Book Awards have been awarded to books written in English by writers living in the UK or Ireland. They are currently awarded in five categories - novel, first novel, biography, poetry, and children's book - after which, the book of the year is selected from among the winners of these categories.

This year’s winners of four other categories include: “Middle England” by Jonathan Coe (novel), “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” by Sara Collins (first novel), “Fleche” by Mary Jean Chan (poetry), and “Asha and the Spirit Bird” by Jasbinder Bilan (children’s book). Due to the political context, "Middle England" - a humorous story about life in the UK before and after the 2016 referendum on Brexit - seems to be the favourite.

The winners in each category received a prize of £5,000. The Costa Book of the Year for 2019 - together with a prize of £30,000 - will be awarded on 28 January.

[source: PAP, Bartłomiej Niedziński]