Study Guide

The Book Thief Chapter 35

By Markus Zusak

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Chapter 35

The Swapping Of Nightmares

  • Max feels awful about having slept in Liesel's room.
  • He feels this was an utterly selfish act.
  • The basement, or some other hidden place, is the only place for a Jew in these times.
  • He apologizes to Hans and Rosa (thinking he's frightened Liesel, and put all their lives in danger) and swears he will stay down in the basement.
  • He says, "You will not hear from me. I will not make a sound" (35.3).
  • Hans and Rosa know this is what has to happen, but also know how cold it is in the basement.
  • They take blankets down and a kerosene lamp.
  • Rosa tries to explain there won't be lots of food.
  • Max insists he should be the last priority as far as food goes.
  • Rosa reassures him, kindly, "You will be fed, as best I can" (35.5).
  • They bring down the extra mattress from Liesel's room.
  • Hans and Max arrange things to at least hide Max a little if someone should enter the basement. Still, they both know that if that happens, drop clothes and paint cans won't really be enough.
  • Max can't stop thanking Hans. It hurts him to say it almost as much as it hurts him to say, "I'm sorry" (35.14). His guilt is so immense that he feels like he needs to say both things all the time.
  • He also wants to get up and walk out, but knows he won't. It's like when he told his family he wouldn't leave them, but did.
  • He has chosen to live, and "the price [is] guilt and shame."
  • For a few days, Liesel pretends Max is not in the basement.
  • Rosa and Hans take food to Max and take care of his waste.
  • One day, they make Liesel take him his food.
  • Max comes out from behind the drop-cloths, and he has Hitler's book Mein Kampf in his hands.
  • Liesel is dying of curiosity. She's seen the book before at Hitler Youth meetings, but has never gotten a glimpse of what it says.
  • In a whisper, Liesel says, "Is?"
  • Max says, Bitte? Excuse me?
  • At which point, Liesel gives him his pea soup and runs back upstairs.
  • She had wanted to ask him if the book was good, but lost her nerve.
  • Days pass, and Rosa and Hans are constantly discussing their game plans.
  • They only have one argument.
  • Rosa doesn't want Hans to go play the accordion in a bar.
  • But, they need the money, and they need to act just as they'd acted before Max's arrival.
  • The problem is, everything has changed so drastically, but they have to keep acting like everything is the same!
  • Weeks pass.
  • Liesel really can't believe how much Rosa has changed.
  • Death says that Rosa is "a good woman for a crisis" (35.59).
  • She doesn't even get upset when she loses another washing customer.
  • Every time Liesel leaves the house, Rosa reminds her not to tell.
  • Liesel keeps the secret deep inside her.
  • Luckily life with Rudy is still playful and happy.
  • Reading in the mayor's library also helps her.
  • She finds a good book called The Whistler. The name attracts her because of Pfiffikus (which means "whistler") the whistler of her street.
  • The book starts with a woman being stabbed on a street in Vienna, Austria.
  • The mayor's library is cold, and Liesel shivers.
  • Max is cold too; the freezing basement is taking its toll on him.
  • One night Hans has Liesel get The Shoulder Shrug and go down to the basement with him, to read.
  • She protests, but obeys.
  • When they get down there, Hans realizes that Max is like an ice-cube.
  • He realizes the situation is urgent and tells Liesel to make a warm bath for him.
  • Liesel hears Mama and Papa talking. If Max stays in the basement, he will surely die.
  • From now on, Max spends his nights in Hans and Rosa's room, in front of the fire.
  • He still spends his days hiding in the basement.
  • Hans Junior doesn't show up at Christmas, and Trudy leaves without suspecting anything.
  • It's way too risky to tell her what's going on.
  • Max is doing a little better. He's been having baths and his hair isn't tangled and matted.
  • Liesel is still shy when she's around Max.
  • One night by the fire she whispers to Hans, "His hair is like feathers" (35.118).
  • They don't know it, but Max hears her.
  • One night, Max is reading Mein Kampf by the fire. Liesel gets brave and asks him if it's good.
  • He says, "It's the best book ever. […] It saved my life" (35.122).
  • Liesel asks, "How?" (35.123).
  • From this moment on, Max tells stories at night
  • Liesel is full of questions. Death says:
    When Liesel looked back on the events of her life, those nights in the living room are some of the clearest memories she had. (35.128)
  • Liesel and Max might be in different bedrooms, but they both have nightmares every night.
  • When Papa notes the similarity, Liesel gets an idea.
  • Leaving Hans sleeping in the chair by her bed, Liesel would sit near Max and asks him about his nightmares.
  • Soon, Max and Liesel begin telling each other their nightmares. Max has the nightmare that he's waving good-bye to his family. Liesel has the one of being on the train and seeing Werner.
  • Soon, Liesel dismisses Hans from the bedside chair.
  • His feelings seem a little hurt, but it doesn't last.
  • Now Liesel has two lives—the one inside Himmel Street, and the one outside Himmel Street.
  • She has to be careful not to keep the two from mixing together.
  • When she's outside, she keeps on the hunt for things Max might like, such as discarded newspaper pages, hopefully with a blank crossword puzzle.
  • Liesel gets another book for her twelfth birthday, in February 1941.
  • It's from Rosa and Hans, and it's called Mudmen.
  • Max doesn't have a present for her. All he has is Mein Kampf, and he can't give her that.
  • Liesel hugs Hans and Rosa, and then she looks at Max.
  • He looks entirely alone, and she hugs him, too.
  • Soon, she'll find out that he's decided to give her something too.
  • The gift, a paper gift, will reach her in about a week. Max will leave it for her one morning before he goes back down to the basement.

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