Kirsty Manning on a story of courage and resilience in ‘The Hidden Book’

Imprisoned in the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, 1944, Spanish fighter and photographer Mateo Baca is ordered to process images of the camp and inmates for a handful of photo books being made for presentation to top Nazi figures. Just five books in total, but Mateo manages to make a secret sixth book and, with the help of a local woman, Lena Lang, it remains hidden until the end of the war.

Seventy-five years later, 13-year-old Hannah Campbell’s Yugoslavian grandfather, Nico Antonov, arrives in Australia to visit his family, and one of the gifts he brings with him is an intriguing-looking parcel wrapped in a flour sack, which Roza, Hannah’s mother, quickly hides. Later, Hannah sneaks off in search for the mysterious package. She is horrified to find in it a photo book full of ghastly historical photographs of a terrible place full of people suffering. At first Hannah has little context for what she sees, but over the years, as she experiences love, grief and trauma, she understands what these photos came to mean, for herself, her freedom and for those who risked their lives to ‘bear witness’ to history.

In this episode Gregory Dobbs chats to Kirsty Manning about the role of the Mauthausen concentration camp in the Nazi regime’s grand plan, the way Kirsty’s research leads her to distil real people into fascinating characters, and how the the trauma of war filters down through generations, altering the course of their lives.

Author: Kirsty Manning


Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760879884

RRP: $32.99

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Gregory Dobbs

Gregory Dobbs is a musician, producer and podcaster who likes to read books. In his spare time, he enjoys making homes for frogs, spiders, and Eastern Blue-tongued lizards. Gregory also likes looking at trees and bicycles.

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