Hicks's Novel Published

“The Commandant of Lubizec,”a novel by Augustana Writer-in-Residence and Chair of the English and Journalism department Dr. Patrick Hicks, will be published by Steerforth/Random House on Tuesday, March 25, 2014.

Set in the early 1940s, the novel is based on the Operation Reinhard death camps in Poland during World War II. To research the book, Hicks read extensively on the Holocaust and traveled to Warsaw and Krakow, Poland, to discover the kind of details that he says “make fiction real.”

“I knew what I was going to look for. It’s important as a fiction writer to actually go to these places where history took place,” he said. “It’s one thing to study the Holocaust from a safe academic distance. It’s another thing to stand where these crimes took place. It becomes more real for you. It does something to you to be in these places and that just naturally affects you as an artist.”

Hicks said the experience of writing “Lubizec,” a fictitious Nazi death camp created as an aggregate of Operation Reinhard’s three camps, Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka, was an emotional one.

“I don’t think people really understand what happened in those three camps as well as they should,” he said. “I’ve taken the stories from these three real places to tell the story of Operation Reinhard. Sometimes I think people haven’t approached these camps because they are so horrifying."

“I think fiction can offer a type of filter because you can read it and say, ‘well, at least this wasn’t a real prisoner.’ In the back of your mind though, you know it happened. There’s a kind of psychological buffer there. It was hard to write but, when I think about the stories you could focus on, really, there is no other story more important than the Holocaust,” he said.


Early reviews of the book have been strong. Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler called the novel “a fascinating and important book."

"In 'The Commandant of Lubizec,' Patrick Hicks imagines the unimaginable and thus gives us a glimpse into the terrible complexity of the human heart,” Butler said.

"’The Commandant of Lubizec’ melds the historian’s factual precision with a storyteller’s compassion and love for humanity,” said Brian Turner, author of “Here, Bullet” and “Phantom Noise." “This is fiction at its highest register — creating inroads into the past so that we might hear those murdered in the extermination camps of the Holocaust, so that we might better recognize the world we have inherited. Profound and trenchant, ‘The Commandant of Lubizec’ is a brave and unflinching book.”

About Patrick Hicks

Hicks is the author of five poetry collections, most recently “Finding the Gossamer” and “This London.” He is also the editor of “A Harvest of Words,” published by the Center for Western Studies and partially funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. His work has appeared in some of the most vital literary journals in America, including Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, and many others.

Hicks has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize, and was recently a finalist for the High Plains Book Award, the Dzanc Books Short Story Collection Competition, and the Gival Press Novel Award. His work with PBS’s “Over South Dakota” was nominated for an Emmy. He has won the Glimmer Train Fiction Award and he is the recipient of a number of grants, including individual artist awards from the Bush Foundation and the South Dakota Arts Council.

“The Commandant of Lubizec” is Hicks’s first novel and is available for pre-order. In addition to this publication, his next poetry collection, “Adoptable,” will be published by Salmon Poetry in 2014. In early 2015, his short story collection, “The Collector of Names,” will be published by Schaffner Press.

- Chi Ngo '13