Heather Morris, author of ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ visited Belfield campus on Friday the 25th October, in conjunction with UCD’s English and Literary Society (Litsoc), as part of her international book tour for her recently released book, ‘Cilka’s Journey’. 

The book, which tells the story of Cilka Klein, a Holocaust Survivor who was used as a sex slave in Auschwitz Concentration camp, was released on October 1st 2019. Morris’ arrival at UCD came just after her 2018 book, ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’, sold its millionth copy in the United Kingdom. It has sold across 53 countries and in 47 languages.

Speaking to LitSoc interviewers, Savannah Murray and Beth Hartford (pictured below), in the UCD Cinema, Morris revealed that “Hollywood has come knocking” with plans to develop a 6-part mini series to chronicle Morris’ relationship with, and the story of, Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz. While Morris admitted that she is “still coming to terms with an actress representing [her]” she outlined how Sokolov himself had no issue with this, recounting a story of his efforts to find a suitably attractive and charismatic actor to “be him” on the big screen, before his death in 2006. Solokov finally settled on Ryan Gosling after seeing him in action in ‘The Notebook’.

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Morris also disclosed how she emphasized the role of Cilka in her first book because she only got a ‘one book deal’ with publishing house Zaffre, following her successful kickstarter campaign to self-publish the memoir. The bestselling success of “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” aside, Morris said, “You know you’ve written a successful book when people want to know more”. She gave details of some of the moving correspondence she received as a result of her book. One letter read, “You’ve given me hope, Lale has given me hope”.

Morris responded to criticism that “The Tattooist of Auschwitz” deviated from the truth, following an article by The Guardian, Oct. 3, in which Cilka’s nephew accused the New Zealander of writing “a work of pure fiction”. Morris requested that readers “let [Lale’s] story overtake the facts when he does deviate from them,” admitting to the LitSoc audience that “You can fact check the book”. Morris went on to describe Cilka as “the bravest person… who survived two wars…She was a survivor and courageous”.

Nearing the end of her visit Morris admitted to the UCD audience, “I didn’t know how to write a book… I was just in the right place at the right time.” Asked what she would tell a young writer to do in order to reach [her] levels of success, Morris recommended writers to “Be brave and keep writing”. Contrary to common belief, she told young writers “You don’t have to write about what you know, write about what you’re passionate about.”


Hugh Dooley – Reporter