fredag 20 januari 2012
THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS BOOK REVIEW
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is presented as a fable, flagging to the reader up front that one is expected to disengage ones normal sense of reality and accept the story as given, but in this instance, when dealing with such an emotive, well recorded and historically recent subject as the Holocaust, this is difficult to do. Everything hinges on the reader accepting Bruno's overwhelming naivety at face value. Is it really credible that nine-year-old Bruno, who lives and goes to school in Berlin and is the son of a senior SS officer, is oblivious to the war, and doesn't know who Hitler is, or what a Jew is - but in other respects is both observant and intelligent? When his family arrive at Aushwitz, Bruno and his 12-year-old-sister are conveniently the only children in the vicinity, other than those on the other side of the fence. This again stretches credibility because historical records show that about 6,000 SS officers were posted at Auschwitz, so it seems extremely unlikely that other children would not have been around. Then there is the issue of how Bruno could possibly have talked with his friend on the other side of the fence for months without being seen, or ever comprehending that Shmuel is starving (he absentmindedly brings him food from time to time but usually ends up eating most of it on the way). Not to mention the inconvenient detail that by 1942 most young children arriving at the camps were gassed on arrival. On the other hand, Boyne hits a few powerful notes - such as Bruno's father's response to his question about the people inside the fence - "they're not people at all Bruno"; and his mother's comment that "we don't have the luxury of thinking". As a fable, this is a powerful tale, and if you can read it as such all well and good (I can't); but as a vehicle for explaining the defining tragedy of the 20th century to young people it falls embarrassingly short.