AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • From one the most virtuosic authors in the English language: a powerful novel, written with urgency and moral force, that explores life—and love—among the Nazi bureaucrats of Auschwitz. • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE
"A masterpiece.... Profound, powerful and morally urgent.... A benchmark for what serious literature can achieve." —San Francisco Chronicle
Martin Amis first tackled the Holocaust in 1991 with his bestselling novel Time's Arrow. He returns again to the Shoah with this astonishing portrayal of life in "the zone of interest," or "kat zet"—the Nazis' euphemism for Auschwitz. The narrative rotates among three main characters: Paul Doll, the crass, drunken camp commandant; Thomsen, nephew of Hitler's private secretary, in love with Doll's wife; and Szmul, one of the Jewish prisoners charged with disposing of the bodies. Through these three narrative threads, Amis summons a searing, profound, darkly funny portrait of the most infamous place in history.
An epilogue by the author elucidates Amis's reasons and method for undertaking this extraordinary project.
An absolute soul-crusher of a book, the brilliant latest from Amis (Lionel Asbo: State of England) is an astoundingly bleak love story, as it were, set in a German concentration camp, which Thomsen, one of the book's three narrators, refers to as Kat Zet. Thomsen, the nephew of Hitler's private secretary, Martin Bormann, has a vague role as a liaison at Buna Werke, where the Germans are attempting to synthesize oil for the war effort using slave labor. He sets his sights on Hannah Doll, wife of camp commandant Paul, who is the second of three narrators as well as a drunk whose position is under threat. As Thomsen gets closer with Hannah, both of them, horrified at what's going on, conspire to undermine Paul Hannah at home and Thomsen around the camp. Paul, meanwhile, follows up his suspicions about his wife and Thomsen by involving Szmul, the book's third narrator and a Jew who disposes of the corpses in the gas chamber, in a revenge plot. Amis took on the Holocaust obliquely in Time's Arrow. Here he goes at it straight, and the result is devastating.
Marty is a genius but not unlike his past conspirator Hitchens he has splurged his gift like a compulsive adolescent onanist.
This offering is a fetid sausage of wily craftsmanship, inedible but by the maker's reputation irresistible.
And besides, it wasn't funny at all was it?