Thursday, August 6, 2009

punch in the gut

I read the first few chapters of Holocaust historical fiction novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne a few days ago, then finished the rest yesterday morning. I can't and/or won't tell you the ending, but my strong shocked reaction by the end of the story surprised me because I considered myself somewhat familiar with Holocaust history. However, the rest of my day went on... I was given a parking violations ticket for expired (5 days) inspection sticker... I spoke to a friend who's recovering in the hospital from a bad car accident 2 weeks ago... I picked up daughter from art lesson... and so on... and I pretty much didn't think about the novel anymore, until that night.

I was lying in bed, feeling rather content and thankful for life in general, when BAM! I remembered the story from this novel and felt paralyzed by a nameless fear, not just general anxiety about the future of humanity, but a gut fear of danger... and when I tried to name the fear, all I could think of was ... I was afraid of the Holocaust.

I've read biographical and autobiographical Holocaust literature and taught literature and shown videos etc to my students, such as Maus, Anne Frank, Gerda Klein, but I've never experienced this personal fear of the Holocaust before. I don't know if I would ever choose to teach this particular novel, though I most certainly will continue to teach other literary and historical fiction and nonfiction about the Holocaust. I was told the movie adaption of this novel is very good, but I have no desire to watch it.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

I think I know what you mean. I felt that same horrifying fear when I visited Auschwitz a few years ago. I felt it again this summer at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. It sickens me to think that if it happened once, it could happen again...

Sydney said...

i wonder about that, but it just depresses me a bit too much...

Frumteacher said...

On the one hand it is positive that the book manages to make people feel the way you felt. On the other hand, I also heard negative reports about the book. I still find it hard to determine which sources to use in teaching the Holocaust, even though most students are grandchildren of survivors. It shouldn't be too heavy and overwhelming, yet it should give a realistic idea of how horrible it was. Finding that balance is very, very hard.