The Zone of Interest

Knopf. Sept. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780385353496. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353502. F
OrangeReviewStarAs he did so inventively in Time's Arrow, Amis examines the horrors of the Holocaust from inside the hearts and minds of its perpetrators and their enablers. Taking place in the most notorious concentration camp, the book introduces a cast of characters that includes the officious Commandant, Paul Doll, an alcoholic tyrant thriving on petty vindictiveness; Golo Thomsen, the well-placed nephew of Martin Bormann, tasked with building a rubber production plant inside the camp; and the Jewish Szmul, a former teacher, victimized into collaborating with his tormentors. For these people, daily life consists of endless trains to unload, "welcome" addresses to deliver, and selections to be made. Life is also full of small annoyances (the ubiquitous smell from the crematoria) and major difficulties (the unimaginable scale of the task). Improbably, this is also a love story between Golo Thomsen and Hannah Doll, wife of the commandant.
VERDICT A haunting indictment of the people who willingly bought the party line of racial purity and ethnic cleansing, this novel is as audacious as it is chilling. Essential reading.
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