THE ZONE OF INTEREST by Martin Amis
Kirkus Star

THE ZONE OF INTEREST

KIRKUS REVIEW

Can love survive against that most hellish of backdrops, the Nazi concentration camp? It's a question that Amis (Lionel Asbo, 2012, etc.) probes in his latest novel, an indelible and unsentimental exploration of the depths of the human soul.

Opening in August 1942, the book's events are narrated from the viewpoints of three distinct characters. Arctic-eyed Golo Thomsen, a German officer, looks every bit the Aryan ideal, ensuring him a lusty welcome in beds across the Reich. He also happens to be the nephew of Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary, though his personal views regarding the Fuhrer's campaign are a good deal more opaque. Paul Doll is the queasily named camp commandant, a doltish yet wily drunkard whose cool wife, Hannah, has caught Thomsen's eye. As for Szmul, back in Poland he was a tender husband and father. In the camp, he is a member of the Sonderkommando, forced to herd fellow inmates into the gas chambers and dispose of their bodies. It’s Szmul who recalls a fable about a king who commissioned a magic mirror that reflected one’s soul. Nobody in the kingdom could look at it for 60 seconds without turning away. The camp, he says, is that mirror. Only you can’t turn away. As Thomsen contrives to woo Hannah, word reaches the Officers’ Club that German forces are surrounded at Stalingrad. Doll becomes increasingly paranoid and Szmul, a bearer of perilous Nazi secrets, strives to find a way to reclaim his life. With malice rampant, absurdity lurks in the shadows, drawn out by twisted details like bureaucratic euphemisms or the fact that Jews are made to pay for their own tickets aboard the trains bringing them to the camp.

Brawny and urgent, it’s unmistakably Amis, though without the gimmickry of Time's Arrow (1991).

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-385-35349-6
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2014




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