Day 1181: The Zone of Interest

Cover for The Zone of InterestIn Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest, the Zone is a Nazi factory and concentration camp in Poland. Interestingly, Amis makes this setting a source of some very black humor.

The novel is written from the points of view of several characters, mostly Nazis, but it is mainly from that of Thomsen, an officer in charge of production at the rubber factory. He is a womanizer, but he begins to have feelings for Hannah Doll, the commandant’s wife.

Doll himself is a vile human being. He has his rival for Hannah imprisoned and uses threats against inmates’ relatives to force them to do things.

In fact, most of the characters are vile. And that’s the difficulty with this novel. First, is the Holocaust fodder for humor? I’m not sure it is in general, but it isn’t for me. Also, even though Thomsen is the least criminal of the characters because he’s working subtly against the war effort, these are people busily explaining away their own terrible actions.

Amis’s goal, I think, is to give some insight into the behavior of these people. Whether you want to read a novel on this subject probably depends on whether you’re interested in that insight. It made me a little queasy. This is one of the books I read for my Walter Scott Prize project that I didn’t really enjoy.

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6 thoughts on “Day 1181: The Zone of Interest

  1. Carmen February 24, 2018 / 3:39 pm

    I wouldn’t enjoy a novel on the Holocaust with dark humor on the side of the Nazis. If the Jews had had dark humor under duress, which I doubt but I could understand, it would be to detach themselves emotionally from their cruel fates, but the Nazis making humor of so much pain and suffering sounds like a dirty apology.

    • whatmeread February 24, 2018 / 4:55 pm

      It’s not exactly humor on the side of the Nazis but a wry, humorous twist in the writing.

  2. buriedinprint February 25, 2018 / 11:21 am

    It may have been on the “Backlisted” podcast which I recently heard some discussion of this book; it definitely intrigued me but I did put it in the “right mood” stack in my mind, as an exceptionally dark and demanding story. I can imagine how difficult it would be to read, as I just peeked in at the library on a recent visit, determining that I was not, at that time, in that “right mood”!

  3. Helen February 25, 2018 / 12:43 pm

    I will have to read this eventually for the Walter Scott project, but it’s one I’ve been putting off reading because it doesn’t sound very appealing to me. Sorry you didn’t enjoy it. I’ll add your link to my Walter Scott Prize page.

    • whatmeread February 25, 2018 / 5:18 pm

      Thanks! Yeah, I don’t know how you’ll like it.

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