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Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (John Boyne)

Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he knows is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno's friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation... And while exploring what he is unintentionally a part of, Bruno will inevitably become involved in the terrible process.

Quote: "He pushed his two feet together and shot his right arm into the air before clicking his two heels together and saying in as deep and clear voice as possible - as much like Father's as he could manage - the words he said every time he left a soldier's presence.
'Heil Hitler,' he said, which, he presumed, was another way of saying, 'Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.'"

Why this book speaks to me: Every time I explain to someone my interest in WWII I get asked the same question: Are you a Jew?
Well, a lot of people do not realise that the Jews were not the only people killed and they were just an excuse for Hitler to take over the world! His goal was to eliminate all other races, for he believed that the Germans were a different and superior race, leading to Hitler being the sole leader.
Nevertheless, my real interest in the subject, therefore the reason for watching all related documentaries and reading books concerning it, started out in my teens and comes from wanting so badly to understand how someone can be so cruel as to having people killed just like that (I know history repeats itself) and so dumb as to discriminate against others in such a way that, according to him, anyone else is not worthy of a life, or even believe that he could follow through with such a diabolical plan involving the whole world.
But getting back to the book, I thought I was going to read about a different version of History told by a 9-year-old... However, I was surprised to realise it is much more than that. This is about friendship... How a boy remains loyal, even after he realises that he is better off going back home... And how the innocence of two little boys brings them into making future plans, when the adult reader knows that there will be no such thing as a future...
Not wanting to give away the ending, I have to say the author is very clever when he uses sarcasm to indicate that "of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age."

Note: This story was turned into a film in 2008, directed by Mark Herman, starring Asa Butterfield, David Thewlis and Rupert Friend.

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