Posts Tagged ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’


Sometimes I am asked if I know “the response to Auschwitz”; I answer that not only do I not know it, but that I don’t know if a tragedy of this magnitude has a response.

Elie Wiesel, Preface to Night

This is a difficult article to write, for me. I had initially wished to clarify my earlier comments on John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and victim appropriation (and I suggest reading that post first). Boy has won numerous awards, and the blurbs on certain copies proclaim Boy is as powerful as The Diary of Anne Frank. Boy has also quietly replaced Anne Frank on many elementary school reading lists. Both instances trouble me for obvious reasons. I don’t think a work of fiction and an actual account are remotely comparable in such fashion, especially for an event so difficult and painful to explore and still so dominant in western historical memory.

I decided to read Night and Boy consecutively as a direct contextual experiment. I’ll readily admit this isn’t fair, just reversing the favourable comparisons of Boy to Anne Frank that so often appear. But Night gives an account of Auschwitz, the setting of Boy, and Wiesel confronts the problems of writing the Holocaust in a way, I think, that’s important in understanding what exactly is wrong with Boy.


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