“The zone of interest”: honouring the Holocaust victims
Keywords:Holocaust, Martin Amis, "The Zone of Interest", Sonder, comic hero, Primo Levi
Amis has always found the question of the Holocaust’s exceptionalism fascinating and returns to the subject in “The Zone of Interest”. After analysing how the enormity of the Holocaust conditions literary representation and Amis’s own approach to it, this article focuses on one of the main voices of the novel, Szmul, the leader of the Sonderkommando, whose members were Jewish prisoners forced to clean the gas chambers and dispose of the bodies. Through him we confront directly the horrors of the Holocaust. One of Amis’ greatest achievements is precisely that he humanizes and rehabilitates the figure of the Sonder by transforming Szmul into a comic hero who, in spite of the atrocities he witnesses, reaffirms the unconditional value of life and fights to give meaning to his terrible predicament. The novel is dedicated to the writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, whose voice can be heard throughout the text.
Alderman, N. 2012. “Anne Frank and So On”. Jewish Quarterly 221: 27-30.
Adorno, T. W. 1955. “Cultural Criticism and Society”. Prisms. Cambridge: MIT Press. 17-34.
Amis, M. 2015. The Zone of Interest. London: Vintage.
Amis, M. 1991. Time’s Arrow. London: Jonathan Cape.
Appelfeld, A. 1988. “After the Holocaust”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 83-92.
Ballesteros González, A. 2008. “Feeling with and in the Other: Empathy, Pain and the Holocaust in Art Spiegelman’s Maus”. Feeling in Others. Essays on Empathy and Suffering in Modern American Culture. Eds. Nieves Pascual & Antonio Ballesteros González. Berlin: Lit Verlag.
Baron, L. 2010. “The First Wave of American ‘Holocaust Films’, 1945-1959”. American Historical Review, February: 90-114.
Cohen, J. 2016. “The Crematorium is a Zoo”. London Review of Books, 3 March, 38 (5): 31-32.
Cory, M. 1995. “Comedic Distance in Holocaust Literature”. Journal of American Culture 18 (1): 35-40.
Des Pres, T. 1991. “Holocaust Laughter?” Writing into the World. Essays 1973-1987. New York, NY: Viking Adult. 216-233.
Epstein, L. 1979. King of the Jews. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan.
Epstein, L. 1988. “Writing about the Holocaust”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 261-270.
Franklin, R. 2014. “Viper’s Nest”. Review of The Zone of Interest, by M. Amis. The New York Times, 3 October. <https://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/books/ review/martin-amiss-zone-of-interest.html>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Friedländer, S. 1988. “Roundtable Discussion”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 287-289.
Gilman, S.L. 2000. “Is Life Beautiful? Can the Shoah Be Funny? Some Thoughts on Recent and Older Films”. Critical Inquiry 26 (2): 279-308.
Hofmann, M. 2014. “Splashing Through the Puddles”. Review of The Zone of Interest, by M. Amis. London Review of Books, 23 October, 36 (20): 3-5.
Howe, I. 1988. “Writing and the Holocaust”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 175-199.
Hyers, C. 1996. The Spirituality of Comedy. Comic Heroism in a Tragic World. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Jacobs, G. 2008. “Interview: Howard Jacobson”. The Jewish Chronicle Online, 4 September. <https://www.thejc.com/culture/interviews/interview-howard-jacobson-1.4815>. (Accessed 12 February 2011)
Jacobson, H. 2013. “Rereading If This Is a Man by Primo Levi”. The Guardian, 5 April. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/apr/05/rereading-if-this-is-man>. (Accessed 9 February 2014)
Jaggi, M. 2001. “The Last Word. Interview with WG Sebald”. The Guardian, 21 December. <https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/dec/21/ artsandhumanities.highereducation>. (Accessed 18 January 2017)
Kakutani, M. 2014. “Ordinary, Everyday Monsters”. Review of The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. The New York Times, 2 October. <https://www.nytimes. com/2014/10/03/arts/martin-amiss-new-novel-the-zone-of-intrest.html>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Lang, B. 1988. “Introduction”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 1-15.
Levi, P. 2004. “Afterword: The Author’s Answers to His Readers’ Questions”. Translated by Ruth Feldman. If This Is a Man and The Truce. London: Abacus. 381-398.
Levi, P. 2013. “The Grey Zone”. The Drowned and the Saved. London: Abacus. 31-71.
Mullan, J. 2010. “Howard Jacobson on Writing Kalooki Nights”. The Guardian, 2 October. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/oct/02/book-club-howard-jacobson-kalooki>. (Accessed 1 February 2013)
Oates, J. C. 2014. “The Death Factory”. Review of The Zone of Interest, by M. Amis. The New Yorker, 29 September. <http://www.newyorker.com/ magazine/2014/09/29/death-factory>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Ozick. C. 1988. “Roundtable Discussion”. Writing and the Holocaust. Ed. B. Lang. New York, NY: Holmes & Meier. 277-284.
Ozick, C. 1997. “Who Owns Anne Frank?” The New Yorker, 6 October: 76-87.
Ozick, C. 2014. “There Were no Love Stories in Auschwitz. Is it Okay for a Novelist to Invent One?” Review of The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. New Republic, 31 October. <https://newrepublic.com/article/120029/zone-interest-review-it-ok-invent-holocaust-love-story>. (Accessed 28 February 2017)
Preston, A. 2014. Review of The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. The Guardian, 7 September. <https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/sep/07/the-zone-of-interest-review-martin-amis-impressive-holocaust>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)67
Reich, T. 2014. Review of The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis. The Washington Post, 25 September. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/ book-review-the-zone-of-interest-by-martin-amis/2014/09/25/c61670fc-32c0- 11e4-8f02-03c644b2d7d0_story.html?utm_term=.170a6e1ad7eb>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Rosenbaum, R. 2012. “Martin Amis Contemplates Evil”. Smithsonian Magazine, September. <http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/martin-amis-contemplates-evil-17857756>. (Accessed 18 January 2017)
Seaman, D. 2014. “Interview with Martin Amis”. Chicago Humanities Festival, 11 December. <http://chicagohumanities.org/events/2014/journeys/martin-amis-zone-of-interest>. (Accessed 3 May 2016).
Shields, J. “Concentration Camps: The Sonderkommando”. Jewish Virtual Library. <http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/the-sonderkommando>. (Accessed 18 January 2017)
Stadlen, M. 2013. “Interview with Martin Amis”. The Telegraph, 19 July. . (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Steiner, G. 1985. “K”. Language and Silence. Essays 1958-1966. London: Faber and Faber. 141-149.
Teicholz, T. 1987. “The Art of Fiction XCV. Cynthia Ozick”. The Paris Review 102: 154-190.
Van Alphen, E. (1999). “Symptoms of Discursivity: Experience, Memory, and Trauma”. Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present. Eds. M. Bal, J. Crewe & L. Spitzer. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England. 24-38.
Wheldon, W. 2014. Review of The Zone of Interest, by M. Amis. The Spectator, August. <https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/08/the-zone-of-interest-by-martin-amis-review>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Wiesel, E. 2006. Night. Translated by Marion Wiesel. London: Penguin.
Wood, G. 2014. Review of The Zone of Interest, by M. Amis. The Telegraph, 28 August. <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/11061383/ The-Zone-of-Interest-by-Martin-Amis-review-bracingly-weird.html>. (Accessed 10 April 2016)
Yad Vashem. The World Holocaust Remember Center. <http://www.yadvashem. org>. (Accessed 26 February 2017)
How to Cite
The authors retain copyright of articles and authorize Journal of English Studies the first publication. They are free to share, redistribute, and/or reprint the article without obtaining permission from the publisher as long as they give appropriate credit to the editor and the journal.
Self-archiving is allowed too. In fact, it is recommendable to deposit a PDF version of the paper in academic and/or institutional repositories.
It is recommended to include the DOI number.This journal is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License