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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

When Tears Are Meaningless

For quite some time, I've been using the 1-5 rating system on Goodreads - every bookworm's favorite website. But checking a box marked "I really liked it" (the Goodreads descriptor for a four star book) with respect to "Zone Of Interest" (2014) by Martin Amis seems wildly inappropriate.

Amis's latest novel is a powerfully and vividly written tale about a man smitten by another man's wife. The prose is exceptional and there is not a trace of sentimentality in the book. Through the author's masterful use of three voices, I felt the longing of Angelus Thomsen, the moral decay of Paul Doll, the hopeless desperation of Szmul Zachariasz. And even without her having a unique voice, I felt the animosity Hannah Doll had for her loathsome husband - such are the rewards of spending time with an author as gifted as Martin Amis.

This is all very different from saying "I really liked this book" or recommending it to others. I recognize the author's immense talent and understand the critical need for all of us to continue to bear witness. But this was a painful book to read. Amazingly, I did not once lose my emotional composure. That was appropriate - What place do my tears have in light of the enormous horror perpetuated by the Third Reich?

"We all discovered, or helplessly revealed, who we were."

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