"Buy it," my brother said when he saw me studying the blurb of the book. I stared at the the familiar picture of mice on the cover,...more**spoiler alert**
"Buy it," my brother said when he saw me studying the blurb of the book. I stared at the the familiar picture of mice on the cover, then at the steep price at the back. Php 2000 was pretty pricey for a book...
But I had been searching for this book a good 5 years. I've even scoured bookstores in the states for a copy to no avail. And now, the gods of Fully Booked have finally heard my prayers. I'll be damn if I let this opportunity pass.
So I bought it. Allegedly as a birthday present for my brother, hehehe
I'm not sure what exactly I was expecting from the book. The subject itself is far from the typical comic book stories. Maus follows Vladek and Anja, 2 holocaust survivors from the days when they first met, through the holocaust, to old age. And this is told though the work of Artie, their cartoonist son. At first I thought this would be something like Inglorious Basterds, a sort of satire of world war II. After all, the nazis were portrayed as cats and the Jews were mice and all that.
I was wrong. Even though it is technically a cartoon, Maus is also a a biography of 2 ordinary Jews during one of the most harrowing times of our history. And like most works of art that emerge from the holocaust, it asks a lot of questions. Unlike other books I've read, though, Artie's questions, though universal, are rooted in very personal losses.
Anja's suicide particularly stuck with me. It literally haunted me long after I had finished the book. Her last days ran like a loop in my head for days. "do you still love me, Artie? Do you still love me, Artie?" You'd think that after surviving the holocaust, one would never think about taking their own lives. But it soon becomes apparent that just because one survives, their still alive. The trauma of living in such fear, day after day; of going through the motions of life when death has become an intimate companion. When everyone else is dying, why am I still alive? When good people die, why do i still survive? If there is a god, why does he let us die?
I doubt if anything can truly capture how harrowing life was during WWiI, but reading Maus does give one a sense of this misshapen, unfathomable dark cloud that shrouds even the luckiest of survivors. There is no harrah, harrah moment here. No "take that, Hitler". Long after the nazis are dead, the psychological effects remained burned like the tattooed numbers on the survivors skin. That is the power of this book -- that I, a Filipino catholic, am haunted by events that had happened seventy years ago. Very few books can make such an impact. Even rarer for comic book
Needless to say, my brother never got his birthday present(less)
**spoiler alert** I had high hopes for this book. First off, it was good enough to have been made into a movie. Perhaps that should have tipped me, bu...more**spoiler alert** I had high hopes for this book. First off, it was good enough to have been made into a movie. Perhaps that should have tipped me, but the fact that it was yet another story about the Holocaust excited me and clouded my judgement.
The book calls itself a fable, so I could forgive the simplistic mindset and even turn a blind eye to the poor choice of words (Really, "The Fury" for "The Fuhrer"?). I could even indulge the author with its brow-raising, obviously unrealistic plot, i.e. Bruno meets Shmuel almost every day on the same spot near a fence and no one notices it; the fact that there's a hole in the fence and none of the prisoners take advantage over it. Sure, whatever it takes to get to the point. Unfortunately, the story ends and I'm still left wondering just what happened. Apparently, Bruno dies in the gas chamber while helping Shmuel find his father. Surely, that can't be the point of the story, that the Nazi's were bad and discriminated against Jews, because everyone knows that. And yet, I've gone back and forth through the novel and find nothing. Unlike most Holocaust novels, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is as simplistic and, sadly, shallow as it's title. It add nothing; reiterating only what we already know about the holocaust and digesting it for the simple-minded.
Not that this isn't worth reading. Simple is a double edged sword, and what the story lacks in philosophical satisfaction is somewhat balanced by its entertainment value. It is an ok read, especially for those who don't have time or the patience to read as often. The characters (except maybe Bruno and Shmuel who sounded like an adults masquerading as a kids) are realistic and vivid, and I was more intrigued by what the author did not write (the thing between Kotler and Bruno's mother, what Kotler did to Pavel) rather than what had been written. In my opinion, had Boyne decided to explore those more, it would have made a better novel and maybe then I would have gotten more from the story than just the image of 2 boys and a fence. (less)
Brilliant in a disturbing and sometimes funny way.
Gotz and Meyer are two SS non-commissioned officers tasked with driving a hermetically sealed tru...moreBrilliant in a disturbing and sometimes funny way.
Gotz and Meyer are two SS non-commissioned officers tasked with driving a hermetically sealed truck around Serbia during one of the Nazi's early attempts to rid the world of Jews. The story is narrated, however, by a nameless narrator, a professor in modern day Serbia obsessed by the eradication of his family members during WW2. At first, the story reminded me of Elie Wiesel's writing in that it asks the same questions of how such an atrocity could happen, why didn't the Jews fight back, why didn't God help them. But the book eventually transcends all that. Despite being a book about the war, it leaps through time in the same way that the narrator leaps from past, present and imagined, delving and studying our notions of death, life, responsibility and memory.
And it helps that Albahari writes excellently. As a writer myself (and I use that term very loosely), I cannot imagine how anyone can write such a book. There are no paragraphs, no page breaks, just one long stream-of-conscious type narrative. Reading it feels spontaneous, almost as if the narrator is right in front of you telling you his story, and yet the entire tale is so intricate that under the pen of another writer, the story could have easily crumbled into a hodge-podge of facts and figures. The beauty of the story is in the way Albahari deftly uses staid numbers and figures to re-imagine and understand the horror of Holocaust. I particularly liked the part where he talks about his family tree and how some branches will never grow. It echoes a little to Cain and Abel's story where Cain says that he does not know where his brother is. God responds by saying that he can hear them crying. That is the horror of the holocaust, that killing a person does not just kills the individual, it wipes off families, entire branches of families. And that is the horror of Gotz and Meyer, that in the end of it, all it took were 2 men to wipe off not only the present, but the future as well.
**spoiler alert** Initially, I wanted to stop reading this book half-way. The story was just soooo boring that it was taking me months to finish the f...more**spoiler alert** Initially, I wanted to stop reading this book half-way. The story was just soooo boring that it was taking me months to finish the first few chapters. So what if McEwan is a superb writer and that I can literally feel the heat of that day and the coolness of the fountain emanating from the pages? So what if he could write about a 12 year old girl's ordinary day? The fact was, there was no story. It was one incident at one day that for some reason stretched into several chapters. What was so good about that?
Nevertheless, I continued reading, pushed on more by my curiosity regarding its rave reviews rather than the story itself. I read on past Robbie in France, past Briony as a nurse, past Cecelia and Robbie together and Briony talking to them, making ammends; past the small BT initials after book 2 which didn't make sense. I was a third through book 3, just 2 more pages to go. Well, this is going to be the worst book I've ever read, I thought.
Then it happened. Just 2 more paragraphs before the book ended. (A real WTF moment for me, actually). And suddenly, I understood why McEwan is such a great writer. The entire book was a bloody set-up, just sitting there, building up into this uneventful, ordinary story that did not make sense if not for that one line at the very end. It was almost like an interactive mystery without the high-tech stuff, a paper chase with just you and McEwan dishing out clues here and there, except you didn't realize you were in a mystery until the very end. Briony making ammends, Robbie and Cecelia getting back together -- it never happened. Book 2 is actually THE atonement, Briony's manuscript, a fictionalized account of her would-be apology had Robbie and Cee lived past the war. Unfortunately, both Cecelia and Robbie do not survive. Robbie dies in France and never sees Cecelia again, while a heartbroken Cee dies in the underground at the height of Blitzkrieg. Briony is left with the guilt of her childhood accusations and never gets her chance to ask for forgiveness. So, she turns to the only thing she knows she can do. She gives the lovers immortality through her words. But is it enough?
One needs exceptional mastery at storytelling to pull this off, and McEwan does so flawlessly. It was so good that not even the movie could do justice to it. If there was one book people should read just for the sake of reading, for enjoying the characters and the surprise at the end, it would have to be this book. (less)
The story started out interesting: the start of the Nazi's rise to power, a rich jewish family on the verge of being betrayed, their beautiful daughte...moreThe story started out interesting: the start of the Nazi's rise to power, a rich jewish family on the verge of being betrayed, their beautiful daughter reeling from what her boyfriend turned out to be. It just became dragging by the middle of the story. The reasons given for the characters' decisions does not seem valid enough, and its hard to accept their stupidity for bravery. This is supposed to be the prelude to a chronicle and yet the story quickly turns stale half-way through the book. I don't know how anyone is supposed to finish the entire chronicle. What happens still intrigues me, though. So, I might end up reread this book someday. There's still hope(less)
I bought a copy of this book after I saw it on Discovery channel (forgot the title of the show). Since it's a translation, the English was a bit rough...moreI bought a copy of this book after I saw it on Discovery channel (forgot the title of the show). Since it's a translation, the English was a bit rough, but still the story was really good. I think it did broaden my view of the world, and in a way changed my life. (less)