Mowey's Reviews > The Devil's Arithmetic

The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
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Nov 19, 2011

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” I’m tired of remembering.”, was the opening sentence of this novel spoken by the protagonist, a New York based American-Jewish girl named Hannah. she was pertaining to the Passover Seder, a tradition of her heritage that she most dreaded. when she was asked to open the door to welcome Elijah as a part of the Seder, she was time warped into a foreign land and year she was remotely familiar of: Poland, circa 1942. the events following her transportation has led to a very disturbing and eye-opening accounts of history she had no way of forgetting for the rest of her life. even her name was changed to Chaya Abramowicz.

in a novel where its plot excruciatingly brushes up on the numbing horror of the holocaust, the author is either careful in reliving the details of its garish reality so that he would even come close, or he can be sensitive for the sake of those who lived and are still haunted by the nightmares about lost children, gas ovens, tattooing of numbers, shaving of heads and the routinization of evil in the camps.

Jane Yolen was more ruthless than sensitive in her fortelling here. she let her readers take a glimpse of the serially demonic slaughter of six million Jews during the holocaust through the eyes of Hannah.

but Yolen was creative. i loved how she made Hannah entered this world and messed her internal clock. the trick was how she would remember her real life back in New York because by then she was already affected and mentally ruined by the Nazis that she couldn’t figure out which was the dream and which was reality? she couldn’t remember Hannah anymore. because the holocaust was as real and palpable as it could get.

thought provoking and fearless, Yolen triumphantly achieved her objective through her protagonist, by distortion and manipulation of her memory. the author said in the last part, “There is no way that fiction can come close to touching how truly inhuman, alien, even satanic, was the efficient machinery of death in the camps.” but through this piece of literature, through Hannah Stern, she successfully inculcated in us the importance of not forgetting.

“I remember. Oh, I remember.”, was Hannah’s last sentence from the book. so that we too would remember. so that we could pass on the tale. so that this kind of evil, this most horrible single crime ever committed in the whole history of the world, would never happen again.

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