Andrew's Reviews > This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski
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's review
Feb 17, 2012

bookshelves: eastern-european-fiction
Read in February, 2012

I feel like I'm missing something here. This is apparently considered to be one of the most moving accounts of the Holocaust, but I honestly found it rather unimpressive. It wasn't because of lack of drama-- Primo Levi told his Holocaust stories through banal detail and it was remarkably effective. I think Borowski did his best to tell his stories in a straightforward manner, without reflecting on them too much, hoping that his details would show the absurdity of the situation in which he found himself. I suppose the absurdity is there, but it falls flat.

I feel slightly terrible saying bad things about a vaunted classic about the Holocaust. I felt the same way after I incurred the wrath of my fellow high school film club members (read: nerdy stoners) after saying Schindler's List was overrated and that Life Is Beautiful was maudlin shit. But the Holocaust is something that is so massive and complex and omnipresent and unsettling that it demands a high level of thoughtfulness and originality as a topic for art. Otherwise it just comes off as pandering. This Way for the Gas was a perfectly OK book, but some combination of half-hearted ironic detachment, mediocre writing, and my own personal prejudices turned me off. Hm.
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