The Zone Of Interest | Martin Amis

novel | historical fiction | holocaust

First published 2014



"That was in March 1933, when it all came good, after the Reichstag fire. After the reichstag Fire, do you see, we took the simple step of illegalising all opposition. And the autobahn to autovracy lay clear."

Martin Amis's The Zone Of Interest is a harrowing book that tries to imagine the unimaginable. It's a novel that explores Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" theory and how seemingly ordinary people are capable of ignoring human suffering. The Zone of Interest is the area outside of the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, where members of the Nazi party and the camp commandants lived with their families, surrounded by chimneys spouting the smoke of the burnt bodies and the screams of the prisoners.

The narrative is split between three characters: Paul Doll, the commandant of the camp; Angelus Thomsen, a high-ranking Nazi officer and nephew of Martin Bormann, Hitler's personal secretary; and Szmul Zachariasz, a Jewish Sonderkommando who is forced to assist the prison guards with the extermination process of his fellow Jews. These three different viewpoints gives us a multifacted picture of life inside the camp, and exposes the grotesque realities of the Holocaust and the inner workings of the individuals who perpetuated it.

" philosophical friend Adam used to say We don't even have the comfort of innocence... A hero, of course, would escape and tell the world. But it is my feeling that the world has known for quite some time. How could it not, given the scale?"

Amis is a literary genius and his writing is both exquisite and haunting, sensitively balancing the banality of everyday camp life with the incomprehensible horror of genocide on an industrial scale. His prose is filled with irony and dark humour, and the novel seeks to show how farcical and bizarre the Nazi project was. Readers are constantly reminded of the surreal nature of the atrocities being committed, and the bureaucratic indifference that allowed them to continue.

My Verdict

This book is not an easy read. It contains graphic depictions of violence and the psychological stress that the characters experience is deeply disturbing. However, it is precisely this discomfort that underscores that importance of the book. Amis forces us to confront the depths of human cruelty and corruption that lead to the Holocaust. It's a book that reminds us that the capacity for evil lies within all human societies, and that it is important for us to remember that if we do not remember and reflect, then we are doomed to repeat these atrocities.

Posted 30.05.2024

blog&books logo, white spiral on grey background
instagram logo, black outline