There Were No Love Stories in Auschwitz. Is It Acceptable for a Novelist to Invent One?

Martin Amis’s new novel, Zone of Interest, is the story of a love-triangle among members of the Nazi officialdom at Auschwitz. By focusing on the inner lives of the perpetrators of genocide, writes Cynthia Ozick, Amis normalizes them. Zone of Interest thereby “makes the best argument against itself.” The problem resides in something inherent in the nature of fiction:

Scripture, which purports to be history, is mainly impatient with interiority. It is God, we are told, who hardens Pharaoh’s heart, and after this no more need be said. Pharaoh’s wickedness is absolute, dyed in the marrow, opaque; no light can be leached from it. We are not permitted to know more than the intractable breadth and depth of this wickedness—nothing of Pharaoh’s psychology, nothing of his inner musings, nothing of his everyday, how he was appareled, whether he was sometimes in his cups, or if he bantered with his courtiers, how often he summoned women of the palace, or of the brickworks, to his bed; or if he ever faltered in remorse. God is a judge, not a novelist; this is the meaning of a God-hardened heart: the deed’s the thing.

Novelists, mini-gods though they may be, do not harden hearts, and inner musings are their métier. A deed, however foul, has an origin, or call it a backstory, and every backstory is a kind of explanation, and every explanation is on its way to becoming, if not quite an absolution, then certainly a diagnosis. And then the evildoer (if such an absolutist term is admissible), having been palpated for diagnosis, is reduced from zealous criminal to one possessed of a “condition” not of his own making—insanity, perhaps, or the inevitable outcome of an ideological rearing. In literary fiction . . . there are no outright villains, and even a Pharaoh would be interestingly introspective.

Read more at New Republic

More about: Auschwitz, Cynthia Ozick, Holocaust fiction, Martin Amis

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security