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


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy