Geschreven bij Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
When Bruno, a German boy, and his family move away from their pretty house in Berlin to what seems to be the middle of nowhere, Bruno hates his life. That is before he meets Schmuel, a Jewish boy who lives in the camp that Bruno’s dad has to run. Schmuel looks pretty funny, with his shaved head and his striped pyjamas, but despite their differences, an unlikely friendship starts to develop between the two boys.
I know I said I don’t judge people for liking books that I don’t like, but this proves to be VERY difficult for me when we talk about this book. It’s just so unbelievably STUPID. I’ll put the reasons for my intense, intense, intense dislike in bullet points:
· Boyne thinks his readers are retarded. Bruno, our protagonist, is so incredibly f****** stupid that I felt like punching something. He grows up in Nazi Germany, yet has no idea what a Jew is and wonders whether he might be one. He consistently mispronounces ‘der Führer’ and ‘Auschwitz’ despite being corrected several times. He is TEN, not four. He also doesn’t give a flying shit about Schmuel: this poor boy asks Bruno to bring him food (he is clearly starving) yet Bruno gets hungry and often eats all the food before reaching Schmuel. Oh. My. GOD! His sister is just as bad. When they move and their father says they’ll be there for ‘the foreseeable future’ she thinks this most likely means ‘two weeks’. She is twelve. I just… I can’t. I just can’t. It’s offensive to write your novel like the readers are too stupid to understand it and it’s probably even more offensive to assume children are mindless turds.
· This story could never have happened. I mostly read fantasy and science-fiction, so this fact alone wouldn’t necessarily bother me. It does bother me, though, when a book presents itself as realistic, as something that belongs to the realm of possibilities, when it really has no right to do so. Here is why this book also fails on the realism-part:
o There is practically no way that Schmuel could survive in Auschwitz.
o There is no way for a German boy to come into contact with those living in a concentration camp. Those things were guarded. There were electric fences, double fences where guards with dogs kept watch etc.
o There is no way for Bruno not to know what a Jew is. Yes, I’m bringing this up because it’s important. Children were indoctrinated in Nazi Germany. The Nazi ideology was everywhere: from children’s bed-time-stories to their math homework. You couldn’t help but know what the Party thought. This book would actually have been a little bit less shit if Bruno would have believed what the Nazi’s wanted him to believe, then come round when he met Schmuel. Now THAT would have been interesting. We would actually have something that looks like character development.
o I can imagine why Holocaust-survivors find this book offensive (and I think you did go wrong somewhere when Holocaust-survivors think it’s offensive…)
· The writer claims that people who disliked this book don’t understand it. It doesn’t work like that, Boyne! You can understand a book perfectly yet hate its guts. I understand that ‘the boy in the striped pyjamas’ wanted to send the message that the innocence and love of children can even exist in horrid conditions, but boy, did everything else of this book stink. A for Effort for trying to tell us about the magic of friendship, F for execution.