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The Zone of Interest

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Paperback
$18.00 US
5.14"W x 7.95"H x 0.65"D   | 8 oz | 24 per carton
On sale Jul 07, 2015 | 320 Pages | 978-0-8041-7289-9
NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR From one the most virtuosic authors in the English language: a powerful novel, written with urgency and moral force, that explores lifeand love—among the Nazi bureaucrats of Auschwitz.

"A masterpiece.... Profound, powerful and morally urgent.... A benchmark for what serious literature can achieve." —San Francisco Chronicle
 
Martin Amis first tackled the Holocaust in 1991 with his bestselling novel Time's Arrow. He returns again to the Shoah with this astonishing portrayal of life in "the zone of interest," or "kat zet"the Nazis' euphemism for Auschwitz. The narrative rotates among three main characters: Paul Doll, the crass, drunken camp commandant; Thomsen, nephew of Hitler's private secretary, in love with Doll's wife; and Szmul, one of the Jewish prisoners charged with disposing of the bodies. Through these three narrative threads, Amis summons a searing, profound, darkly funny portrait of the most infamous place in history. 
 
An epilogue by the author elucidates Amis's reasons and method for undertaking this extraordinary project.
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Time, NPR, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, Financial Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookRiot

“I was riveted by Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest, with its daring projection into the mind and ‘heart’ of a character . . . It felt like a fitting way to spy on historical events that are impossible to look at but that must, nevertheless, always be kept in sight.” —John Colapinto, The New Yorker

“Engrossing. . . . Rich in black comedy.” Chicago Tribune

“Elegant and subtle. . . . An intriguing, sophisticated effort to understand the daily culture of genocide.” Los Angeles Times

“[A] serious and diligently researched work with a streak of deadpan humor that reframes, and reemphasizes, the horror at hand.” Entertainment Weekly

“Powerful and electric.... A book that may stand for years as the triumph of his career.” —NPR
 
“This is a novel that will endure.... A novel whose adventurousness is at the level of its ethical register, its attempt ...  to imagine the unimaginable.” The Guardian (London)
 
“A tour de force of sheer verbal virtuosity, and a brilliant, celestially upsetting novel inspired by no less than a profound moral curiosity about human beings.” —Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter
 
“Signature Amis at his most inventive.... It is precisely through such inspired and irreverent fluency that his dead-serious purpose is realized.” The Washington Post

The Zone of Interest harrows in the true sense of the word, churning up our preconceptions and assumptions. It is a work of artistic courage, chilling comedy and incontestable moral seriousness.” Financial Times

“Heartbreaking.... [Amis is] a virtuosically vivid writer.” The Atlantic
 
“His finest so far.... Astonishing.... A tragicomic moral blowtorch worthy of Swift.” The Daily Beast

“Compelling.... Harrowingly effective.” Slate

“Returning to the Holocaust—the subject of Time’s Arrow, still among [Amis’s] best books—Amis seems greatly energized, addressing the most serious theme with rigour, sophistication, and, most astonishingly, wit.” The Village Voice

“[Amis] is still the scourge of cliché and the supreme man of letters. . . . Dazzl[es] us once more with verbal dexterity and gutsy inventiveness.”Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] pulverizing novel about identity and humanity. . . in equal measure funny and crushing, with emphasis on how chaos and mass psychosis act on the souls living through it.” The Miami Herald

“Moving. . . . Genius. . . . Capture[s] that contrast between frivolity and horror with elegance and irony.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“An important book—relentless, excoriating, blisteringly well-written. . . . Mr. Amis is one of our most accomplished writers. . . . Fiercely sharp-witted, his writing has the capacity to be so unique and dexterous as to create the impression he works from some higher alphabet than the rest of us.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Exceptionally brave. . . . An extended rumination, a nightmare. . . . It’s exciting; it’s alive; it’s more than slightly mad. As the title suggests, it’s dreadfully interesting.”The Sunday Times

“Displays both restraint and humanity. . . . Takes on themes of immense gravity. . . . Martin Amis isn’t new to the business of turning the horrors of history into fiction, but he has never done so more thoughtfully than in this disquieting novel. . . . He has confronted its challenges with honour and delicacy.” The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“As good as anything Amis has written since London Fields (1989), and one he obviously felt compelled to write. He has done his subject justice.” The Spectator

“Highly cerebral and innovative, and also human, humane—even humbling—this is a brave, inquiring work from a literary maverick whose biggest problem as an artist has been his rampaging talent. He has certainly harnessed it here.” The Irish Times
MARTIN AMIS is the author of fourteen previous novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories, and seven nonfiction books. He lives in Brooklyn. View titles by Martin Amis
3. SZMUL: Sonder


Ihr seit achzen johr, we whisper, und ihr hott a fach.

Once upon a time there was a king, and the king commissioned his favourite wizard to create a magic mirror. This mirror didn’t show you your reflection. It showed you your soul—it showed you who you really were.

The wizard couldn’t look at it without turning away. The king couldn’t look at it. The courtiers couldn’t look at it. A chestful of treasure was offered to any citizen in this peaceful land who could look at it for sixty seconds without turning away. And no one could.

I find that the KZ is that mirror. The KZ is that mirror, but with one difference. You can’t turn away.

We are of the Sonderkommando, the SK, the Special Squad, and we are the saddest men in the Lager. We are in fact the saddest men in the history of the world. And of all these very sad men I am the saddest. Which is demonstrably, even measurably true. I am by some distance the earliest number, the lowest number—the oldest number.

As well as being the saddest men who ever lived, we are also the most disgusting. And yet our situation is paradoxical.

It is difficult to see how we can be as disgusting as we unquestionably are when we do no harm.

The case could be made that on balance we do a little good. Still, we are infinitely disgusting, and also infinitely sad.

Nearly all our work is done among the dead, with the heavy scissors, the pliers and mallets, the buckets of petrol refuse, the ladles, the grinders.

Yet we also move among the living. So we say, “Viens donc, petit marin. Accroche ton costume. Rapelle-toi le numéro. Tu es quatre-vingts trois!” And we say, “Faites un n’ud avec les lacets, Monsieur. Je vais essayer de trouver un cintre pour vôtre manteau. Astrakhan! C’est noison d’agneaux, n’est-ce pas?

After a major Aktion we typically receive a fifth of vodka or schnapps, five cigarettes, and a hundred grams of sausage made from bacon, veal, and pork suet. While we are not always sober, we are never hungry and we are never cold, at least not at night. We sleep in the room above the disused crematory (hard by the Monopoly Building), where the sacks of hair are cured.

When he was still with us, my philosophical friend Adam used to say, We don’t even have the comfort of innocence. I didn’t and I don’t agree. I would still plead not guilty.

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?

There persist three reasons, or excuses, for going on living: first, to bear witness, and, second, to exact mortal vengeance. I am bearing witness; but the magic looking glass does not show me a killer. Or not yet.

Third, and most crucially, we save a life (or prolong a life) at the rate of one per transport. Sometimes none, sometimes, two—an average of one. And 0.01 per cent is not 0.00. They are invariably male youths.

It has to be effected while they’re leaving the train; by the time the lines form for the selection—it’s already too late.

Ihr seit achzen johr alt,
we whisper, und ihr hott a fach. Sic achtzehn Jahre alt sind, und Sie haben einen Handel. Vous avez dix-huit ans, et vous avez un commerce. You are eighteen years old, and you have a trade.

About

NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE AN NPR BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR From one the most virtuosic authors in the English language: a powerful novel, written with urgency and moral force, that explores lifeand love—among the Nazi bureaucrats of Auschwitz.

"A masterpiece.... Profound, powerful and morally urgent.... A benchmark for what serious literature can achieve." —San Francisco Chronicle
 
Martin Amis first tackled the Holocaust in 1991 with his bestselling novel Time's Arrow. He returns again to the Shoah with this astonishing portrayal of life in "the zone of interest," or "kat zet"the Nazis' euphemism for Auschwitz. The narrative rotates among three main characters: Paul Doll, the crass, drunken camp commandant; Thomsen, nephew of Hitler's private secretary, in love with Doll's wife; and Szmul, one of the Jewish prisoners charged with disposing of the bodies. Through these three narrative threads, Amis summons a searing, profound, darkly funny portrait of the most infamous place in history. 
 
An epilogue by the author elucidates Amis's reasons and method for undertaking this extraordinary project.

Praise

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: Time, NPR, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald, Financial Times, Minneapolis Star Tribune, BookRiot

“I was riveted by Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest, with its daring projection into the mind and ‘heart’ of a character . . . It felt like a fitting way to spy on historical events that are impossible to look at but that must, nevertheless, always be kept in sight.” —John Colapinto, The New Yorker

“Engrossing. . . . Rich in black comedy.” Chicago Tribune

“Elegant and subtle. . . . An intriguing, sophisticated effort to understand the daily culture of genocide.” Los Angeles Times

“[A] serious and diligently researched work with a streak of deadpan humor that reframes, and reemphasizes, the horror at hand.” Entertainment Weekly

“Powerful and electric.... A book that may stand for years as the triumph of his career.” —NPR
 
“This is a novel that will endure.... A novel whose adventurousness is at the level of its ethical register, its attempt ...  to imagine the unimaginable.” The Guardian (London)
 
“A tour de force of sheer verbal virtuosity, and a brilliant, celestially upsetting novel inspired by no less than a profound moral curiosity about human beings.” —Richard Ford, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sportswriter
 
“Signature Amis at his most inventive.... It is precisely through such inspired and irreverent fluency that his dead-serious purpose is realized.” The Washington Post

The Zone of Interest harrows in the true sense of the word, churning up our preconceptions and assumptions. It is a work of artistic courage, chilling comedy and incontestable moral seriousness.” Financial Times

“Heartbreaking.... [Amis is] a virtuosically vivid writer.” The Atlantic
 
“His finest so far.... Astonishing.... A tragicomic moral blowtorch worthy of Swift.” The Daily Beast

“Compelling.... Harrowingly effective.” Slate

“Returning to the Holocaust—the subject of Time’s Arrow, still among [Amis’s] best books—Amis seems greatly energized, addressing the most serious theme with rigour, sophistication, and, most astonishingly, wit.” The Village Voice

“[Amis] is still the scourge of cliché and the supreme man of letters. . . . Dazzl[es] us once more with verbal dexterity and gutsy inventiveness.”Minneapolis Star Tribune

“[A] pulverizing novel about identity and humanity. . . in equal measure funny and crushing, with emphasis on how chaos and mass psychosis act on the souls living through it.” The Miami Herald

“Moving. . . . Genius. . . . Capture[s] that contrast between frivolity and horror with elegance and irony.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“An important book—relentless, excoriating, blisteringly well-written. . . . Mr. Amis is one of our most accomplished writers. . . . Fiercely sharp-witted, his writing has the capacity to be so unique and dexterous as to create the impression he works from some higher alphabet than the rest of us.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Exceptionally brave. . . . An extended rumination, a nightmare. . . . It’s exciting; it’s alive; it’s more than slightly mad. As the title suggests, it’s dreadfully interesting.”The Sunday Times

“Displays both restraint and humanity. . . . Takes on themes of immense gravity. . . . Martin Amis isn’t new to the business of turning the horrors of history into fiction, but he has never done so more thoughtfully than in this disquieting novel. . . . He has confronted its challenges with honour and delicacy.” The Times Literary Supplement (London)

“As good as anything Amis has written since London Fields (1989), and one he obviously felt compelled to write. He has done his subject justice.” The Spectator

“Highly cerebral and innovative, and also human, humane—even humbling—this is a brave, inquiring work from a literary maverick whose biggest problem as an artist has been his rampaging talent. He has certainly harnessed it here.” The Irish Times

Author

MARTIN AMIS is the author of fourteen previous novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories, and seven nonfiction books. He lives in Brooklyn. View titles by Martin Amis

Excerpt

3. SZMUL: Sonder


Ihr seit achzen johr, we whisper, und ihr hott a fach.

Once upon a time there was a king, and the king commissioned his favourite wizard to create a magic mirror. This mirror didn’t show you your reflection. It showed you your soul—it showed you who you really were.

The wizard couldn’t look at it without turning away. The king couldn’t look at it. The courtiers couldn’t look at it. A chestful of treasure was offered to any citizen in this peaceful land who could look at it for sixty seconds without turning away. And no one could.

I find that the KZ is that mirror. The KZ is that mirror, but with one difference. You can’t turn away.

We are of the Sonderkommando, the SK, the Special Squad, and we are the saddest men in the Lager. We are in fact the saddest men in the history of the world. And of all these very sad men I am the saddest. Which is demonstrably, even measurably true. I am by some distance the earliest number, the lowest number—the oldest number.

As well as being the saddest men who ever lived, we are also the most disgusting. And yet our situation is paradoxical.

It is difficult to see how we can be as disgusting as we unquestionably are when we do no harm.

The case could be made that on balance we do a little good. Still, we are infinitely disgusting, and also infinitely sad.

Nearly all our work is done among the dead, with the heavy scissors, the pliers and mallets, the buckets of petrol refuse, the ladles, the grinders.

Yet we also move among the living. So we say, “Viens donc, petit marin. Accroche ton costume. Rapelle-toi le numéro. Tu es quatre-vingts trois!” And we say, “Faites un n’ud avec les lacets, Monsieur. Je vais essayer de trouver un cintre pour vôtre manteau. Astrakhan! C’est noison d’agneaux, n’est-ce pas?

After a major Aktion we typically receive a fifth of vodka or schnapps, five cigarettes, and a hundred grams of sausage made from bacon, veal, and pork suet. While we are not always sober, we are never hungry and we are never cold, at least not at night. We sleep in the room above the disused crematory (hard by the Monopoly Building), where the sacks of hair are cured.

When he was still with us, my philosophical friend Adam used to say, We don’t even have the comfort of innocence. I didn’t and I don’t agree. I would still plead not guilty.

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?

There persist three reasons, or excuses, for going on living: first, to bear witness, and, second, to exact mortal vengeance. I am bearing witness; but the magic looking glass does not show me a killer. Or not yet.

Third, and most crucially, we save a life (or prolong a life) at the rate of one per transport. Sometimes none, sometimes, two—an average of one. And 0.01 per cent is not 0.00. They are invariably male youths.

It has to be effected while they’re leaving the train; by the time the lines form for the selection—it’s already too late.

Ihr seit achzen johr alt,
we whisper, und ihr hott a fach. Sic achtzehn Jahre alt sind, und Sie haben einen Handel. Vous avez dix-huit ans, et vous avez un commerce. You are eighteen years old, and you have a trade.

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