Reading while Elsewheres: Zone of Interest

Reading English-language books while traveling — or living — in other, non-English-speaking countries, is to read in a sort of imposed tunnel vision. The book is torn from my usual context of spoken, written, visual (like TV) English, and assumes a sort of extra dimension of meaning and significance in my mind’s eye as if drifts out of its native culture. This is too bad if one reads a book of the usual traveler’s dreck, but impressive if I get to read something worthwhile.

Happily, I just read Martin Amis’ Zone of Interest, a novel about the slave labor camps of Auschwitz. The writing was engaging, the descriptions vivid and I read it with a sense that even as Mr. Amis rolled up his sleeves to depict three very different characters in this 3-D epistolary novel, he ultimately remained respectful of its subject matter, not daring to claim a special insight on the real why of the Nazis Final Solution.

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