The Memory Monster by Yashai Sarid
What’s it about?
This novel is written as a letter from an employee to his mentor explaining the events that led up to him punching a client in the face. The narrator lives in Israel and hopes to work for the state department. When this door is closed on him he takes his love for history, and through circumstance, becomes a leading historian on the Holocaust. In particular he is an expert on Polish concentration camps. As he spends more and more time in Poland at the camps, away from his wife and child, he begins to see human possibilities through the lens of the Nazi's. When leading a student group he thinks, "A weak flicker in my mind tells me that these wild types are capable of murder, but they have a hard time with commands. They know how to reject them, evade them, manipulating their way out of them, smuggling little bottles of vodka into their rooms, making noise in the middle of the night, but perhaps on the deciding day they wouldn't turn in their neighbor, refusing orders, unlike the good kids, who would obey immediately, because for them a law is a law."
What did it make me think about?
What is each individual capable of? How do we process the horrors we inflict on each other? How do we honor the victims without sensationalizing history and turning it into a drama?
Should I read it?
This short book was pretty brutal- but to do justice to history it would have to be difficult to read. It asks so many interesting questions. Many questions to Israel itself. Does the rise in nationalism lead us to this place again? Does violence begat violence? Is everything about power? Because it asks tough questions, this beautiful and thoughtful book would not be for every reader.
"I spread my arms and said human beings are capable of anything, especially murder. They relied on ideology or religion."
If you liked this try-
In Paradise by Peter Matthiessen
Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
favorites from 2020
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best of winter 2020
best of summer/fall 2019
best of winter/spring 2019
best of summer/ fall 2018
best of winter/spring 2017-18
best of spring/summer 2017
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last spring favorites
on my nightstand
edge of your seat
― Charles William Eliot
3 to 4- I found some aspect of this book redeeming but would not recommend it.
5 to 6- I really enjoyed something about this book (characters, plot, meaning etc.) but it was uneven. Some aspects were stronger than others.
7 to 8- It was a good book. I liked lots of aspects of this book. I would recommend it.
9 to 10- I was sorry to turn the last page. I highly recommend this book!