Book Club Pick: March 2016
Title: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: a fable
Author: John Boyne
Series: Stand alone novel
Publisher: David Fickling Books
First Published: 2006
Lines may divide us, but hope will unite us . . .
Nine-year-old Bruno knows nothing of the Final Solution and the Holocaust. He is oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe by his country. All he know is that he has been moved from a comfortable home in Berlin to a house in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. Until he meets Shmuel, a boy who lives a strange parallel existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence and who, like the other people there, wears a uniform of striped pyjamas.
Bruno’s friendship with Shmuel will take him from innocence to revelation. And in exploring what he is unwittingly a part of, he will inevitably become subsumed by the terrible process.
Nine-year-old Bruno is growing up in Berlin during World War II. After Bruno’s father is promoted to a Commandant, he and his family move to ‘Out-With’ on the orders of ‘The Fury’.
‘Out-With’ is Bruno’s misinterpretation of the Auschwitz concentration camp and ‘The Fury’ was his misinterpretation of the word Führer, which means leader or guide in German and was commonly associated with Adolf Hitler.
Young Bruno is quite naive about what is going on around him. For example, he presumes that ‘Heil Hitler’ is a another way of saying ‘Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.’
Bruno is not happy about leaving his friends and his comfortable home for a house in the middle of nowhere where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. From his bedroom window he can see a camp behind a wire fence.
One day Bruno explores the fence line and meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel, who shares the same birthday as him. Shmuel is dressed in striped pyjamas and a cap. All the people on Shmuel’s side wear pyjamas.
Bruno and Shmuel develop a friendship. An innocent Bruno does not understand what is going on Shmuel’s side of the fence and Shmuel cannot understand how the Commandant can have such a nice son.
There has been some criticism against the plausibility of the story, such as there were no nine year-old boys at Auschwitz. Some argue that the narrative trivialises the conditions of the death camp and the Holocaust.
A film adaptation directed by Mark Herman and starring Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, David Hayman and Asa Butterfield was released in 2008.
Source: I borrowed a copy of this book from my public library.