Martin Amis and Howard Jacobson Get the Holocaust Backwards, From Different Angles
[…]the appearance of The Zone of Interest, by Martin Amis, and J, by Howard Jacobson, seems like more than a coincidence. These books return to the subject of the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, as to problems that are no longer merely historical. In particular, both once again pose Howe’s old question: Is genocide narratable, and if so, what kind of language could be faithful to it? The difference between them—and it’s hard to imagine two novels with less in common, despite their shared subject matter—stems from the different answers they offer to this question. Amis believes that the traditional novel of realism, even of comic realism, is adequate to the Holocaust; The Zone of Interest represents an act of faith in the resources of fiction to address even the worst. Meanwhile, Jacobson believes that the subject demands disorientation, reticence, and confusion, as if to ward off the temptation of easy understanding. The result is a book that reads like a mystery story crossed with a parable, in which the reader’s knowledge is left full of disorienting gaps….