Book review: Martin Amis’ ‘The Zone of Interest’

October 24, 2014 12:00 PM

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Book review: Martin Amis’ ‘The Zone of Interest’

In the afterword of his new novel about the Holocaust, Martin Amis recalls survivor Primo Levi’s answer to the question “How can the Nazis’ fanatical hatred of the Jews be explained?” Levi, an Italian chemist and writer who left Auschwitz — the setting for The Zone of Interest, Amis’ 23rd book — alive, responded: “Perhaps one cannot, what is more one must not, understand what happened, because to understand is almost to justify.”

A savage satirist who took apart the British working class in his last novel, the hilarious and profane Lionel Asbo, Amis appears to have taken this sentiment to heart. The Zone of Interest — a euphemism for the area around Auschwitz — doesn’t so much try to explain the Holocaust as bear witness to ...

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