Rated of 5
by N E Watt
The Moralistic Universality of Boyne's latest publication
"The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" was first brought to my attention by a friend who had picked it up in the local library knowing nothing about it. She thought it such an addition to the literary cannon that she advised me to read it.
The novel is set mainly in a rather famous German Nazi concentration camp, where many jews were inhumanely murdered, but also the setting takes us to Berlin.
The reader experiences the War from the perspective of a rather pompous, sometimes irritating, innocent and always somehow profoundly baffled 9-year-old boy called Bruno. We, the reader, are with him as he and his family unit make the move from Berlin to the concentration camp, where his father, The Commandant, is to be in charge.
The boy in the striped pyjamas could refer to Schmuel, a Polish Jew who Bruno befriends on an adventure. There friendship survives the separation enforced by an obtrusive wire fence. In Bruno's innocence he does not realise that Schmuel is a prisoner of the German Empire, and that he is there to be murdered.
A real sense of innocence and the clarity and reality it brings pervades this work. This can be seen in Bruno's lack of understanding of why a Doctor should be waiting on table for he and his family, and in the metaphor of striped pyjamas, which of course alludes to the uniforms that the Jews were forced to wear.
Fearing an imminent return to Berlin, and the loss of his friend, Bruno has one last "adventure" where he and Schmuel would finally be able to play together. Bruno breaks under the fence to play with his friends adopting the striped pyjamas also. Whilst in the camp the Nazi soldiers round up a group of men and boys, including Schmuel and Bruno and they are taken to a hut were they are gased. This is all described to us chillingly through the innocent and childish vehicle of Bruno.
I have read review after review of this book with people stating that this book is not for 9 year olds. I simply don't agree.This novel is universal. The style of this book is simple and clear for any reader. Properly taught to the young by a tutor, teacher, or willing parent this book should become an instrumental work for the children of this country, and indeed the rest of the world.
Indeed in Ireland, where division and discrimination have reigned for so many years, it is vitally important.
This novel illustrates to children and adults alike, the stupidity of war, the ignorance of discrimination, be it racism between black and white or what you will. This novel brings simplicity and an amazing clarity to achieving peace.
This work by Boyne is a universal moralistic and anti-discriminatory contribution not just to the cannon but to society; from child to adult.
This work tells us not to judge on appearances.