Summary and book reviews of The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis

The Zone of Interest

by Martin Amis

The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis X
The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Sep 2014, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2015, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kate Braithwaite

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Powered by both wit and compassion, and in characteristically vivid prose, Martin Amis's unforgettable new novel excavates the depths and contradictions of the human soul.

Once upon a time there was a king, and the king commissioned his favorite wizard to create a magic mirror. This mirror didn't show you your reflection. It showed you your soul - it showed you who you really were.

The wizard couldn't look at it without turning away. The king couldn't look at it. The courtiers couldn't look at it. A chestful of treasure was offered to anyone who could look at it for sixty seconds without turning away. And no one could.

The Zone of Interest is a love story with a violently unromantic setting. Can love survive the mirror? Can we even meet each other's eye, after we have seen who we really are?

Powered by both wit and compassion, and in characteristically vivid prose, Martin Amis's unforgettable new novel excavates the depths and contradictions of the human soul.

3. SZMUL: Sonder?

Ihr seit achzen johr, we whisper, und ihr hott a fach.

Once upon a time there was a king, and the king commissioned his favourite wizard to create a magic mirror. This mirror didn't show you your reflection. It showed you your soul—it showed you who you really were.

The wizard couldn't look at it without turning away. The king couldn't look at it. The courtiers couldn't look at it. A chestful of treasure was offered to any citizen in this peaceful land who could look at it for sixty seconds without turning away. And no one could.

I find that the KZ is that mirror. The KZ is that mirror, but with one difference. You can't turn away.

We are of the Sonderkommando, the SK, the Special Squad, and we are the saddest men in the Lager. We are in fact the saddest men in the history of the world. And of all these very sad men I am the saddest. Which is demonstrably, even measurably true. I am by some distance the earliest number, the lowest number...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The fragmented narration is a strength. Who can look at such horror for sustained periods of time? Not the reader and certainly not the three men telling the story. The choppy switches that Amis creates between the mechanics of mass genocide and scenes of domesticity and child rearing are also highly moving. Equally the comedic interplay between characters, although jarring to read, is in fact wholly appropriate, driving home the unpalatable reality that the extermination of Jewish people carried out at Auschwitz was a crime perpetrated by complex human beings, living, laughing, loving and loathing while they worked.   (Reviewed by Kate Braithwaite).

Full Review (623 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.

Media Reviews

Los Angeles Times

Elegant and subtle. . . an intriguing, sophisticated effort to understand the daily culture of genocide.

San Francisco Chronicle

Simply put, a masterpiece. . . Profound, powerful and morally urgent. . . a benchmark for what serious literature can achieve.

NPR

It felt as though I had touched a third rail, so powerful and electric is the experience of reading [a] book that may stand for years as the triumph of his career.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. An absolute soul-crusher of a book, the brilliant latest from Amis... is an astoundingly bleak love story... Amis took on the Holocaust obliquely in Time's Arrow. Here he goes at it straight, and the result is devastating.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Brawny and urgent, it's unmistakably Amis, though without the gimmickry of Time's Arrow (1991).

Booklist

Starred Review. An audaciously satiric and brilliantly realized tale about personal angst and mass psychosis, and the immolation of self and soul.

Library Journal

Starred Review. A haunting indictment ofthe people who willingly bought the party line of racial purity and ethnic cleansing, this novel is as audacious as it is chilling. Essential reading.

The Guardian (UK)

The best thing [Amis] has written since London Fields. The book’s postwar coda is enormously moving, the sections describing the ‘silent boys’ of Chelmno almost unreadably sad, the figure of Szmul brilliantly rendered—at once admirable and horrifying in his desperate drive to survive. . . . This is a novel that will endure.

Financial Times (UK)

It is a work of artistic courage, chilling comedy and incontestable moral seriousness.

The Times (UK)

Auschwitz was, in the most essential sense, ‘unspeakable’. It’s thus something only creative writing can speak about. If you’re Amis, that is. . . . The most daring novelist of our time.

The Mail on Sunday (UK)

The novel poses the question that will forever haunt the 20th century: how did the most cultivated nation the Earth had ever seen give way to such infamy, ‘such wild disgrace’?

The Sunday Express (UK)

Heartbreaking. . . He writes superbly but with an unusual modesty. . . He lets his story speak for itself and the result is the best Amis novel in two decades.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Martin Amis – Bad Boy of English Letters?

The road to publication for Martin Amis' latest novel, The Zone of Interest, has been less smooth than might be imagined, given that Amis is one of the stars of the British literary firmament. The New York Times reported that in France and Germany, Amis' longtime publishers rejected it on the grounds, in France, that its humor is puzzling and, in Germany, that it would be difficult to market.

Given that The Zone of Interest takes an unflinching look at the mechanics of death and body disposal at Auschwitz, and that Amis includes a love story and strong elements of gallows humor within the novel, perhaps those publishers have a point. But Amis, who describes himself as "surprised and disappointed," is unlikely to be too perturbed and may ...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Zone of Interest, try these:

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...
  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

"Electrifying . . . as beautiful and as icy as the Minnesota woods where it's set."
—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.