Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

For the first time today, I picked up a book from our own community library to read. It was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne.  

I knew that this book was made into a movie too, but somehow never got myself to see it for it has something to do with the Holocaust.  This morning I said to myself, I will read the book and then watch the movie to see which is better.

The book is the poignant story of two 9-year olds on either side of the fence of a concentration camp in Poland.  One the son of a German officer and the other a Jew in the camp.  The book is narrated from the eyes and mind of the German boy, Bruno.

In spite of the tragedy and gloom all around, the story is lively and the child's innocence keeps it heart-warming - even through and to the extent of death.  There were times in the book, when I wanted to intervene, especially towards the end.  But found myself too stunned and lost for words. I still feel the hair on my hands stand up - watching helplessly as the two boys march on. The fact that those boys go through death, without being aware of it, makes it consoling; yet offers no comfort at all.

Few points that stand out for me:

  • How children grow up - or to be precise, fed with - prejudices and theories which are totally contrary to their own world-view.  But still children grow up to believe in the 'theories' or 'rules' set before them because they are done by the ones they love most - their parents.  Their initial innocence is over-ridden by the 'truth' they are told, which they then retell others, even if it meant they do not understand or even do not accept them.  
  • How right the children are and as an adult reading the book, you cannot but see it; yet in reality we act as adults! 
  • As one reading it I could not but feel the pain and agony, but how much more would the ones who were in that context have gone through.  Not just the victims (Shmuel and the Jews) but even those who stood by helpless but vocal (the grandmother); the silent trying to make sense (Maria); the utterly helpless (Pavel). 
  • How harsh realities of life make one mature way beyond ones years. Shmuel knows more of life than Bruno.  His occasional silences are an added confirmation of this fact, besides the times he shares about his life.  

Makes me question, more than wonder, the worth of my own life.

I will never get myself to watch the movie. 

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