Amis, Oates, and the Foul-Smelling Meadow

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Recent [WWII] novels by Susanna Moore and Ayelet Waldman achieve their emotional power by focussing upon characters peripheral to the terrible European history that has nonetheless altered their lives. The conflagration must be glimpsed indirectly, following Appelfeld’s admonition that “one does not look directly into the sun.”

Such circumspection has not been Martin Amis’s strategy in approaching the Holocaust.

Here, at the New Yorker, Joyce Carol Oates reviews Martin Amis’s The Zone of Interest. A score and a half since he published Time’s Arrow, Amis revisits Nazi Germany once again—this time with a particular interest in The Zone of Interest,  a “place to which Jewish ‘evacuees’ are brought . . . to be used as forced labor or to be gassed straightaway, their remains deposited in the euphemistically named but foul-smelling Spring Meadow.”


Casey Dayan is a Rumpus intern and musician. He is finishing up his undergraduate studies in literature and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz where he is working on a memoir and trying to one-up Jeff Buckley. Find his twitter here, @caseydayan. Find his band, “Moo,” here. More from this author →