What the Editors Are Reading: April/May 2021

The novelist Martin Amis is the son of Kingsley Amis, whose Lucky Jim (1954) was a spectacular success. Noting the father’s “brilliance and ‘facile bravura,’” Atlantic critic Geoffrey Wheatcroft asserted that Martin “misunderstood his hereditary gifts when he turned from playful comedy to ‘the great issues of our time.’” Among his “great issues” is that of Nazi concentration camps, given masterful treatment in The Zone of Interest (2014).

The German philosopher Theodor Adorno is purported to have said that after Auschwitz, poetry became “impossible.” Literary critics, George Steiner among them, tend to condemn as barbaric, even immoral, all writing about the “Final Solution” and its implementation; the Holocaust can be represented only by linguistic silence. In 1945, Elie Wiesel, a Jew interned in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald (and later a Nobel Peace Prize laureate), vowed not to write about the subject for 10 years, saying, “I was afraid that words might betray it.” He finally published La Nuit (Night) in 1958.

Thousands of other witnesses have spoken; historians have written reams. Yet for an outsider to...

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