The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
Theboyinthestripedpyjamas.jpg
Author John Boyne
Illustrator Alisia Cullens
Country Ireland
Language English
Genre Historical / post modern
Publisher David Fickling Books
Publication date
5 January 2006
Media type Print (hard cover & paper back)
Pages 216
ISBN 0-385-60940-X
OCLC 62132588
823.914 22
LC Class CS 2006/45764

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2006 Holocaust novel by Irish novelist John Boyne. Unlike the months of planning Boyne devoted to his other books, he said that he wrote the entire first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in two and a half days, barely sleeping until he got to the end.[1] As of March 2010, the novel had sold more than five million copies around the world.[2] In both 2007 and 2008, it was the best selling book of the year in Spain, and it has also reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list,[3] as well as in the UK, Ireland, and Australia.[not verified in body] The book was adapted in 2008 as a film of the same name.

Plot[edit]

Bruno is a nine-year-old boy growing up during World War II in Berlin. He lives with his parents, his 12-year-old sister Gretel and maids, one of whom is called Maria. After a visit by Adolf Hitler, Bruno's father is promoted to Commandant, and the family has to move to 'Out-With' because of the orders of "The Fury" (Bruno's naïve interpretation of the word 'Führer'). Bruno is initially upset about moving to Out-With (never identified, but cf. Auschwitz[4]) and leaving his friends, Daniel, Karl, and Martin. From the house at Out-With, Bruno sees a camp. One day, Bruno decides to explore the strange wire fence. As he walks along the fence, he meets a Jewish boy named Shmuel, who he learns shares his birthday. Shmuel says that his father, grandfather, and brother are with him on this side of the fence, but he is separated from his mother. Bruno and Shmuel talk and become very good friends, although Bruno still does not understand very much about Shmuel and his side of the fence. Nearly every day, unless it's raining Bruno goes to see Shmuel and sneaks him food. As the meetings go on, and Shmuel gets more and more skinny, Bruno's naïvete shows that his innocence has been preserved despite being near a death camp.

When lice eggs are discovered in Bruno's hair he is forced to get all of his hair shaved off. Bruno comments that he looks like Shmuel, and Shmuel agrees, except that Bruno is fatter. Bruno's mother eventually persuades his father to take them back to Berlin and stay at Out-With without them.

The next day Bruno concocts a plan with Shmuel to sneak into the camp to look for Shmuel's father. Shmuel brings a set of prison clothes, and Bruno leaves his own clothes outside the fence. As they search the camp, both children are rounded up along with a group of prisoners on a "march". In the gas chamber, Bruno apologizes to Shmuel for not finding his father, and tells Shmuel that he is Bruno's best friend for life. Shmuel does not answer, as at that moment the door of the gas chamber is closed, it becomes dark, and all is chaos.

Bruno's mother and sister return to Berlin, where they hope to find Bruno sitting on the doorstep, but do not. His father stays at Out-With, where he finally works out what had happened. When soldiers come to take him away from Out-With, he is happy to be leaving.

Critics' Reviews[edit]

Some critics have called the premise of the book and subsequent film – that there would be a child of Shmuel's age in the camp – erroneous. Reviewing the original book, Rabbi Benjamin Blech wrote: "Note to the reader: There were no 9-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz – the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work."[5] Rabbi Blech affirmed the opinion of a Holocaust survivor friend that the book is "not just a lie and not just a fairytale, but a profanation". Blech acknowledges the objection that a "fable" need not be factually accurate; he counters that the book trivializes the conditions in and around the death camps and perpetuates the "myth that those [...] not directly involved can claim innocence", and thus undermines its moral authority. Students who read it, he warns, may believe the camps "weren't that bad" if a boy could conduct a clandestine friendship with a Jewish captive of the same age, unaware of "the constant presence of death".[6]

Kathryn Hughes, whilst agreeing about the implausibility of the plot, argues that "Bruno's innocence comes to stand for the willful refusal of all adult Germans to see what was going on under their noses".[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Interview with Children's Author John Boyne (2006)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2007-02-23. 
  2. ^ "BBC World Service - World Book Club - Downloads". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  3. ^ "Biography". John Boyne. Retrieved 2016-03-15. 
  4. ^ Hughes, Kathryn (20 January 2006). "Educating Bruno". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  5. ^ Blech, Benjamin (October 23, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". Aish.com. Archived from the original on August 30, 2009. Retrieved August 30, 2009. 
  6. ^ Rabbi Benjamin Blech (October 23, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". aish.com. Retrieved February 11, 2013. 
  7. ^ Hughes, Kathryn (21 January 2006). "Educating Bruno". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.