Monday, December 03, 2007

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

From the book jacket: The story of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is very difficult to describe. Usually we give some clues about the book on the jacket, but in this case we think that would spoil the reading of the book. We think it is important that you start to read without knowing what it is about.

If you do start to read this book, you will go on a journey with a nine-year-old boy called Bruno. (Though this book isn't a book for nine-year-olds.) And sooner or later, you will arrive with Bruno at a fence.

First sentence: One afternoon, when Bruno came home from school, he was surprised to find Maria, the family's maid -- who always kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet -- standing in his bedroom, pulling all his belongings out of the wardrobe and packing them in four large wooden crates, even the things he'd hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else's business.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (216 pages) by John Boyne carries the voice of a nine-year-old boy named Bruno. Bruno, from what I gathered from the reading of the book, is a smart boy but naive. He has a 12-year-old sister named Gretel whom he labelled as The Hopeless Case. Both of them are raised by a set of strict parents and their father is known as the Commandant who wears smart-looking uniform. Together they move from Berlin to Out-With, for "the Fury" (characterization for Hitler) has bigger things in mind for their father.

At their new home, Bruno discovers something through his bedroom window. There, he sees lots of people gathered together. The weird thing is that they are all men, including young boys and old men, all wearing the same clothing: striped pyjamas. So you see, the story is now being told from the other side of the fence. Lonely and naturally curious, he ventures out into exploration by following the fence and found a Jewish boy named Shmuel. The boy is very skinny and sad-looking. They become friends and he finds out that Shmuel shares the same birthday! Bruno sneaks food out of his house and shares it with his secret friend. He also shares his thoughts and feelings with him.

This is an interesting story and opened for intepretation; a descriptive narration that tells a glimpse of the atmosphere of persecution of the Jews in the Nazi camps in Austchwitz (Out-With) during the early 1940s. As indicated by the author, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a fable and I choose this definition for the word 'fable': a narration intended to enforce a useful truth. The story carries issues such as violence, fearfulness, hatred, innocence, horrible living conditions, and yes, 'fences'. Continuing from the description on the book jacket: Fences like this exist all over the world. We hope you never have to encounter such a fence.

Another book worth reading is Elie Wiesel's Night, a memoir about his survival INSIDE the death camps. I read it some time in September 2006.