More than Words: Reflections on The Zone of Interest, the Sonderkommando, Testimony, and Liminality

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This MA thesis discusses Martin Amis’ 2014 novel The Zone of Interest and the way it portrays and represents the Sonderkommando through intertextual and historical references, the characterisation the main characters and the use of testimony. The research question was: How is the Sonderkommando represented in The Zone of Interest and how does Martin Amis deal with this through intertextual and historical references, notions of liminality, and testimony? First, the novel and the Sonderkommando are introduced and the thesis is outlined in the introduction, and then three chapters discuss the novel and the Sonderkommando from various viewpoints. The conclusion was that the book paints an image of the Sonderkommando as moral, pained, thoughtful people, through Szmul’s narrative. This is in contrast with many views, including that of Primo Levi, whose work inspired Amis in writing this book. Through intertextual references, Amis engages in a critical conversation with Levi, Arendt and Bauman on various topics. He shows disagreement with both Levi and Arendt on key points of their arguments, and with that, presents a new and nuanced perspective on the Sonderkommando as prisoners and as people. Keywords: The Zone of Interest, Sonderkommando, Liminality, Testimony, Intertextuality, Primo Levi, Hannah Arendt, Holocaust Literature
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