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The controversial English-language debut of celebrated Israeli novelist Yishai Sarid is a harrowing, ironic parable of how we reckon with human horror, in which a young, present-day historian becomes consumed by the memory of the Holocaust. Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, our unnamed narrator recounts his The controversial English-language debut of celebrated Israeli novelist Yishai Sarid is a harrowing, ironic parable of how we reckon with human horror, in which a young, present-day historian becomes consumed by the memory of the Holocaust. Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, our unnamed narrator recounts his own undoing. Hired as a promising young historian, he soon becomes a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. He hungrily devours every detail of life and death in the camps and takes pride in being able to recreate for his audience the excruciating last moments of the victims’ lives. The job becomes a mission, and then an obsession. Spending so much time immersed in death, his connections with the living begin to deteriorate. He resents the students lost in their iPhones, singing sentimental songs, not expressing sufficient outrage at the genocide committed by the Nazis. In fact, he even begins to detect, in the students as well as himself, a hint of admiration for the murderers—their efficiency, audacity, and determination. Force is the only way to resist force, he comes to think, and one must be prepared to kill. With the perspicuity of Kafka’s The Trial and the obsessions of Delillo’s White Noise, The Memory Monster confronts difficult questions that are all too relevant to Israel and the world today: How do we process human brutality? What makes us choose sides in conflict? And how do we honor the memory of horror without becoming consumed by it?


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The controversial English-language debut of celebrated Israeli novelist Yishai Sarid is a harrowing, ironic parable of how we reckon with human horror, in which a young, present-day historian becomes consumed by the memory of the Holocaust. Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, our unnamed narrator recounts his The controversial English-language debut of celebrated Israeli novelist Yishai Sarid is a harrowing, ironic parable of how we reckon with human horror, in which a young, present-day historian becomes consumed by the memory of the Holocaust. Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, our unnamed narrator recounts his own undoing. Hired as a promising young historian, he soon becomes a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. He hungrily devours every detail of life and death in the camps and takes pride in being able to recreate for his audience the excruciating last moments of the victims’ lives. The job becomes a mission, and then an obsession. Spending so much time immersed in death, his connections with the living begin to deteriorate. He resents the students lost in their iPhones, singing sentimental songs, not expressing sufficient outrage at the genocide committed by the Nazis. In fact, he even begins to detect, in the students as well as himself, a hint of admiration for the murderers—their efficiency, audacity, and determination. Force is the only way to resist force, he comes to think, and one must be prepared to kill. With the perspicuity of Kafka’s The Trial and the obsessions of Delillo’s White Noise, The Memory Monster confronts difficult questions that are all too relevant to Israel and the world today: How do we process human brutality? What makes us choose sides in conflict? And how do we honor the memory of horror without becoming consumed by it?

30 review for The Memory Monster

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Heavy stuff!!!! For Holocaust- readers - for those of us who have read many - many - stories — this book isn’t that— Review to follow soon.... It’s frightening relevant for today. UPDATE: Translated from Hebrew to English this entire book is delivered in a letter format. The storyteller is a HE....married to Ruth, with one small child, named Ido—but *HE* was never named. Ruth, *HE*, and Ido, lived in Israel. Ido was being bullied in school while *HE* was out of town giving tours to death camps. *H Heavy stuff!!!! For Holocaust- readers - for those of us who have read many - many - stories — this book isn’t that— Review to follow soon.... It’s frightening relevant for today. UPDATE: Translated from Hebrew to English this entire book is delivered in a letter format. The storyteller is a HE....married to Ruth, with one small child, named Ido—but *HE* was never named. Ruth, *HE*, and Ido, lived in Israel. Ido was being bullied in school while *HE* was out of town giving tours to death camps. *HE* got his PhD in Holocaust studies at the University of Perth, Australia. He studied Medieval European history —and was offered a teaching position. Ruth stayed in Israel raising their son, ( Supportive and proud of her husband’s work - which also paid their bills). So, *He* did a lot of traveling — back and forth- arrangements. *He* studied German, and within a month was able to read official SS letters. His dissertation was on “ Unity and Distinction in German Death Camps”. He compared processes in each camp— Chelmno, Belzec, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Auschwitz (of course the last two were different, being labor camps as well as death camps) —and parsed them out. *HE* took a close-up look at the stages performed at each camp, from the moment prisoners descended from the trains, through the undressing, the collection of clothes and luggage, the first presentation given by Germans to keep their victims at ease, their hair shaving, the march to the gas chambers, the structures of gas chambers and the type of gas used, the manner of assembling people inside them, the process of extermination, the pulling of gold teeth and the cavity search, the disposal of bodies, the division of labor between different stations, and so on and so forth”. And at some point, his diligent studies lead to him being the most sought after guide for delegations to Poland. He burst into his job like a young bull working as a tour guide— showering students with his expertise of clear facts. *HE* harnessed himself as a memory chariot of sorts....showering the students with his knowledge. *He* had a knack for it. *He* aspired to give them a clear-cut summary of the big picture rather than bombard them with endless details. *He* explained the root of anti-Semitism, both traditional and modern, the rise of the Nazis, a bit of Hitler‘s biography and the biographies of his first emissaries, the start of the war, the negotiation of rights, imprisonment in ghettos, banishments, and exterminations. So what went wrong? What went right? *He* was affiliated and working for a Chairman of the board of Yad Vashem. In one of notes written to the Chairman, he wrote: ”I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to illustrate death to the students providing them with data and facts, numbers and names, or had them follow you around, wrapped in flags, singing the national anthem near the gas chambers, saying the Kaddish Prayer by piles of ashes, lighting candles in memory of the children in the pits, performing all sorts of made up rituals, working so hard to squeeze out a tear. I’ve asked myself so many times whether you’ve ever experienced this first-hand”. I WONDERED TOO! *HE* tried to present the students with magnificent culture, but the truth was the Jews who lived in Poland didn’t build cathedrals or right symphonies... most were simple people, merchants and lived in cabins. *HE* stood before the kids trying to convey to them their suffering and heroism— never deviating right or left. .... So what went wrong/ or right? For starters *HE* never felt as though he truly invaded the students hearts and minds because he didn’t love them enough. *HE* overheard whispers of kids saying they wanted to hurt Arabs and throw them to the gas chambers as the Jews were. *HE* tried not to listen, but he heard it. *HE* wanted to make the students understand that those who survived were only a footnote. The real story was that at the immediate desk that were never marked, never registered, never tattooed. Straight to the gas chambers. Wherever they went, the students sang the anthem. *He* asked his teacher if they could cut down the amount—*HE* thought it sort of cheapened the anthem when they sang it to two or three times a day. But the teacher looked at him puzzled and said that’s what comforts them. The teacher said: “Without it, what do we have left? Despair. We don’t want them coming home in despair. We want to fill them with hope”. What went wrong/ what went right? The German students took sides. They hated the Polish match more than the Germans. They thought the Germans look cool in their photos from the war. *HE* says.... “And the last thing, which has slowly permeated me over the years, is the invisible admiration of the murder; The decisiveness and ruthlessness, the audacity, the final, focused, and cruel act, after which there is nothing but silence”. *He* said he didn’t hate the kids rather he saw his own exposed reflection in them. The principal at the school, told him that *HE* was telling the students more than they needed to know”. Did he? Tell the students more than they needed to know? *He* asked his group a question: “If you knew that one morning you were going to wake up to find out that your eternal, most hatred enemies had been wiped off the face of the earth without any blood on your hands and without having to see a single corpse, how many of you would feel sad about it?” “No Hands were raised”. “The commander of the delegation, a colonel, walked over and whispered in my ear, ‘They don’t understand your question. You’re confusing them. What you’re doing is inappropriate”. *He* didn’t mean to leave them to an alley of nightmares— later he apologized and said that he had suffered from heat stroke, and got carried away. But.... Talking began to weigh on him. It became grating. *HE* became more and more distant and stood on the sidelines while the students conducted their flag and candle rituals. It was as though *HE* teetered back-and-forth between his growing rage wanting to scream at the kids - for already thinking about getting back home to their own beds, their own comfortable lives - to wanting to apologize, regretting talking without really listening to them. What went wrong/ what went right? One student said, “ I think that in order to survive we need to be a little bit Nazi, too”...... and that sometimes there’s no choice but to hurt civilians- who were too hard to distinguish from terrorists. “This is after all, A war of survival”. “We brought you here, to the site of the murder. And I suppose we’ve accomplished our mission. We made you see that it’s all about power, power, power. I’m not going to play naïve or chaste. You’re right. Power. Hitting. Shooting. Annihilating the other. Because without power we are like beasts, chickens for slaughter, dependent on the graces of others who, at any moment, and a split second decision, could chop off our head, strangle us, strip us of our clothes and honor, abuse us in anyway imaginable; make sure there’s good lighting so they can take pictures of us getting torn apart, cut, penetrated, hacked to pieces; play music in the background, turning our horrendous dismise into a bit of entertainment. Everything is conditional, and therefore worthless. Culture, fashion, conversation, smiling, friendship, opinions, letters, music, sports, food, love—they have no value. They are only a flimsy sugar coating. One spit in the face melts them away. Dear teachers, you can report back to your school that the message has been received. Only power. No conscience. No manners. No second guessing. Those only challenge the soul and harm functionality. We can’t allow ourselves even a moment of weakness, because everything will be taken away. We half to be a little bit Nazi. You finally said it. You got the point, kids, well done”. Did they? Get the point? Was force the only way to resist force....and be prepared to kill? This is an incredibly thought-provoking, book. The controversy is demanding for discussions. Written in first person, ( beautifully written prose), author Yishai Sarid gave us a very important book, raising challenging questions. I can’t recommend it enough. Given our current events in the United States and throughout the world right now....this book is timely .... but I also believe it’s timeless.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Katia N

    I do not usually read fiction about Holocaust. Everyone is entitled to his personal view on this, but I think we’ve collectively created an entertainment industry out of the biggest tragedy. Many of those books are just sensational, factually wrong, second hand rubbish. Probably there are some notable exceptions. But in my view, the accounts of the survivors and related non-fiction is more valuable than any fictional account. It is personal as well. My great grandmother and her 13 year old daugh I do not usually read fiction about Holocaust. Everyone is entitled to his personal view on this, but I think we’ve collectively created an entertainment industry out of the biggest tragedy. Many of those books are just sensational, factually wrong, second hand rubbish. Probably there are some notable exceptions. But in my view, the accounts of the survivors and related non-fiction is more valuable than any fictional account. It is personal as well. My great grandmother and her 13 year old daughter perished in it. I’ve written a whole paragraph about this. But then, i was not sure whether to include it. So I left it out for now. My point is, I’ve read this book in spite of all the above. Admittedly it is more about current state of our world, especially Israel than the history. It is written in a form of a letter from a Holocaust historian to the Chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims. The narrator, who remains unnamed in the novel, has drifted into doing a PhD in the Holocaust studies. It was the easiest way in the Israeli academia to progress. He has been very good in his job and subsequently has started to work as a guide for Yad Vashem in Poland. It paid well and he needed money for his young family. He would take the high school groups and occasionally the military on the tour of the camps. He knew his stuff brilliantly and has become the expert in the subject. He tried to present the kids only with facts. As the novel progresses, his understanding of what he does is changing. He notices more and more the reactions of the kids and the others. This gives him a lot to think about. And, in combination with his overwhelming knowledge of the past, his mind starts to struggle under the unbearable stress. It is a polemic novel. It is impossible to discuss it without getting into the subject matter. So if you plan to read it, the next few paragraphs contain revealing quotes. However i could not hide it under "spoiler" alert as I would need to hide the whole thing. And there is much more to it than I have picked up here. It starts with more “gentle” questions. He asks the military officers on a tour to imagine what would they do if they would find out that the part of their army is conducting the atrocities to civilians. Would they leave the army? No-one raises hands. He contemplates himself would those people, brave young Jewish solders, resist if they would end up in a camp like this. He is not totally sure. The kids often asked why the Jewish victims very rarely put any resistance. The narrator explains in details how all of this was organised. But he notices more and more the following reaction: the victims were Ashkenazi Jews, “left wingers” who did not know how to put up a fight. The victims become more and more blamed than perpetrators.  Even more shocking, once, he meets a Hassid in Krakow who came with the group to visit a grave of some Jewish Rabbi. This man claims a totally counterfactual stuff that “Thanks to the righteous Rabbi Elimelech not a single Jew died in that town died during the war”. He does not stop there either: unless perhaps the “heretics did - the ones you call ‘enlightened’. They may have received their punishment.” So not simply a religious Jew is denying the facts. He says that the Jews who assimilated and become secular were justly “punished”. 
And the kids. They learn quickly. On observing the camps with groups, the narrator sometimes hears: “That’s what we should do to the Arabs.” His comment in the narrative: “When they see this simple killing mechanism, which can be easily recreated in any place and at any time, it inspires practical thinking. And they’re still children, it’s natural, they find it hard to stop. Adults think the same things, but they keep it to themselves”. 
As logical end to all of this, one day during the debrief, a smart bespectacled boy stands up and says: 
“I think in order to survive we need to be a little bit Nazi too.” ….“Sometimes there’s no choice but to hurt civilians, too. It’s hard to distinguish civilians from terrorists. A boy who’s just a boy today could become a terrorist tomorrow. This is, after all, a war of survival. It’s us or them. We won’t let this happen to us again.” So is the purpose of “memory” achieved? That is what the narrator thinks in response to the boy’s comment. He thinks we could bring those kids to so many places; to show them museums in Paris, theatres in London or football in Barcelona… but no: “ we brought you here, to the site of the murder. And I suppose we’ve accomplished our mission. We made you see that it’s all about power, power, power. I’m not going to play naïve or chaste. You’re right. Power. Hitting. Shooting. Annihilating the other. Because without power we’re like beasts, chickens for slaughter, dependent on the graces of others who, at any moment, in a split-second decision, could chop off our heads, strangle us, strip us of our clothes and honor, abuse us in any way imaginable; make sure there’s good lighting so they can take pictures of us getting torn apart, cut, penetrated, hacked to pieces; play music in the background, turning our horrendous demise into a bit of entertainment. Everything is conditional, and therefore worthless. Culture, fashion, conversation, smiling, friendship, opinions, letters, music, sports, food, love—they have no value. They are only a flimsy sugar coating. One spit in the face melts them away. Dear teachers, you can report back to your school that the message has been received. Only power. No conscience, no manners, no second-guessing. Those only challenge the soul and harm functionality. We can’t allow ourselves even a moment of weakness, because everything will be taken away. We have to be a little bit Nazi. You’ve finally said it. You got the point, kids, well done.” And that passage has hurt me to the core. Because it is not only about Israel and its children. It seems to be everywhere now, to some extent. We’ve somehow managed to weaponise our history; to create “memory monster” as author calls it, a “virus injected into these children’s bodies,” . We use the history as a poison when we elect our future leaders or voting on “referendums”. We teach our kids to identify with the one group of people or another, but do not pay sufficient attention that there is a core which is the same for any human being. That “conscience and manners” must count at least as important as the sheer power. They must be the power! And that there is not many things which could be possessed by only one group of people, even the land often has to be shared and especially the history has to be shared. How is that possible that a Monster created by the Nazis, the one that murdered so many people then, has converted into a “Memory Monster” and still kills people and sores hatred? How it is that the ancestors of the victims identify themselves more with the efficiency of the perpetrators? It is such a hard question, almost unbearable to contemplate. And that is the one of the reasons why the narrator’s mind starts to unravel. Another interesting issue in this novel is the effect of a subject matter on a person who studies it. How something which was an abstract material at some stage becomes too real. How when dealing with these things for too long one identifies with them. And it becomes alive. During the site’s visits, the narrator starts to physically see the victims and hear they voices. But where does he stands in all of this? Did he personally start to believe that only power and force matter? That a man has to be able to kill to be taken seriously? I am not sure. The author leaves enough space for us to make our own conclusion. The book has made me feel more emotional than i would prefer to. But it is a powerful and necessary read, a work of fiction I would definitely recommend. And I wanted to finish with a more quiet and cerebral thought by Gabriel Josipospovici’s book Forgetting: "For what does the injunction not to forget really mean? How many of us have personal memories of those events (Shoa)? In fifty years’ time the question will not even make sense any more. How can we ask people not to forget what they have never known? Is not the word forget perhaps the wrong one? Perhaps what we mean is that people should know the history of Europe in the twentieth century well enough to deal with the rise of new forms of discrimination and violence against minorities and to refute those who deny that these events ever happened or that if they happened they were nothing like as bad as ‘people’ try to make out. But that is not quite right. It is too cold, too cerebral. No doubt a better-informed public is desirable, no doubt events such as Holocaust Memorial Day, with its large educational component, is valuable and important. But when politicians and others proclaim the mantra ‘We must not forget!’ they are thinking of something far more immediate, far more visceral, than simply the need for better schooling. But that is the problem. Uttering such slogans puts us in company we would prefer not to keep, the company of the likes of Milošević and Karadžić in the Yugoslav civil wars of the nineties and of extremist Irish Catholics and Protestants during the Troubles."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    I wrote a review on this book - it’s posted here somewhere

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    This was a difficult read for me and I'm not sure I quite understand what the author wants the reader to take with them. The narrator is a historian specializing on the Holocaust, and throughout the book gives tours of several camps to school groups and tourists, all of whom hold varying degrees of reverence, knowledge, and interest in the many Jewish people who were killed there. I don't know if the narrator lacks the ability to communicate the horror when he is present with it every day, or if This was a difficult read for me and I'm not sure I quite understand what the author wants the reader to take with them. The narrator is a historian specializing on the Holocaust, and throughout the book gives tours of several camps to school groups and tourists, all of whom hold varying degrees of reverence, knowledge, and interest in the many Jewish people who were killed there. I don't know if the narrator lacks the ability to communicate the horror when he is present with it every day, or if his deep knowledge of the details accidentally comes across as being impressed, but there is definitely something disconcerting or uncomfortable in how he communicates with others. Sometimes it is his anger in how others want to believe it didn't happen, to move on, to capitalize on the horrors. All the while his family is back in Israel, where his son is bullied at school. Memory, memorial... What isn't addressed of course, is the fact that the author is an Israeli, son of a prominent politician, who served in the Israeli army and worked for the government as a DA and was educated by some of the United States' top schools of government...yet the narrator says nothing about the memory monster of another people's displaced homeland, which to me is inherit and circles back to the narrator's musings on power and victory, whether or not this was his intention. This is translated from the Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan and is from Restless Books - a publisher I subscribe to precisely because they pull me out of my comfort zone with every read. I would check out a few more reviews because a few people are better able to comment on how this issue manifests in modern Israel and amongst groups of Jewish people worldwide.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tzipora

    “What’s your job, Dad?” he asked. “He tells them about what happened,” Ruth offered. “What happened?” Ido widened his eyes with worry. “There was a monster that killed people,” I said. “And you fight the monster?” he asked, excited. “It’s already dead,” I tried to explain. “It’s a memory monster.” I’m torn between wanting to say so much about this short, piercing, important work and not wanting to say anything at all besides shoving it into your hands and urging you to read it. I also confess “What’s your job, Dad?” he asked. “He tells them about what happened,” Ruth offered. “What happened?” Ido widened his eyes with worry. “There was a monster that killed people,” I said. “And you fight the monster?” he asked, excited. “It’s already dead,” I tried to explain. “It’s a memory monster.” I’m torn between wanting to say so much about this short, piercing, important work and not wanting to say anything at all besides shoving it into your hands and urging you to read it. I also confess I’m curious how it reads to someone who isn’t Jewish, who doesn’t have their own memory monster culturally, familial-ly (is that not a word?), religiously yoked upon them. It isn’t that I don’t think non-Jews will get this one but I think there’s a lot that will be missed. But I can’t help but wonder if the issue at hand has much to do with Jew vs non or more what time, culture, all the twisting tendrils of antisemeticism (including the variety responsible for things like the recent trending topic on Twitter of “Jewish privilege” amongst other things I’m biting my tongue not to pontificate on), the sheer means in which the Holocaust has been romanticized to a sickening extent (not least of which through the absurd popularity of what presently seems to make up 90% of historical fiction and 100% of what non-Jews think I’m reading when I say I read a lot of Jewish fiction.) I don’t know. I suspect the author shares a lot of my conflicting thoughts and bitterness here. This is a Holocaust book for our time. And maybe specifically for Jews and fellow keepers of the Memory Monster (and maybe any memory monster. There are certainly parallels to be drawn to other cultural traumas though that is entirely beside the point). I as a rule, if that were not already apparent, do not read Holocaust fiction, and much as this one intrigued me and hence I requested it months ago from Net Galley, I still had to wrestle with the very idea of reading it for awhile. If you feel similarly, you are exactly who this book is most for. It is unlike any Holocaust fiction I’ve ever read. Because it isn’t about the immediate survivors or victims. It’s about a Holocaust historian in the present day, about the task of keeping alive the memory and bearing a weight that hasn’t lessened any with time and perhaps become even heavier as those around us forget about it, trivialize it, twist it. And it’s a book about what bearing that weight in today’s world does to a person. I’m not someone who rereads books but I will be rereading this one. It’d be a good book club pick but only for the right book club (personally I don’t think it’s a book I could stomach discussing outside a setting of other Jews but to each their own.). I definitely want to discuss it. And I want others to experience it. Easily the most personally impactful and significant book I’ve read this year. In a weird way, perhaps even exactly what I needed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    (edited today due to grammar) Thank you Tzipora for sending me your detailed account of this book, and to Elyse W. for the review you wrote on The Memory Monster. I used them as a scale to decide if this book was for me. You both were accurate. Having read hundreds of books on the Holocaust, being inside the camps, spending numerous days and hours at Yad Vashem, I was hesitant to read this book. I had no idea what to expect in regard to any descriptions of atrocities inside the camps. It would have (edited today due to grammar) Thank you Tzipora for sending me your detailed account of this book, and to Elyse W. for the review you wrote on The Memory Monster. I used them as a scale to decide if this book was for me. You both were accurate. Having read hundreds of books on the Holocaust, being inside the camps, spending numerous days and hours at Yad Vashem, I was hesitant to read this book. I had no idea what to expect in regard to any descriptions of atrocities inside the camps. It would have been a book I would have passed on. But... This book was unlike any Holocaust book that I have read. Kudos to the translator who did an outstanding job getting inside the head of the author-in every aspect of the book. The book is written through a series of letter to the Chairman of Yad Vashem by our protagonist. The secret is "why" he wrote them. We meet the main un-named character living in Israel who has received quite an impressive Holocaust education both in Israel and abroad including his PhD. Having a wife and a child, he must often leave for long periods of time to sustain his job, if it really is a job to him, which is being a guide for the concentration camps in Poland. What does it take to be a guide specialist in this arena? Learn it and teach it. What he has learned by experience as a student grows into more than stats. He knows the placement of where buildings once stood, the ruins which lie below the ground that were covered and plowed over by the Nazi's before they ran. He knows exactly where the train platform starts and ends, and that it is exactly a one mile walking path from that platform to the...... A specialist guide also needs to know and read his audience. Being popular as the "go to guide" with travel agencies that set up tours for mostly Israeli high school students and their teachers - wouldn't we assume it would be necessary to have people person skills, and maybe not be too serious? Educate at the groups level. The students are what you would expect them to be - texting, talking on their cells, joking, singing, but paying silent attention when it was time to be serious. It becomes apparent something is off. Something is not right. It's not only the fact he watches the students rolling their eyes at him at the same time teachers are talking behind his back, yet he doesn't understand why. He does recognize a problem in communicating what he was taught to educate, and this seems to be happening more frequently with every tour group he guides. Some groups decide to cut their tours short and again he has no idea why. One day during a tour he passes out from an unexplained reason but recovers quickly. Is this pertinent to the story? He is told by The Chairman of Yad Vashem that a film director and his assistant will be flying to Poland to see the camps. The Chairman lets him know he was personally recommended by him as their guide. We find out "why" he wrote the letters.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    Since our historical records have been, proverbially, written by winners, it leaves a lot of space for interpretation. Specifically, I’m very interested in how different countries and cultures process the same events. It would be naïve at best and completely unrealistic at worst to expect the same perspectives. WWII, something objectively horrific, which affected most of the world and all of Europe, is especially traumatic for the Jewish people. This is a story of one Israeli scholar as he strug Since our historical records have been, proverbially, written by winners, it leaves a lot of space for interpretation. Specifically, I’m very interested in how different countries and cultures process the same events. It would be naïve at best and completely unrealistic at worst to expect the same perspectives. WWII, something objectively horrific, which affected most of the world and all of Europe, is especially traumatic for the Jewish people. This is a story of one Israeli scholar as he struggles to process and reconcile the brutality of the past with the banal indifference of the present. The scholar, who remains unnamed throughout this short yet poignant novel, makes a living out of giving tours of concentration camps, mainly to Israeli kids. And he also writes a book on the subject. Essentially, most of his life is dedicated to making the flames of rememberance burns higher and brighter, while the actual facts of the Nazis and their systemic meticulous genocide practices seem to be slowly but consistently fading from collective memories. Indeed, the more time passes, the fewer camp survivors are left to tell their tales, the fewer perpetrators are left to punish, and what remains are buildings of great evil, which now stand as tourist attractions. The scholar, surrounded by it all, gets increasingly frustrated and angry, no one seems to be taking things as seriously as he does and the past forgotten is doomed to repeat itself. The pot stirred aggressively gets to boiling when he is hired by a Deutsch documentarian to assist with the historical aspects of a movie. In fact, the dynamic proves positively incendiary. The situation ends up requiring explanation and that’s the basic structure of the book, one long elaborate missive of an explanation for the events written by the scholar to his employer, the chairman of Yad Vashem. Long for a letter, short for a novel, but positively loaded with food for thought. The apocalypse cupboard loaded. So many questions to ponder. When does one let go of the past? Do people really change so much? Is it worth is hanging on to something most would prefer to put in the back of their mind? And how does one reconcile such horrific brutality and still make their way in the world? There’s more, but also it’s a sort of thing where individual readers, depending on their personal level of misanthropy and historical knowledge, might get different things out of it. There’s no shortage of WWII fiction out there, so much of it seems to be written by American authors and highlighting some heroic events, rescue missions or love stories set against Impossible odds, etc. There are usually long, emotionally manipulative feature easy black and white controversy free morals. This is pretty much the opposite of all that, refreshingly so. This isn’t even exactly a book about the war, it’s a book about echoes of war, the way it resonates for some more than others. The way it shouldn’t fade away. And also, somehow, not devour those who hear it. Fine balance, indeed. Fine book, indeed. Not an easy read, but certainly a worthy one. Recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cherise Wolas

    My reading in 2021 has started off with a bang. In this powerful short novel translated from Hebrew, an unnamed historian finds that his way forward, into paying work, is to become a Holocaust expert, and his dissertation is focused on the details of the extermination process at the various concentration camps. Written as a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Yad Vashem - the World Holocaust Remembrance Center - in an attempt to explain how he has become a disgraced scholar, the narrator take My reading in 2021 has started off with a bang. In this powerful short novel translated from Hebrew, an unnamed historian finds that his way forward, into paying work, is to become a Holocaust expert, and his dissertation is focused on the details of the extermination process at the various concentration camps. Written as a letter to the Chairman of the Board of Yad Vashem - the World Holocaust Remembrance Center - in an attempt to explain how he has become a disgraced scholar, the narrator takes us through his life and his career as a Yad Vashem tour guide at the museum, then as a guide for Israeli teen tours to Poland and the camps, and even as a consultant for a game company creating an Auschwitz "virtual reality" simulation. The toll that total immersion in the horrors takes, how the unthinkable becomes mundane, is one of the themes. A masterful and controversial exploration of the responsibility, and the cost, of holding vigil over the past.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Erika Dreifus

    I don't read Hebrew, so I can't offer any special insights into the translation. But I can tell you that the prose reads beautifully (which isn't to say that there aren't a number of uncomfortable moments here). And the first-person narration is seamless and immersive. Our narrator is a young Israeli historian, and the book unfolds as his report to a superior at Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust memorial center) about a work-related incident. And that's all I'll say for now. I don't read Hebrew, so I can't offer any special insights into the translation. But I can tell you that the prose reads beautifully (which isn't to say that there aren't a number of uncomfortable moments here). And the first-person narration is seamless and immersive. Our narrator is a young Israeli historian, and the book unfolds as his report to a superior at Yad Vashem (Israel's Holocaust memorial center) about a work-related incident. And that's all I'll say for now.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    This one has so many positive reviews, but I found it underwhelming and kind of annoying? The Memory Monster is a contemporary Holocaust novel - meaning it's set in the present day and the protagonist is a historian leading tour groups in concentration camps. I think that's a very interesting setup and I would like to read a lot more current-gen Holocaust stories, but this one just was not it for me. I'm very familiar with the topic and the setting, and I felt that the book constantly pulled its This one has so many positive reviews, but I found it underwhelming and kind of annoying? The Memory Monster is a contemporary Holocaust novel - meaning it's set in the present day and the protagonist is a historian leading tour groups in concentration camps. I think that's a very interesting setup and I would like to read a lot more current-gen Holocaust stories, but this one just was not it for me. I'm very familiar with the topic and the setting, and I felt that the book constantly pulled its punches (despite the big climactic event being... a punch). The beginning set up some kind of great confrontation and I just felt the book did not deliver on that count. A side note: there were some really terrible stereotyped and ethnocentric remarks about Mizrachi students where I felt "wow, that is a really hamfisted way of illustrating that the protagonist is not a good person", but it appears from this interview that that wasn't the author's goal at all, but these seem to be his own views: https://www.haaretz.com/life/books/.p... So you might want to read that before deciding to pick up the book. I think this is a reverse-oppression kind of take on Israeli social dynamics and do not want any piece of it; I wish I'd read the interview first, but the book was an impulse library borrow. Sometimes that works out, sometimes it doesn't! ...But even beyond that, I just felt that the book didn't bring what it'd promised. ____ Source of the book: Lawrence Public Library

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dibz

    The novella takes the form of a letter written by an unnamed male protagonist addressed to his superior at Yad Vashem ( The Holocaust Memorial in Israel). The letter is an apology and an explanation for the protagonist’s increasingly erratic actions when giving tours of the Nazi death and labour camps in Poland. This is a story of what happens to the mind of a person who envelopes himself in the cruelty of the past. The protagonist surrenders to the terrible events that occurred at the camps he The novella takes the form of a letter written by an unnamed male protagonist addressed to his superior at Yad Vashem ( The Holocaust Memorial in Israel). The letter is an apology and an explanation for the protagonist’s increasingly erratic actions when giving tours of the Nazi death and labour camps in Poland. This is a story of what happens to the mind of a person who envelopes himself in the cruelty of the past. The protagonist surrenders to the terrible events that occurred at the camps he spends so much of his time at and his cynicism towards everything and everyone becomes unbearable. The Memory Monster is such an interesting and well written exploration of nationalism and historical trauma. It brings up questions on how the Holocaust should be thought about and remembered - what is the ‘best’ way to think about the victims? The perpetrators? Definitely a great book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Linda Lipko

    Harrowing, exceedingly detailed and beyond sad, this is a story of a Ph.D. man who was taken under the wing of the Dean of the History Department of a college, soon the narrator becomes a member of Yad Yashem, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The man becomes a leading expert of the Nazi methods of extermination. As his studies progress in the nightmare that was Treblinka, Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and some of the lessor known of the approximately 1,000 concentration camps througho Harrowing, exceedingly detailed and beyond sad, this is a story of a Ph.D. man who was taken under the wing of the Dean of the History Department of a college, soon the narrator becomes a member of Yad Yashem, a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The man becomes a leading expert of the Nazi methods of extermination. As his studies progress in the nightmare that was Treblinka, Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and some of the lessor known of the approximately 1,000 concentration camps throughout Poland, Germany and other countries as the Germans needed land and choose to move and more eastward. As he gains extensive knowledge, he is offered the task of leading groups for one week as he takes the people further and further into the madness of Hitler and his country, now gone to sheer hell. He becomes more and more obsessed, describing the minute details that most do not want to learn. He knows all the placement of the guards, their rank, the tragic Jews, and others deemed unnecessary, and he proceeds to clearly, in a calm voice the system of killing, the chemicals used to kill. On his first trips with high school children, he is reported as aloof, cold and a fact-finding machine. As he progresses to lead more and more into the sheer madness, he becomes more animated and he is now shouting out the statistics, the horror, the dismemberment, the taking of the fillings of the Jews, the cutting of the hair, and then the walking to the death while music is played. Leaving his wife and family at home in Israel, he now does not have other guides with him. Tour groups are sent to him. As he watches the expressions on the faces of those whom he guides, he becomes more or less animated based on what he feels like telling them. There is a slow winding into madness as he reaches the point of no return, and the characters are in a play, a never ending play of insanity. Chilling, well written and beyond sad!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    I've visited Auschwitz twice, both times oustide of the tourist season so it was relatively quiet, though I do remember several groups of Israeli schoolchildren. I now know that Holocaust studies have been mandatory in the country's secondary schools since the 1980s; it is the 15-16 year olds who usually undertake these visits. This fascinating novel considers the long-term effects of these journeys on those who guide the students through the camps. A nameless historian prepares his PhD dissertat I've visited Auschwitz twice, both times oustide of the tourist season so it was relatively quiet, though I do remember several groups of Israeli schoolchildren. I now know that Holocaust studies have been mandatory in the country's secondary schools since the 1980s; it is the 15-16 year olds who usually undertake these visits. This fascinating novel considers the long-term effects of these journeys on those who guide the students through the camps. A nameless historian prepares his PhD dissertation on the process of Nazis’ extermination techniques while supporting himself and his family by guiding high school students in Poland. He becomes stuck in an endless loop of retelling the horrors of the Holocaust to teenagers who arrive in their groups wrapped in the Israeli flag, singing the national anthem, but leave apparently unaffected, except perhaps for an odd tear. Inevitably, it takes its toll on him. As expected, its never an easy read, but its message is clear and of huge importance; the Holocaust story must be told, as generations pass we must find a way for memories to be kept alive. Here's two passages that I hope demonstrate why it certainly gets my recommendation.. “Who among you would have rescued a strange, filthy boy who knocked on your door late at nigh, putting your own life and the lives of your children at risk?” I asked them in our nightly session at the hotel. Silence. Then whispering. Their brains ground through the options. How to get out of this? “He isn’t one of your people,” I reminded them. “He’s of a different faith. You don’t even know him. You have no obligation toward him, other than be in humans.” A few raised their hands. “Would you die for him?” I persisted. “Would you risk having your home set on fire with you and your children inside?” At this point the hands usually came down. The more philosophical of the group would have rescued no one. Only the modest, the simple, the kind, would. I am not one of them, I told myself, and it made it difficult for me to carry on the conversation. I cannot even manage to love these children, who are my people and have done nothing wrong. How would I ever take a strange boy in? At a concluding discussion with one school group on the bus leaving Auschwitz Berkenau, he asks “What has the trip taught you?”, I hated the question, but I was required to ask it. I’ve heard all this (the standard answers) before. I know it by heart. Until one boy says..”I think in order to survive we need to be a little bit Nazi,too“. “We didn’t have to bring you here,” I finally said. “We could have taken you to Paris to see the wonderful streets, or to Italy to eat the best food in the world... But we brought you here, to the site of the murder. And I suppose we’ve accomplished our mission. We made you see that it’s all about power, power, power. I’m not going to play naive or chaste. You’re right. Power. Hitting. Shooting. Annihilating the other. Because without power we’re like beasts, dependent on the graces of others who, at any moment, in a split-second decision, could chop off our heads, strangle us, strip us of our clothes; play music in the background, turning our horrendous demise into a bit of entertainment.... We have to be a little bit Nazi. You’ve finally said it. You got the point, kids, well done.”

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tanuj Solanki

    A Holocaust scholar finds himself employed in the industry of Holocaust memorialization, discovering how the nationalistic remainder of such a project can in turn create or sustain or fail to offer any resistance to new Nazisms. An astonishingly bold book, one that is politically incorrect not just for the sake of it but to question its country's founding and sustaining notions. A Holocaust scholar finds himself employed in the industry of Holocaust memorialization, discovering how the nationalistic remainder of such a project can in turn create or sustain or fail to offer any resistance to new Nazisms. An astonishingly bold book, one that is politically incorrect not just for the sake of it but to question its country's founding and sustaining notions.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David

    I mostly concur with Yoav's review and would also cite Bill Niven's thoughtful review of Yishai Sarid's novel מפלצת הזיחרון which I just finished reading in Hebrew and which will be published as The Memory Monster by Restless Books next month in Yardenne Greenspan's English translation. I wonder how representative the fictional Israeli high school students and soldiers the first person narrator guides through the sites of the death camps in Poland are of opinion among their real life peers. I mostly concur with Yoav's review and would also cite Bill Niven's thoughtful review of Yishai Sarid's novel מפלצת הזיחרון which I just finished reading in Hebrew and which will be published as The Memory Monster by Restless Books next month in Yardenne Greenspan's English translation. I wonder how representative the fictional Israeli high school students and soldiers the first person narrator guides through the sites of the death camps in Poland are of opinion among their real life peers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Allie Blum

    This book gripped me more than just about any work of fiction ever has. Having contemplated writing a book or story about the consequences of forgetting the Holocaust entirely, this book explores the exact opposite, of too much memory, perhaps, though I don’t think that’s the right turn of phrase. I implore every Jewish person to read this and contemplate their own memories and how we can harness them in a way to hommage, honor, and never forget, while pushing forward in the fight towards a soci This book gripped me more than just about any work of fiction ever has. Having contemplated writing a book or story about the consequences of forgetting the Holocaust entirely, this book explores the exact opposite, of too much memory, perhaps, though I don’t think that’s the right turn of phrase. I implore every Jewish person to read this and contemplate their own memories and how we can harness them in a way to hommage, honor, and never forget, while pushing forward in the fight towards a socially just world for all.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    I've never had such a visceral emotional reaction to reading a book before. Reading The Memory Monster, which is written as a report to the director of Yad Vashem, felt like both an extremely intimate experience and an absolutely clinical Holocaust history lesson. Perfectly treading this fine line between the two approaches, Sarid creates a haunting exploration of collective memory and an important commentary on humanity. How do we remember the Holocaust? What tolls do we pay to carry on memory? I've never had such a visceral emotional reaction to reading a book before. Reading The Memory Monster, which is written as a report to the director of Yad Vashem, felt like both an extremely intimate experience and an absolutely clinical Holocaust history lesson. Perfectly treading this fine line between the two approaches, Sarid creates a haunting exploration of collective memory and an important commentary on humanity. How do we remember the Holocaust? What tolls do we pay to carry on memory? This book hit me viscerally, emotionally, personally. The Memory Monster is brief, but in its short account manages to lay bear the tension between memory and morals, history and nationalism, humanity and victimhood.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anna (Bailed to go to Storygraph! Username: acweber)

    Going to be considering what to make of this for a long time

  19. 4 out of 5

    Esi Rubanovich

    Just re-read this one after 4 years, last time I read it I was just finishing my army service and I remembered it had left a great impact on me. Despite it being short, it manages to delve into horrific yet fascinating aspects of human cruelty and questions about evil. I took part in the traditional “Journey to Poland” in 11th grade, I was one of those teenagers Sarid so accurately describes. As a teenager, you can’t ignore the appeal of a trip like this- flying abroad with all of your friends for Just re-read this one after 4 years, last time I read it I was just finishing my army service and I remembered it had left a great impact on me. Despite it being short, it manages to delve into horrific yet fascinating aspects of human cruelty and questions about evil. I took part in the traditional “Journey to Poland” in 11th grade, I was one of those teenagers Sarid so accurately describes. As a teenager, you can’t ignore the appeal of a trip like this- flying abroad with all of your friends for the first time, experiencing things you’ll probably remember your entire life. While reading these passages I tried to remember what it felt like being there, then realising that I don’t recall much except vague feelings of horror and confusion, blended with the excitement and fun of the whole situation. Holding your head down in the extermination camps and a few minutes later hopping on the bus cracking jokes, eating candy and bursting loud music. I remember the intense pressure to “feel things”, and the guilt that came after failing to shed a tear in the right places even though you really tried. Always that mantra of “remembering”, “never forgetting”. How are we even supposed to remember something that we didn’t experience? And how on earth is it expected of a 16 year old to emotionally and mentally grasp things that not even the wisest of people can fully grasp? Many will say of the main purposes of this journey in high school is educational: it’s an opportunity to learn important lessons. “Learning lessons”. What exactly are these lessons to be learnt? Is it the lesson of never letting any minority experience racism and hate ever again? Is it cultivating tolerance and compassion for the other? Or is it the exact opposite? It seems that the lessons which are actually pushed onto the youth are ones of racism and hate, where power is the goal and the main conclusion is that the jewish people will not ever be “weak” like that again. The victims are blamed and the perpetrators- admired. “Maybe to survive we should be more like the Nazis”, declares one of the students in the journey. “We should be able to murder mercilessly, If we act like softies we don’t stand a chance. This is a survival war: either us or them. We won’t let that happen to us again.” This is the ethos many Israelis carry and is so often politicised and used to justify inhumane acts. Criticism or opposition to Israeli policies has now become, in many circles, a representation of Anti-Semitism. It’s as if the historic horrors we as jews have been through serve as a licence to hurt others. “This is terrible”, a teacher blurted out as she started crying following one of my explanations on the mass murder of children. “How do you explain such cruelty?” I shrugged and told her that humans are capable of anything, especially murder. They use ideology or religion to justify themselves, but basically they just want to see others die. I reminded her that we too, in the bible, murdered women and children because of god’s direct order. “How dare you compare?!” she was stupefied. I told her I wasn’t comparing, but her question was too innocent. We always murdered children, and still do today. After all, the question of evil is the main theme in this book. Ardent wrote that evil’s main goal is to turn humans into automatic machines: referring to both the Germans that obeyed orders and the many Jews that cooperated with the Nazis. These Jews were turned into zombies, people dangling between life and death, concentrating automatically on one thing only- Survival. Similarly to Ardent’s ideas, the book’s narrator learns to his horror how easily humans can fall to a place of obeying orders with no questions asked. In his trial, Eichmann continuously stated that he was just “filling his duty”, and even bragged about his ability to keep following orders even though he didn’t agree with the acts they consisted of. The book focuses on situations that serve as allegories to this idea, raising many important questions in our day and age. These questions should be asked not only in reference to Israel but to the current state of our world, in which almost every culture raised a “memory monster” of their own. Some pics I found from my Journey in high school A polish passer-by enjoying herself. "The classic" Polish woman in town centre looking unpleased with us loud Israeli teenagers interrupting her feeding the birds. (understandable)

  20. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    A tale of a personal and professional unwinding. A prescribed model for teaching the right lessons on Holocaust tours runs up against gnawing internal questions of how to articulate pain, honor memory, and handle history/archives with a supposed professional distance.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Karen Tannenbaum

    This is one of the most profound and compelling pieces of fiction on the Shoah. The unnamed narrator becomes a victim to history while compiling a report to Yad Vashem. Sarid writes in a matter of fact manner. It is stark and beautiful. Horrific and extremely tragic. I have read many books on the Holocaust, however this one tells how deeply this dark history can affect the senses. Brilliant.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    I loved this book, which in itself makes me a bit uneasy. Apparently like many other reviewers here, I don't read much Holocaust fiction (and haven't since childhood), and I was aghast at the history in this novel. I hadn't realized how much of my knowledge of the Holocaust centered on the concentration camps rather than extermination camps. I spent the first third alternating among reading the book, consulting Wikipedia, and crying. While there's no getting past that element of the book, I beca I loved this book, which in itself makes me a bit uneasy. Apparently like many other reviewers here, I don't read much Holocaust fiction (and haven't since childhood), and I was aghast at the history in this novel. I hadn't realized how much of my knowledge of the Holocaust centered on the concentration camps rather than extermination camps. I spent the first third alternating among reading the book, consulting Wikipedia, and crying. While there's no getting past that element of the book, I became more engaged in the narrator's story of the current interpretation of the Holocaust (among visitors to the camps) and the evocative concept of the memory monster. The writing about Germans vs Poles, how the narrator used "Germans" instead of "Nazis, and the eternal question of "what would you have done"/what are you doing ("The more philosophical of the group would have rescued no one. Only the modest, the simple, the kind, would."), the ending, and the last four sentences - so much will stay with me from this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Chava

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. It is challenging to read about the Holocaust. But what if you had to talk about it every day, giving tours of concentration camps? The book is a letter to the head of Yad Vashem, and wondering why the author is writing a letter to the person in charge of the organization propels the reader through the book. Having to describe Nazi atrocities to tourists and students pushes certain buttons, and when he has to deal with a non-Jewish film maker who specifically wants someone "Jewy" in his film, th It is challenging to read about the Holocaust. But what if you had to talk about it every day, giving tours of concentration camps? The book is a letter to the head of Yad Vashem, and wondering why the author is writing a letter to the person in charge of the organization propels the reader through the book. Having to describe Nazi atrocities to tourists and students pushes certain buttons, and when he has to deal with a non-Jewish film maker who specifically wants someone "Jewy" in his film, the author is pushed over the brink. Again, I don't find reading about the Holocaust so enjoyable, but it was an interesting approach to the topic, and it would make a good book club selection - lots to discuss.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Samanta Rivera

    There is so much in this slim novel to discuss. I am still processing it all. I wish everyone would read it so that I may have a proper discussion. The unnamed character’s obsession with the Nazi’s extermination processes among concentration camps poses uncomfortable questions and leaves the reader grappling with how we deal with the past’s atrocities. How do these events affect not only the psyche of an individual but that of a nation? It is a powerful read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    We made you see that it’s all about power, power, power. I’m not going to play naïve or chaste. You’re right. Power. Hitting. Shooting. Annihilating the other. Because without power we’re like beasts, chickens for slaughter. Force is the only way to resist force, and one must be prepared to kill.

  26. 5 out of 5

    KB_615

    There are no words. From beginning to end, The Memory Monster stirred my soul with its controversial inquiries and sobering vignettes. What is effectively one long letter holds so much substance, so much thought. This novel is a must-read for anyone trying to understand the Holocaust specifically and cultural memory broadly.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zach Krohn

    The story of a Holocaust tour guide who became laser focused on the process by which prisoners were killed. A look at how a desire to preserve history’s atrocities can sometimes become an all-consuming poison. Quick read. Lovely prose.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christa

    (4.5 rounded up) A fascination exploration of history, collective memory, nationalism, power, victors and victims, and how people chose to remember or reframe the past in terms of forgiveness, understanding, and ideology - particularly when that past is full of horrors most cannot fathom. Also, it was insightful to read about the Holocaust from this narrator's point of view, and as such, from the point of view of an Israeli author. (4.5 rounded up) A fascination exploration of history, collective memory, nationalism, power, victors and victims, and how people chose to remember or reframe the past in terms of forgiveness, understanding, and ideology - particularly when that past is full of horrors most cannot fathom. Also, it was insightful to read about the Holocaust from this narrator's point of view, and as such, from the point of view of an Israeli author.

  29. 5 out of 5

    M.A. Reads

    This is the most terrifying and upsetting novel I've ever read. It's also one of the best. This is the most terrifying and upsetting novel I've ever read. It's also one of the best.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    The Memory Monster — I don’t even know how to explain this book, however, I will try to gather my thoughts and put them as simply as I can. I might actually have to include a few spoilers to get my feelings and thoughts down on the page, and I apologize for that here at the start. This book is about a man who works at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of WWII’s Holocaust, who is writing a letter report to the Chairman of Yad Vashem. The Man who is writing this report works as a tour The Memory Monster — I don’t even know how to explain this book, however, I will try to gather my thoughts and put them as simply as I can. I might actually have to include a few spoilers to get my feelings and thoughts down on the page, and I apologize for that here at the start. This book is about a man who works at Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of WWII’s Holocaust, who is writing a letter report to the Chairman of Yad Vashem. The Man who is writing this report works as a tour guide and expert in the extermination camps of WWII who takes student groups, VIPs, and at the end a Filmmaker through the Poland extermination camps. This book is shocking to me to how fast a person can become too deep into past history. I found it interesting that as the book moves forward in time, The Man, which btw- we never find out his name, becomes so mentally steeped into the lives of the Jewish people (victims) who died at the camps that I feel he starts to look like them when it comes to dressing and disheveled appearance. There are times when some of the students tell him to buy new shoes or clothes, his neighbor gives him a bag of clothes thinking he can’t afford new ones, or his wife tells him he looks sickly. I do believe that leading that kind of a tour day after day would start playing with your mind and cause distress to anyone, especially when you can visually see what was happening as the Jewish People entered the camps by way of deception. At one point in time, The Man convinces an Auschwitz survivor to accompany them on the tour to tell his story. oh the hell of his experience, what I felt of his reliving it by visiting is too painful to talk about except that he ended up collapsing. The poor, poor man. What torture to make him re-experience that period of his life. Talk about PTSD. This book had some seriously mixed up stuff in it. The Man takes Israeli HS students on a tour of the remnants of the Concentration Camps. A description of The Man’s take on the students feeling’s of what he heard and observed about the German Nazi soldiers was shocking to me as a grand-niece of a victim at Auschwitz-Birkenau who was liberated. It hurt my heart to actually understand that although this book is written in Satire to an extent people do actually feel as these students did. Here is The Man’s description of the feelings of the students: “They didn’t hate the Germans, the kids in my groups; not at all, not even close. The Murderers barely registered…They hated the Polish much more. When we walked around the streets in cities and villages, whenever we met the local population, they would mutter words of hatred at them, about the pogroms they had committed, their collaborations, their anti-semitism. But, it’s hard for us to hate the Germans. Look at photos from the war. Let’s call a spade a spade: they looked totally cool in those uniforms, on their bikes, at east, like male models on billboards. We’ll never forgive the Arabs for the way they look, with their stubble and their borwn pants that go wide at the bottom, their houses without whitewas and the open sewers on the streets, the kids with pink-eye. But that fair, clean, European look makes you wan to emulate them.” So… they hate the Polish people, but not the Germans who did the actual torturing & killing? Disgusting. But poor little Arab kids with pink-eyed kids are unforgivable?!!! I know I don’t know the relationship very well between the Arabs and the Israelis, but seriously, these are little kids who didn’t choose where they were born or to whom… At different parts of the report The Man asks questions like, would you be able to take in a Jewish boy if he showed up at your door? Would you risk the danger? Another time, What would you do as a Jewish person put in charge at one of the camps, would you do the job to save your own life and end the lives of others, or would you protest and die with the others? These are questions aren’t as cut and dry as you would think. I feel until you are actually put in the same exact situation you can’t really give an honest answer. Speaking of honesty, I had to take a break from reading for a while because it just hurt too much to continue reading sometimes. The descriptions of the sites themselves, the rooms and what they were meant for, the numbers of people killed and buried in Mass Graves, and the lies, oh the lies the Victims are all told to get them into the gas chambers was overwhelming, to say the least. The Memory Monster by Yishai Sarid is well written, a poignant piece of writing that everyone should read, not only for the immensely tragic tale of the victims which has to be retold, but also the prediction that comes from reading: as the saying goes, “if you don’t learn from the past, you will relive it in the future.” This hatred of a race or religion of people should never be taken to the extreme that Hitler took. We can not let it be repeated and The Memory Monster is a cautionary tale of how we can forget and commend those whose hatred was so vile that to some they were heroes. I am thankful that to Restless Books, and Yishai Sarid for allowing me the honor of reading this book in exchange for an honest review. It truly has challenged my thinking and opened up some extremely deep processing on how we can become too immersed in history and the problems of the world to the detriment of our future.

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