The Hindu Lit for Life 2018

Stories that keep us from forgetting

Of human nature (Left to right): Vaishna Roy with John Boyne and Sebastian Faulks   | Photo Credit: S. Narayana Swamy

War, says Irish novelist John Boyne, is always going to be written about. It is fertile territory for a novelist because “we see so much of human nature in conflict.” The author of the 2006 Holocaust novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Boyne was part of Narratives of War, a session at The Hindu Lit for Life 2018, that also featured the English writer, Sebastian Faulks, and was moderated by Vaishna Roy, Editor, The Hindu's Sunday Magazine and Literary Review.

Anecdotes about death, hope, love, friendship and more segued into the discussion that revolved around Roy’s question, “What do war narratives do?” Faulks, who grew up with both the world wars in his blood, said, “My grandfather had fought in World War I, my father in World War II, and I equally expected to fight in the third,” adding that his fourth novel Birdsong was, “the experience of war in a very dramatic, unironic, forlorn way.”

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas tells the story of a young boy, Bruno, son of a Commandant in the German army, who is posted at Out-With (Auschwitz), where he befriends Shmuel, a Jewish boy who is incarcerated here. “It is more a book about friendship than war,” said Boyne.

At their core however, both books are about collective memory. And about how stories exist so that we never forget. Recalling the late Jewish writer and holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, Boyne said. “Elie Wiesel, who I respect very much, said if you weren’t there don’t write about it. But his is the last generation that will be able to meet the survivors of the Holocaust — they are getting quite old. And once they are no longer here, do we just stop writing about them?”


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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 5:57:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/lit-for-life/stories-that-keep-us-from-forgetting/article22471526.ece

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