Books: “The Memory Monster” by Yishai Sarid
Visiting Auschwitz in December 2021 was one of the most emotionally gripping experiences I’ve ever had. This site—part death camp, part labor camp—was hell on Earth. Together with Birkenau, it was Ground Zero for the murder of millions of innocent people. The collective loss of brainpower in the 3 or 4 years of this camp’s existence is incomprehensible.
The way to see Auschwitz properly is to have a guide. We were fortunate enough to have Professor Tomasz Cebulski from Krakow lend his expertise to our visit. But question: what if leading tours of sites like this is your day job?
This is a question explored by Yodhai Sarid, Israeli novelist, lawyer and arbitrator in “The Memory Monster.” The protagonist, who remains unnamed, is a young historian who sort of stumbles into a job as an expert on Nazi methods of extermination at Auschwitz and other death camps. His job becomes an obsession. Living and guiding tours in Poland, he finds himself at a loss in real-life relations—with his various clients (ranging from school kids who’d rather look at their iPhones, to Hasidim, to anti-Semitic German filmmakers) as well as with his own family.
This is not a novel for everybody. But it is extremely thoughtful and well-written—and the character’s ability to see through the bullshit and bureaucracy his job often requires makes it worth the read. Furthermore, at a time where tyranny is rearing its ugly head all over again, the story of how one monster changed the world for 6 million
seems more relevant than ever. Translated from the original Hebrew by Yardenne Greenspan.