The Memory Monster by an Israeli writer Yishai Sarid is an excellent novel, one of the best books I have read on the banality of evil, memory, how we process the past, how we relate to the darkest chapters of the human history, how we understand human brutality. Do we learn from the history, especially from such tragedies like the Holocaust? When the history becomes just facts and dates? When do we loose human connection with the ones who lost their lives during atrocities?
Although this book specifically deals with the Shoah and the way we contemporarily commemorate its victims, it is also relevant to many other tragedies which occurred in the recent times: the Rwandan genocide, the Cambodian genocide, genocide of Yazidis, Srebrenica, and Soviet Gulags and the list goes on and on.
In this slim book, Yishai Sarid confronts uncomfortable, difficult questions which challenge the reader’s perception of the notion of respect to the ones who lost their lives during the Holocaust and other atrocities throughout the history.
The Memory Monster is written in a form of report to the Chairman of Yad Vashem (which is Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust) where the narrator recounts his life as a young historian, becoming an academic expert on the Nazi methods of exterminations in the concentration / death camps during WWII, then working as a guide to the sites of extermination such as Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka and many others for students, officials, film directors. Our narrator shares his feelings about some of the people he meets on these tours; and these are largely extremely negative views. I won’t share it here in case you want to read this book.
Taking into consideration what’s happening in many places in the world as we speak, this book is an important addition to better understanding of how we process data, statistics, news, images related to the human brutality and of the notion of dehumanization versus humanization of people who lived or are currently living through the darkest chapters.
It is an excellent, thought provoking read but at the same time it is a difficult book. I highly recommend it to everyone