AustLit logo
Issue Details: First known date: 2016... 2016 Haunted by Humans : Inverting the Reality of the Holocaust in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

The Book Thief "is set in a realistically depicted German town and could belong to the genre of historical realism were it not that Liesel’s story is narrated by the other-worldly character: Death. Death is the only unreal character in this otherwise realistic novel, and though he does not interact with real human characters, we see all the events through his eyes. This ‘magical’ narrator unveils a broader history of the war and the Holocaust by questioning: What is real? What is normal? What is humane? The inversion enables Zusak to present horror that would otherwise be too complex to grasp. As Hegerfeldt comments: ‘The world is an absurd place where [...] anything is more believable than the truth. Magic realist fiction proposes that such a topsy-turvy reality requires a similarly inverted approach’ (Hegerfeldt 2005, p. 339). In order to clarify how inversion works, I focus on four central binarisms evident in Death’s narrative: the portrayal of the supernatural as natural; humans as ghosts; real as surreal; and presenting life as death. Although these categories are somewhat over-simplified, I suggest that for the child and young adult reader this inversion creates the image of the war as something completely irrational and abnormal. Although the novel has attracted adult readers, my interest lies in explicating how this narrative strategy increases the potential for younger readers to engage with horrifying material, without assuming that they have prior knowledge of the historical events. Inversion is a writing strategy which seems particularly well suited to reaching a YA readership, encouraging teenagers to read about a topic they might otherwise avoid. The goal of this paper is to clarify how this strategy functions in The Book Thief and the subsequent demands it makes of its readers." (Introduction)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Last amended 29 Mar 2018 09:08:23
54-81 Haunted by Humans : Inverting the Reality of the Holocaust in Markus Zusak’s The Book Thiefsmall AustLit logo Papers : Explorations into Children's Literature
Informit * Subscription service. Check your library.
    Powered by Trove