‘The Pages’ by Hugo Hamilton – Rescued from a Nazi Book Burning

 

‘The Pages’ by Hugo Hamilton   (2021) – 261 pages

 

Wherever they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also.” – Heinrich Heine

The narrator of the novel ‘The Pages’, instead of a person, is an old worn copy of the short novel ‘Rebellion’ by Joseph Roth which was rescued from a Nazi book burning in 1933.

Does this conceit of having a copy of a book telling the story work? I must say that for me it did not add anything. The narrator does not have a distinct or engaging personality which might have helped.

I have not read ‘Rebellion’. Although superficially it did not seem necessary to do so, I’m wondering if there are some subtexts to ‘The Pages’ that I may have missed.

We get two parallel stories here. One is the harrowing plight of the Jewish writer Joseph Roth in Germany in the 1930s. The other is a modern-day tale of the granddaughter of the man who rescued ‘Rebellion’ from the Nazi fires who now has possession of the book.

A Nazi Book Burning

I found the story of Joseph Roth interesting in a biographical way.

In Oxtend, in a small group of exiled writers, he enters a new relationship with the German novelist Irmgard Keun. She is not Jewish, but her books still fell victim to the book burning for portraying liberated female characters.”

I found the modern-day story less engaging and less memorable. It culminates in a treasure hunt which seemed like a letdown from the major issues of anti-semitism and book-burning that were raised earlier in the story of Joseph Roth. Whenever ‘The Pages’ switched to the modern story, I had difficulty remembering the specific circumstances of the various characters.

The two parts of the novel never gelled, never came together for me. I also found the novel cluttered and less than direct.

 

Grade:    C

 

 

5 responses to this post.

  1. There’s a whole genre of books milking WW2 and the Holocaust in particular, and most of them are IMO are banal, historically inaccurate and offensive to the memory of those who suffered in that war.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Posted by Marianna on May 15, 2022 at 9:45 PM

    People made think it easy to write about WW2 because it something that recently happen but, you still has to do the research.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • Hi Marianna,
      The way I see it is that the world was on its best behavior for the last 75 years in order to avoid the horrors of another war like World War II. However now, 75 years later, people have forgotten how terrible World War II was, and are letting the same type of authoritarian leaders who caused World War II to lead their countries again. Putin is just one example.
      Well-written World War II novels are welcomed by me.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • Posted by Marianna on May 18, 2022 at 7:31 PM

        imo a good WW2 or war stories in general explore how complex it can be. It more then just two sides fighting against each other. Someone may not know what their fighting for and are following orders. It could also be people just living their lives and they get cough up in the crosshairs of war.

        In sum war is awful and complex.

        This is an interesting subject to write a deeper blog post on. I’m go to as to get to doing that.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply

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