Friday, September 11, 2009

A Novel about the Holocaust?

WARNING: There are items not suitable for children discussed in The White Hotel.

As I read D.M Thomas’ The White Hotel for our July book club meeting, I became more and more confused. I thought this book was about the Holocaust? Many moons have passed since my first college graduation (I obtained a degree in history at that time) but I distinctly taking several history classes surrounding World War II. The first three parts of the book left me puzzled on the Holocaust tie-in.

The White Hotel begins with LONG poem. The next part of the book takes the poem and turns it into a story and then we learn more after the sessions with Sigmund Freud have ended. I had a difficult time overcoming these first sections. The writing was pornographic, in my mind, and degrading to women. Two things helped me get past the imagery surrounding the first two sections of the book.

  1. Mack told me how she just laughed at the “pornographic writing” because it was so far over the top that it was completely implausible. This is a true statement and I would remind myself that it was a dream of a character.
  2. Digging deep into the history brain cells, I remembered Susan Griffin and Susan Kappeler. After a little searching I was reminded that Susan Griffin believes we all participate in the pornographic mind through philosophy, literature, religion, art, film, etc. Even more to the point, in Susanne Kappeler's words, "Nazi sadism is a stock in trade of pornography.”
With these things in my mind, I concluded that the real pornography was what the Nazis did to their victims.

After that, and I will be honest it took weeks to get to this mind set, I could enjoy the book. Well, enjoy may be a little strong. How about I just say that I could tolerate the book. I appreciated how the beginning tied to the ending. It is funny how sometimes you need complete something to the end before you can understand the beginning. There is a strong likelihood that this book will be one that I appreciate more over time.

If you are wondering if you should pick up The White Hotel here are my words of advice. The White Hotel is not for the faint at heart. If you have trouble with pornographic writing and know that you cannot overcome it (I would not have finished had it not been for book club) you will hate this book. This book requires you to be in the right mind set before reading. This is especially at the end of the book when the Holocaust tie-in is revealed; your mind will race.

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