I was warned the very first time that I started this project that it might “get a bit grizzly”. It is a problem, in fact. I’m a great believer that the darkest of stories must be lifted with a little humour and the funniest of tales needs a shadow to give it depth – but is there any place for humour in a Holocaust story?
In this case I think there is. Hani has a sweet tooth, so the cheese cake remains a theme. It’s not exactly humorous and shouldn’t be these days with all of our concerns about eating disorders and the fact that soon within the story it won’t be an option. But it gives a welcome lighter tone.
However, I do have to admit that I found myself tittering when Christoph decided that there would be a war because “nobody will let our fury-chops steal Lebensraum”. Old “fury-chops”?! Where did that come from?
I guess in part from John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The same cross-language joke exists there. Hitler is referred to as the Fury. Quite an apt name. I think. In my case, I’m leaning towards “furry” and I guess Christophe and Hani see something a little funny in Hitler’s face with his neat little moustache. Did anyone see that as funny back in 1939? Possibly not, though it’s certainly played on a lot in Chaplain’s The Great Dictator.
Whatever happens, Christophe is one of the good guys and has seen through the dictator. Whether “old furry-chops” will last through to the final edit, I’m not sure. I am certain, though, that a few lighter moments must be allowed in this novel which must not present a too sanitized version of the Holocaust.