The controversial English-language debut of celebrated Israeli novelist Yishai Sarid is a harrowing, ironic parable of how we reckon with human horror, in which a young, present-day historian becomes consumed by the memory of the Holocaust.
Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, our unnamed narrator recounts his own undoing. Hired as a promising young historian, he soon becomes a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. He hungrily devours every detail of life and death in the camps and takes pride in being able to recreate for his audience the excruciating last moments of the victims' lives.
The job becomes a mission, and then an obsession. Spending so much time immersed in death, his connections with the living begin to deteriorate. He resents the students lost in their iPhones, singing sentimental songs, not expressing sufficient outrage at the genocide committed by the Nazis. In fact, he even begins to detect, in the students as well as himself, a hint of admiration for the murderers--their efficiency, audacity, and determination. Force is the only way to resist force, he comes to think, and one must be prepared to kill.
With the perspicuity of Kafka's The Trial and the obsessions of Delillo's White Noise, The Memory Monster confronts difficult questions that are all too relevant to Israel and the world today: How do we process human brutality? What makes us choose sides in conflict? And how do we honor the memory of horror without becoming consumed by it?
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About the Author
Yishai Sarid was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1965. He is the son of senior politician and journalist Yossi Sarid. Between 1974-1977, he lived with his family in the northern town of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanon border. Sarid was recruited to Israeli Army at 1983 and served for 5 years. During his service, he finished the IDF's officers school and served as an intelligence officer. He studied law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. During 1994-1997, he worked for the Government as an Assistant District Attorney in Tel-Aviv, prosecuting criminal cases. Sarid has a Public Administration Master's Degree (MPA) from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University (1999). Nowadays he is an active lawyer and arbitrator, practicing mainly civil and administrative law. His Law office is located in Tel-Aviv. Alongside his legal career, Sarid writes literature, and so far he has published five novels. Sarid is married to Dr. Racheli Sion-Sarid, a critical care pediatrician, and they have three children.About the Translator:
Yardenne Greenspan is a writer and Hebrew translator. She has an MFA from Columbia University and is a regular blogger for Ploughshares. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Haaretz, Guernica, Literary Hub, Blunderbuss, Apogee, The Massachusetts Review, Asymptote, and Words Without Borders, among other publications.
Praise for the Hebrew Edition:
"The most meaningful book ever written here about morals and victimhood. Alongside Primo Levi and Hannah Arendt, it forms a 'holy trinity.'"
"A punch in the gut ... written with emotional credibility.... A very powerful book, a must."
--Sarah Blau, IDF Radio
"The book is gutsy, disconcerting, the kind of book it's hard to break away from until the final page."
--Nahum Barnea, Yedioth Ahronoth
"Sarid performs the most important act that literature can offer us--the story that he has written represents, to the same extent as it creates, what has been and what will be, in a process that enables thought about what there is, but also about what there could be.... The book weaves the sub-plots into its central course with satisfying skill. The various plot lines join together, reverberate and create contacts that it is possible to describe only in musical language.... A slim volume, but it provides a protracted read, and I carry it inside myself and wonder about it."
--Uri S. Cohen, Haaretz
"As it moves forward, the story is gradually taken over by something delicate and reliable, something that also dovetails with the psychological process the book sets out to depict.... Sarid touches with credibility upon a world of fantasy, describes a familiar thing as a menacing hallucination."
--Yoni Livneh, Yedioth Ahronoth
"A huge and bitter cry over the atrocities of the Holocaust, over its being possible at all, over the world that gave birth to it.... Sarid's rhetorical strength, and his very choice of a hero who researches the practical details of the annihilation, bring the book to its climax ... Sarid deserves to be listened to, even if the mirror that he holds up to us distorts."
--Tsur Ehrlich, Hashiloach
"Yishai Sarid does it again: His new book is different from its predecessor, but as important as them.... What are the lessons of the Holocaust? What should the 'Memory Monster' tell us? What happens when it becomes an exhibit, a computer game, a movie? The novella The Memory Monster touches upon each of these questions, with wisdom, wit, and remarkable sensitivity. A must read!"
--Ofra Offer Oren, Literary Blog
"Yishai Sarid has done it for me once more. He clamped me to his new book, kept me tense throughout and left me stunned. Breathless. This is not at all a thriller, it is an imaginative novel that is so firmly planted in the reality of our lives, pokes around and breaks up our collective soul with such precision, and is so rich in the details of social and cultural processes, that it grips your throat and punches you in the gut, and excites the emotions and thoughts into a great storm that doesn't die down until long after you've finished reading.... Sarid has written a slim book but it is overflowing and abundant both in the hero and what he has gone through, and no less in everything around him.... Sarid's keyboard is really a sharp surgeon's lancet with which he slaughters one of the most sacred cows that we have: memorialization of the Holocaust.... This is an important book to read, a breathtaking book, which will horrify all those who care, but don't be mistaken: it is also a fine novel, very readable, unputdownable, written in a style that is succinct and rich and precise. Read it. A must, and also an amazing reading experience.
--Orit Harel, Literary Blog
"Challenging and subversive ... A focused and thought-provoking novel."
--Talma Admon, Maariv
"These are questions that must be asked: would you have survived? How would you have survived? What would you have agreed to do in order to survive?... Sarid manages to ask these questions without falling into didactic pomposity and manages to track the answers without fearing what he'll find at the end of the road, and the reader is invited to follow at a measured pace and with a pounding heart.... This road is intriguing and horrifying and Sarid sketches it with wisdom and skill, up to the final moment."
--Meital Sharon, Literary Blog
"This is an amazingly courageous book, a must-read for parents, educators, politicians and anyone who wishes to expand the views seen through his windows."
Inbar Ushpiz, Saloona
"A fascinating, recommended book."
--Shiri Zuck, Channel 2 TV
"The pellucid language, ostensibly quotidian but so sensitive and un-shallow, captivated me.... It is impossible not to salute the detailed and meticulous research.... The book is not only readable, moving and intriguing, it is also a compulsory document for all those who, like myself, run away from anything to do with the Holocaust."
--Ito Aviram, Hitrashmut
"Yishai Sarid is a gifted writer ... I believe every word that he writes. There isn't a single superfluous word in The Memory Monster.... It left me breathless.... I foresee (and hope) that this book will stir up some trenchant debates. This is a gripping book."
--Sarit Flain, Literary Blog
"The book is written with integrity, minimalism and precision, creating great credibility.... A truly resounding book.... A very important document on the subject of memory.... One of the most piercing books about the Holocaust that I have read."
--David Simhon, Olam Katan
"Do not allow the slimness of this volume to mislead you; it is a disturbing book and after you have read it, it does not let simply move on to the next book. Rather, you need a little more time to think about its contents and to let them subside ... A gripping and important book."
--Meira Barnea Goldberg, Melabes
"In Yishai Sarid's dark, thoughtful novel The Memory Monster, a Holocaust historian struggles with the weight of his profession.... The Memory Monster is a novel that pulls no punches in its exploration of the responsibility--and the cost--of holding vigil over the past."--Eileen Gonzalez "Foreword Reviews "