The New York Times has a really interesting article today about “Stalags,” “a series of pornographic pocket books called Stalags, based on Nazi themes,” which were best-sellers in the 1960s.
The books told perverse tales of captured American or British pilots being abused by sadistic female SS officers outfitted with whips and boots. The plot usually ended with the male protagonists taking revenge, by raping and killing their tormentors.
These books probably didn’t have a lot of literary merit (although “I Was Colonel Schultz’s Private Bitch” is a pretty great title), but the upcoming release of the documentary “Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel” demonstrates that these books did have a significant impact on the culture and the representation of Nazism.
After decades in dusty back rooms and closets, the Stalags, a peculiar Hebrew concoction of Nazism, sex and violence, are re-emerging in the public eye. And with them comes a rekindled debate on the cultural representation here of Nazism and the Holocaust, and whether they have been unduly mixed in with a kind of sexual perversion and voyeurism that has permeated even the school curriculum.
And although it doesn’t always seem the case, fiction can be quite powerful. According to the film, these books came out of the Eichmann trial and was an extension of K. Tzetnik’s writings, which were the first person to write about Auschwitz in Hebrew.
K. Tzetnik was a pseudonym for Yehiel Feiner De-Nur. The alias, short for the German for concentration camper, was meant to represent all survivors, a kind of Holocaust everyman. One of K. Tzetnik’s biggest literary successes, “Doll’s House,” published in 1953, told the story of a character purporting to be the author’s sister, serving the SS as a sex slave in Block 24, the notorious Pleasure Block in Auschwitz.
Though a Holocaust classic, many scholars now describe it as pornographic and likely made up.
The idea of falsified Holocaust memoirs is one that comes up in Omega Minor, another book we’ve been on about this week.
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .