The Tattooist of Auschwitz: When Fact & Fiction Blur

Tatooist-of-Auschwitz

 

Recently, there’s been some controversy surrounding the bestselling novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz. While there has been some issue surrounding the many historical inconsistencies in the novel, what seems to be the biggest problem revolves around the author, Australian born Heather Morris who is (according to online sources) not Jewish. On Twitter, The Tattooist of Auschwitz has been described the book as “a sexed-up romance novel/memoir,” claiming that Morris has little true information about the real Lali Sokolov. The plot is Lali’s story and is based on the only surviving account of a Jewish prisoner employed in Auschwitz as a tattooist.

Fiction and reality are always blurred, but when it comes to controversial topics such as the Holocaust, how far is too far?

Truth or Fiction?

Truth is stranger than fiction, but how true do we need a story to be? Some would argue that works of fiction, while based on real stories are simply interpretations of a true event. Theoretically, a work of historical fiction wouldn’t *have* to be true. The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t exactly the first work of fiction to be written about the Holocaust. The Book Thief, Maus & The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are just three popular narratives centred around the holocaust. Usually, when I’m looking for information on something, my first inclination is to read a biography or to check out some journal articles, not fiction and especially not romance novels.

So when it comes to fiction, when is it acceptable to leave out the truth?

Entertainment or History Lesson?

The truth is that we don’t go to fiction just to be entertained. Literature teaches us even when we are not actively seeking a lesson. Through the lens of fictional characters we are better able to imagine the people who lived through important and often terrifying historical events and that sets a new precedent around historical fiction. We aren’t just imagining made up characters anymore. Or fictional places. It becomes a question of representation.

It has also been suggested here that being familiar with historical events through fiction helps us make connections and draw our own conclusions about past and present events. So if a story like The Tattooist of Auschwitz is supposed to give context to the larger narrative of the Holocaust, what is there to be learned?

 The Truth About Stories

When we are writing about sensitive topics, it is crucial that we respect the truth behind the fiction. There will always be a seed of truth in any fictional account. Perhaps this should inspire readers to delve deeper if they want to learn more about a topic? Even so, I wonder  just how mad we ought to get when delving into fiction for our truths.

 

Will you read The Tattooist of Auschwitz? 

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “The Tattooist of Auschwitz: When Fact & Fiction Blur

  1. Good post, and timely, as the controversy over the novel swirls around us, mostly emanating from newspaper articles in The New York Times, Nov. 8 by Australian reporter Christine Kenneally; The Daily Mail Australia by another Australian reporter; and most recently “The Australian” newspaper article by Australian reporter Fiona Harari. It’s a he said, she said, they said brouhaha. We will know more in the coming weeks and months when the dust settles. I won’t be ready the book. I’m just not into New Age Oprah-endorsed Holocaust fictions. Although I did like Schindler’s List, the book and the movie. NOTE: Mrs Morris the author is not Jewish, she said so in several interviews, FYI, and she was born and raised in New Zealand, later immigrating to Australia where she is now a citizen and a retired social worker at the age of 70. She has written a very popular book and it has resonated deeply with readers in over 25 countries in dozens of translations as well. A tv series is now planned,
    for broadcast in 2020 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Allied forces at the end of World War Two.

  2. Good post, and timely, as the controversy over the novel swirls around us, mostly emanating from newspaper articles in The New York Times, Nov. 8 by Australian reporter Christine Kenneally; The Daily Mail Australia by another Australian reporter; and most recently “The Australian” newspaper article by Australian reporter Fiona Harari. It’s a he said, she said, they said brouhaha. We will know more in the coming weeks and months when the dust settles. I won’t be reading the book. I’m just not into New Age Oprah-endorsed Holocaust fictions. Although I did like Schindler’s List, the book and the movie. NOTE: Mrs Morris the author is not Jewish, she said so in several interviews, FYI, and she was born and raised in New Zealand, later immigrating to Australia where she is now a citizen and a retired social worker at the age of 70. She has written a very popular book and it has resonated deeply with readers in over 25 countries in dozens of translations as well. A tv series is now planned,
    for broadcast in 2020 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Allied forces at the end of World War Two.

    • Hi dannybloom! Thanks for all of the great information! I can understand not wanting to read a Holocaust story that is sensationalized. I haven’t read “Schindler’s List” yet, but I think my favourite Holocaust narrative is actually “Maus,” by Art Spiegelman.

  3. Honestly, I would actually read the book myself not only for pleasure, but to also study to see which theory it would fall under. From what you’ve written, it sounds like there’s something going there with the story.

    If you can, can you write a short essay on movie adaptations of novels? I would love your input on them, as I see a trend going on between novels and movies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s