REVIEW by Alan Bilton

NWR Issue 104

Gretel and the Dark

by Eliza Granville

Art Spiegelman remade it with cats and mice, Jurek Becker staged it as an absurdist parable, and Roberto Benigni juxtaposed the horror with slapstick comedy – but the holocaust as fairy tale? Nazis as ‘ogres with ten league boots’, Ravensbrück ‘the black magician’s stronghold’, nine-headed dogs and shadows in striped rags? In terms of taste and historical sensitivity, we seem to be skirting the edge of literary acceptability here. Moreover, the central tale at the heart of the book is that most fearsome of bedtime stories, Hansel and Gretel, with its obsession with food, hunger, fire and (most historically terrible of all) ovens: the key question, I guess, is whether such a fable illuminates the darkness or simply blows out the light.

Certainly one couldn’t accuse Gretel and the Dark of lacking self-awareness...

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previous review: Sugar Hall
next review: The Visitations


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