Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Our Generation's Ignorance

Earlier today, I was reading "The Drowned and The Saved" by Primo Levi--the last book for the class on the Holocaust I'm taking--when I saw a kid from that same class walking towards me. We made brief, insignificant eye contact and he nodded at the book, saying, "That book sucks."

He was walking past me, and I had my headphones on, but I exposed one ear and called after him. "Why does it suck?"

He goes, "I don't know. It just does. It's real hard to read, especially at the beginning."

After he was gone, I couldn't read anymore. I just kept turning the book over in hand, flipping through its pages, thinking to myself: we're screwed, we're so screwed.

It's something I've had to argue against constantly when we've discussed books in that class. The other students feel compelled to say whether or not the book was "a good read." Some felt that the "Diary of David Sierakowiak" was a bad read because "it says on the back of the book that he died in Lodz, it ruined the ending for me."

RUINED THE ENDING?!!!!!! What is this? It takes all the strength I have not to blow up when they go on about how these books are easy or hard to read. I mean, part of the point that Levi and others spent so much of their worldly energy trying to get across is that OF COURSE it's not easy--but that the only way we can possibly get to the bottom of all this is to fight through the intellectual, emotional, personal, and traumatic barricades that stand in the way of remembering the lessons of the Holocaust.

And I can't help but worry for the future of humanity when this kid--one of the smartest kids in the class, there's no doubt--feels like it's appropriate to judge Levi's writing like it was a comic book. And I realize that my disappointment and anxiety is not reflected by the majority of my generation. And I realize that we're screwed.