“I’ve ordered more toothpaste.” How much moral weight can such a bland remark support? The line is spoken by Hedwig Höss (played by Sandra Hüller) early on in Jonathan Glazer’s film The Zone of Interest. Hedwig is entertaining guests in the cramped kitchen of her villa. The camera peers into the room, as if in furtive surveillance. There is a pronounced lack of artifice about the scene, a sense of sturdy boots clomping on floorboards, of people shuffling and mumbling, unaware of being filmed. There is also a vibe of insidious disquiet. Something about this kitchen and its occupants is not right.

Hedwig has been showing off some jewelry: a diamond, found hidden in a tube of toothpaste. “How clever they are,” one of her guests remarks. In another part of the villa—a blandly furnished, rather utilitarian study—Hedwig’s husband, Rudolf (Christian Friedel), has guests of his own: two owlish technicians, bearing blueprints for a new crematorium. Rudolf, in uniform, obviously in command, asks pertinent questions. The meeting seems to conclude satisfactorily.

We are not vouchsafed any further details. It’s incumbent upon us to know that the diamonds discussed by Hedwig and her guests have been stolen from victims of the Holocaust. (Toothpaste tubes were indeed used to conceal valuable items in the Nazi camps; that’s how the famous Sonderkommando photographs were smuggled out of Auschwitz.) It is also incumbent upon us to know that the planned crematorium will incinerate the victims’ bodies. “I’ve ordered more toothpaste” therefore means, roughly, “My husband will murder more Jews, and I will materially benefit from these murders.”

Once you apply the historical background required to make sense of these scenes, you have performed the basic interpretative move that Glazer and his collaborators ask of you. And you have largely gotten the point of The Zone of Interest, which is to make you bear the moral burden that its characters so easily shirk. But Glazer doesn’t give us any background knowledge that might solidify this burden in our minds. The less you know about Auschwitz—and who doesn’t already know too much?—the more likely you are to be haunted and impressed by the film; the more you know, the likelier you are to wonder what exactly Glazer is trying to tell us.

The basic idea, I suppose, is “Domestic Life in the Reptile House.” But Glazer doesn’t tell us much about his reptiles, except that they’re cold-blooded. His actors give affectless performances—deliberately so. Not so much “The horror! The horror!” as “The banality! The banality!”—with the horror circumspectly kept offscreen and the banality, or something like it, left to work steadily, or perhaps the word is unsteadily, on your nerves.

It certainly does work on your nerves, but that might be all it does. Periodically Glazer’s reptiles bare their fangs. Hedwig threatens her enslaved kitchen maid by saying, “I could have my husband spread your ashes across the fields of Babice.” One of her sons locks his younger brother in the greenhouse and makes hissing noises, as if to evoke a gas chamber. These moments are meant to shock, and they do. But Glazer tells us so little about either Hedwig or her sons that the shocks occur in a vacuum. It’s like watching rattlesnakes in a nature documentary. Suddenly they bite. How fascinating! How awful!

The reptile house in question is the commandant’s villa at Auschwitz, where Rudolf Höss lived with his family from May 1940 to November 1943, after which he was transferred to the Concentration Camps Inspectorate. The Zone of Interest appears to be set during 1942 and 1943. It ends just before May 1944, when Höss, no longer commandant, nonetheless returned to the camp, where—we are again expected to know—he oversaw Operation Höss, the mass murder of Hungarian Jews at Birkenau. Toward the end of the film we see Höss chair a meeting of concentration camp commandants at which the fate of Hungary’s Jews is discussed.

For the filming, Glazer and his production designer, Chris Oddy, worked with the support of the Polish Film Institute and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum to outfit an abandoned villa as a close replica of the Hösses’ home. The replica, with extensive gardens, stood close to the actual house. (The Hösses’ house still stands and is inhabited, as Glazer discovered, by a Polish family.) Beyond the garden walls, in many of the film’s exterior shots, loom the guard towers, the barbed wire, and the chimneys of the crematoriums. Some scenes are improvised. Dialogue—the film was shot in German—is sparse and, yes, banal.

The film’s commitment to naturalistic reconstruction stops short of the camp gates. Of Höss’s activities beyond the barbed wire, we see only grim physical traces. The gardener (a prisoner, of course) washes Höss’s boots under an outdoor tap, and blood swirls down the drain. Swimming in the Soła River, Höss is engulfed by a yellowish stream of waste from the camp; he fishes out a fragment of human bone. The camp’s interior is a black hole at the heart of the film, always present, never seen.


It is, instead, heard. Glazer, who has a notable instinct for aesthetic limits, has made a film that represents the Nazis’ crimes at Auschwitz not visually but aurally. Running beneath almost every scene for the film’s first hour are screams, gunshots, guard dogs barking, and the roar of industrial machinery. (In 1942 construction of the I.G. Farben Buna-Werke, a synthetic rubber factory, was underway at Auschwitz.) Rudolf and Hedwig, in their narrow single beds, reminisce about a holiday; all the while, we hear the background roar of an incinerator.

The effect—a result of careful calculation—really does work on your nerves. The film’s sound designer, Johnnie Burn, compiled a six-hundred-page research document in the course of his work, noting, for instance, the daily frequency of gunshots audible from Block 11, Auschwitz’s notorious “punishment block”; the sound design, for which Burn and his collaborator Tarn Willers won an Academy Award, is the most remarkable, and inarguably the most praiseworthy, aspect of Glazer’s film.

The Hösses never speak aloud about the noise of the camp. The dissonance of the sound design is the dissonance of their lives. The Zone of Interest is therefore, like Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, a film about World War II that takes dissonance for its subject—that presses home dissonance as a kind of inevitable response to, or perhaps as the necessary precondition for, a great crime.

Both of these films locate the historical origins of our present age of dissonance concretely. What they tell us, in their different ways, is that World War II has not yet ended. Or perhaps that we, too, are ignoring the cries of suffering sounding in our ears. Glazer told The Guardian, “For me, this is not a film about the past. It’s trying to be about now, and about us and our similarity to the perpetrators, not our similarity to the victims.” Hmm.

Oppenheimer, of course, is an old-fashioned biopic at heart. It wants to give you all the information you need to make sense of its story; its characters deliver helpful lectures and address each other by name a lot. The Zone of Interest, on the other hand, cleaves to a kind of renunciatory modernism, an exemplary refusal of hand-holding. In doing so, it seems to be obeying one of the canonical dictates of Holocaust art, the injunction to refrain from explicitly representing Nazi crimes.

Glazer seems to know that kitsch is the abyss over which all Holocaust artworks teeter. His long, deliberate approach to making the film (ten years of preparation, scrupulous archival research, and the quest for a naturalism so refined that the film will feel “unauthored”) and many of his aesthetic choices seem designed precisely to skirt this abyss. He has declined to supply expository dialogue or intertitles; he has taken out anything that might help you make sense of certain events. For instance: we see a young woman, obviously a prisoner, arrive in Höss’s office; afterward, we see him wash his genitals in a basement sink. We have already seen orders for his transfer to the inspectorate come through. Glazer doesn’t fill us in: we need to have prior knowledge of Höss’s sexual relationship with a political prisoner named Eleonore Hodys, the discovery of which may have led to his being transferred to the WVHA, the SS’s Economic and Administrative Main Office. Lacking such prior knowledge, we are left to catch tiny throwaway clues, if we can.

Then again, this was also the method of Glazer’s 2013 film Under the Skin, based on Michel Faber’s novel about an alien disguised as a human woman who seduces and abducts men to be processed into food for her species. That movie stripped away all explanatory material, leaving us with a sequence of images verging on the abstract and linked only by their contiguity, as in a music video. (Glazer directed some of the best music videos of the 1990s, and if you were a fan of Blur, Radiohead, or Jamiroquai in that decade, you know his early work.) The viewer who had read Faber’s source novel grasped the import of the film’s abstractions; the viewer who didn’t experienced a rather different film.

In Under the Skin, the sequences in which Scarlett Johansson, filmed by hidden cameras, chats up actual Glasgow punters from the window of her van were meant to exemplify the film’s concern with the denatured eye, with the ethics of looking. The hidden-camera scenes in The Zone of Interest seem to suggest something more like a cheaper (and therefore more “banal”) contemporary idea of “reality” in art: that is, reality TV. “Like Big Brother in the Nazi house” is how Glazer described these scenes to The Guardian, and you could read this remark as glib or as the expression of an aesthetic rigor that pursues the concept of banality to its uttermost—or to its lowest common denominator.


In undertaking his various renunciations, Glazer has traveled far from his source material. The 2014 Martin Amis novel on which The Zone of Interest is based is fascinated precisely not by the domestic life of the Nazis at Auschwitz but by their social life: the “experimental thés dansants,” as one of Amis’s characters, Golo Thomsen, puts it, “the cocktail party in the Political Department.” And this is Amis’s second novel about the Holocaust. An earlier book, Time’s Arrow (1991), subordinated character and social nuance to the rigors of its science-fictional donnée, whereby time is experienced backwards by the soul of an Auschwitz doctor. The point of Time’s Arrow is to refute Nazi crimes by depicting them as a fundamental inversion of the order of the universe. The narrowness of its conceit may have led Amis to feel that a broader approach was warranted. Accordingly, the donnée of The Zone of Interest is: What if you wrote a social comedy about Auschwitz? What might that teach us about the Holocaust?

Amis’s novel unfolds a triangular love story—husband, wife, lover—in a setting of inverted values. It begins with “the meteorology of first sight”: Thomsen, an ambiguously powerful Nazi-without-portfolio (“I liaise”), catches sight of Hannah Doll, strolling with her daughters. The catch: Hannah Doll is the commandant’s wife, and she is accompanying her children past the “three-wheeled gallows” on the outskirts of the Interessengebiet, the SS “zone of interest” that encompassed the Auschwitz camp and subcamps. Thomsen narrates; in alternating chapters, so do Paul Doll, the commandant (he shares Rudolf Höss’s curriculum vitae), and Szmul, a Polish prisoner who leads a Sonderkommando, one of the work groups forced to help with the disposal of corpses at the camp.

Thomsen sets out to seduce Hannah. He does not succeed. We learn, from his first-person narration, that he is something less than a convinced Nazi. He sabotages the unfinished Buna-Werke, the factory under construction at Auschwitz; he reads, “at some personal risk,…the likes of Thomas Mann.” Hannah, too, is a subversive element. At a dinner party with other members of the camp ascendancy, she says, “They promise you the earth, all smiles, they lead you down the garden path. And then they strip you of everything you have.” In context, it sounds like she’s talking about the Jews—parroting the antisemitic party line. But for Thomsen, “the words seemed to equivocate in the candlelight”; Hannah is, of course, talking about the Nazis, and equivocation—the doubling of consciousness and its verbal expression—is one of Amis’s themes.

Could such people—half-good Nazis, secret saboteurs of the Thousand-Year Reich—exist? We have very little evidence that they did. For Cynthia Ozick, reviewing Amis’s novel for The New Republic in 2014, this was part of the problem. Amis, Ozick complained, had rendered Auschwitz as a “Middlemarch of Nazidom”; for her, the novelist’s habitual (and habitually liberal) strategies of empathy and dramatization—his engagements with social life, ethical ambivalences, and jokes—inevitably approach a kind of blasphemy when applied to the subject of the camps.

But it is worth pointing out that The Zone of Interest is a novel that puts its faith in the literary. It is partly, like Glazer’s film, about cognitive dissonance and the management thereof (Amis’s Nazis are often drunk), but, like Time’s Arrow, it is more profoundly about inversion—moral, linguistic, social—and it uses the quintessentially literary techniques of satire, irony, and unreliable narration to utter its inverted world. It may create historically unlikely characters in order to do this; but in another sense, it hews closely to its sources, fictionalizing the facts to speak another, less obvious kind of truth.

An example: Paul Doll, Amis’s Höss figure, complains about Julius Streicher’s antisemitic tabloid Der Sturmer: “With its disgusting and hysterical emphasis on the carnal predations of the Jewish male, Der Sturmer, I believe, has done serious anti-Semitism a great deal of harm.” This reads like a typically Amisian bit of unreliable narration—the comic articulation of an inverted morality. In fact, it’s straight from Rudolf Höss’s death row autobiography, written at Nuremberg. “This paper caused a lot of mischief and, far from serving serious anti-Semitism, it did a great deal of harm,” Höss wrote of Der Sturmer. Amis’s point is that Höss’s morality isn’t just inverted; it’s stupid, that is, ludicrous, that is, funny.

The Zone of Interest is a novel that enacts a liberal critique of Nazism—it is written in unashamed hindsight, and appeals to a postwar liberal conception of the evils of Nazi rule. In his afterword Amis acknowledges “the loci classici of the field,” and names Norman Cohn, Martin Gilbert, Gitta Sereny, Hannah Arendt, and others—authors of the liberal classics of Holocaust history, most of which, not incidentally, became foundational texts of postwar liberalism itself—as the establishers of the “macrocosm” of our understanding of the Holocaust. In this view of things, there is nothing blasphemous about creating a Middlemarch of Nazidom. The very form of the liberal novel, descended from George Eliot and nourished by the historians and thinkers Amis mentions, constitutes a refutation of Nazidom—constitutes, indeed, a sort of implicit antithesis to the Holocaust itself.

Amis’s other aesthetic (or moral) gamble is that jokes, too, permit us to imagine such an antithesis. “As well as setting the terminal point of human evildoing,” he told Michael Silverblatt in a 2014 interview, the Holocaust “was also preposterous and contemptible and stupid.” Paul Doll—Rudolf Höss—is thus, for Amis, a comic character, a self-deceiving buffoon who happens also to be a psychopath in a position of unprecedented authority, a depraved ideologue pretending to be a family man. The laughter he invites is the laughter of contempt; Amis’s handle on Höss, you could say, is that Höss is a familiar literary figure, a lunatic straight out of early Nabokov.

The novel is also careful to do the work of exposition—not simply in order to pay homage to Amis’s sources, or to make his obeisances to the prohibitions (no made-up Nazi atrocities, please), but because in the liberal novel, context is all. “Paul Doll is completely normal,” Doll asserts, early on. This might seem like a bit of bald irony, verging on the insultingly sarcastic: How can this mass-murdering moron be normal? He’s talking about himself in the third person, for God’s sake!

But the novel asks us to consider whether, in fact, such a statement from such a man might, somehow, be true—whether in Auschwitz, that is, in context, Paul Doll might actually be normal. And, if so, how such a state of affairs has come to pass. The novel offers a series of answers to this question, including a sort of working theodicy of the Holocaust, spoken by an elderly German academic: “Maybe all this is just what follows when you keep putting it about that cruelty is a virtue. To be rewarded like any other virtue—with preferment and power.”

This is all a lot more venturesome than what Glazer gets up to in his film. He has made a point of saying in interviews that he moved away from the novel and went back to Amis’s own source material, including Rudolf Höss’s autobiography. Certainly his film strips the liberal-literary furniture from Amis’s house and leaves only the bare walls standing. No Golo Thomsen, no Szmul; no guest appearance by a self-besotted Martin Bormann; no aborted triangular love affair; Hedwig and Rudolf Höss and their children given their rightful names; no tricksy unreliable telling. Instead a scrupulous recreation—how it really would have looked and sounded.

Ghostly traces of Amis’s novel remain. The diamonds concealed in toothpaste—that’s from the book. Hedwig smokes in the villa’s greenhouse, as Hannah does in the novel. Late in the film Glazer’s Höss calls Hedwig from Berlin to tell her about a fancy ball he attended. Hedwig asks who was there, and Rudolf says he didn’t notice: “I was too busy thinking about how I’d gas everyone in the room. Very difficult logistically, because of its high ceiling.” In the novel, a depressed Paul Doll spends an evening at the ballet musing thusly. But he’s at a performance of Coppelia in which the part of the automaton (the doll) is danced by a Jewish prisoner. (Who is the automaton, who the inhuman doll? And Doll, in German, is pronounced dole—another of Amis’s compound signifiers. Doleful Doll the doll doles out punishment.)

Glazer’s equivalent of this moral and semiotic complexity is to have Höss, shortly after he attends the ball, pause in a darkened stairwell and retch, twice. This occurs in the film’s final moments and is the only scene that imputes something like a conscience to its central reptile. Höss, you’re meant to think, has been momentarily overwhelmed by the horror of what he’s doing, and the best he can manage, as a reaction, is this feeble nauseated lurch.

Glazer then cuts abruptly to the present day. We are inside the reconstructed gas chamber and crematorium at the Auschwitz museum. The lights flicker on, and the cleaning staff—Polish volunteers, though again, you’d have to know this—are vacuuming, dusting, sweeping, in silence. The camera regards them with the same denatured gaze that it applied throughout to the Hösses. Glazer’s point may be that you can have functionaries of good as well as functionaries of evil. But since he hasn’t told us much about his functionaries of evil—since what his film lacks is, precisely, a theory of evil, a working theodicy of the Holocaust—we’re entitled to wonder where this suggested equivalence actually gets us.

Manyness has long been a trope of Holocaust art (Anselm Kiefer’s starry skies; the 2,711 concrete slabs of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), and absence has, understandably, been another. In the careful rigor of its various renunciations, Glazer’s film of The Zone of Interest might hope to evoke the intersection of morality and form present in a work like Georges Perec’s La Disparition (1969), in which the exclusion of the letter e from the book’s usable alphabet embodies the absence of six million lives from postwar Europe. (Without e, Perec cannot write père, mère, soeur, frère…)

Glazer also wants to call our attention to an absence. He brings us right up to the camp gates and then doesn’t take us in. He tells us almost nothing—no biographical details, no historical background—about his Nazi characters. He works not on our minds but on our senses.

If Amis bets the house on literary technique, Glazer bets the house on a certain restricted conception of cinematic technique. His ideas here might be vaguely Brechtian. The film wants to affect you physically. It begins with three minutes of darkness, under which swirling, vaguely choral music swells. (The music is composed by Mica Levi, who also did the score for Under the Skin.) We are being told, instructed, to listen. This is a film that, insofar as a film can, deprecates seeing; it is about what we don’t, or can’t, see.

When the initial darkness cuts abruptly to a shot of a sunny lakeshore—it’s a family picnic in the countryside—your eyes, especially if you are watching the film in a movie theater, automatically close to protect your pupils. You thus spend the first few moments of the film waiting for your eyes to adjust to the light—that is, not really seeing. A strategic disorientation. You are unable to properly take in the banal business of the picnic, the family in white, the harsh green of the trees. That the film continues with more banal business—Hedwig trying on a fur coat, and so on—again deprecates your moviegoer’s hunger to see. But Glazer can’t stick with it. His images start to become “beautiful”—that is, sentimental.

A tour of the Hösses’ garden: Glazer frames close-ups of flowers. Natural beauty, in such a place! Suddenly the naturalism turns abstract. The screen turns slowly red—the color of blood. On the soundtrack: screams of agony—vaguely Brechtian again. (Or perhaps Godardian: “Not blood, red,” Godard famously quipped when asked why there was so much blood in Pierrot le fou.) But really, this sequence is pure Romanticism—which is to say, pure kitsch. The hot heart of sentiment, subverting all that careful rigor.

If Amis is interested in equivocation (how we resolve cognitive dissonance), Glazer merely lapses into it. What are those cleaners at the Auschwitz museum telling us? (Nothing; they don’t speak.) Why are the Hösses doing what they’re doing? Mere rapacity? Hedwig, as presented here, is certainly rapacious; she is also, perhaps, an ideologue—though the closest we get to grasping this is when she tells Rudolf, during a marital spat, “Everything the Führer said about how to live is what we do. Drive east. This is our living space.” Glazer can’t venture too far into the question of ideology because ideology is context, and context is what he has renounced.

His reasons for doing so may have seemed unimpeachable. A film that’s “trying to be about now”: Are we all, like Rudolf and Hedwig, blocking out the screams of our victims? Well, it depends what you mean by “our victims.” In February, accepting the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film, Glazer said, “All our choices [during production] were made to reflect and confront us in the present. Not to say, Look what they did then, rather, Look what we do now. Our film shows where dehumanization leads, at its worst.” For Glazer, as his Oscars speech makes clear, The Zone of Interest is a film about “dehumanization,” which has “shaped all of our past and present,” and is therefore not so much about the Holocaust as it is about any and all situations in which “dehumanization” occurs—Glazer cited, in particular, “the victims of October the 7th in Israel or the ongoing attack on Gaza.” (For his pacifism Glazer was rewarded with vituperation: “Jew hatred won the day,” said the producer Ilana Wernick, and similar condemnations were made on social media and in the press in the days following his speech.)

Glazer’s reading of his own film has found wide support. Naomi Klein, writing in The Guardian, declared that most viewers of the film can, as they watch, “think of little but Gaza.” Klein’s impulse, like Glazer’s, is to liberate The Zone of Interest from historical embeddedness, to frame it as parable. We can understand the impulse, particularly if we feel, as many of us currently do, helpless to prevent an atrocity. But The Zone of Interest isn’t about feeling helpless to prevent an atrocity; it’s about the perpetrators of a specific atrocity. Nor is it really about “dehumanization,” because to illustrate dehumanization, first you have to humanize—and this is what Glazer doesn’t do.

His reptiles, says Naomi Klein, can teach us something about “the ways that genocide becomes ambient, the way those of us a little further away from the walls can block the images, and tune out the cries, and just…carry on.” Tuning out the brutal news from Gaza, or learning, painfully, to live with it: Is this in any way comparable to being the potentate of Auschwitz, or his wife? To answer this question, all you have to do is think about the differences between the Höss family and the average reader of The Guardian’s opinion pages. The problem with viewing the Holocaust through an “It can happen here” lens is that it isn’t happening here, not precisely. The point about the Holocaust is that it did happen, there—in a specific context, a context so complicated that we have an endlessly ramifying historiography about it and no single shared summation of its meaning. The point is also that it happened to specific people and was caused by specific people.

We happen to know quite a lot about certain of those people—including Rudolf Höss. Glazer told The New York Times:

I wanted to dismantle the idea of [the Hösses] as anomalies, as almost supernatural. You know, the idea that they came from the skies and ran amok, but thank God that’s not us and it’s never going to happen again. I wanted to show that these were crimes committed by Mr. and Mrs. Smith at No. 26.

Glazer could, perhaps, cite precedent for this view of the Hösses. The American prosecutor Whitney Harris, who interrogated Höss at Nuremberg, described him as “a normal person, like a grocery clerk.” On the other hand, some other observers—among them Rebecca West and Hannah Arendt—noted that to see the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg (or to see Eichmann in Jerusalem) was to see them stripped of power and facing death—to see them, in other words, precisely not as they were seen by their victims. West and Arendt knew that context was everything. At Nuremberg, Höss may have seemed like a grocery clerk, but he certainly didn’t seem like one at Auschwitz.

There is some question as to whether we can, in fact, understand Rudolf and Hedwig Höss as “Mr. and Mrs. Smith at No. 26.” We might be able to, if we allow that Mr. Smith was born in Baden-Baden in 1900; was the son of a tyrannical, devoutly Catholic father obsessed with a military conception of duty; was, in late adolescence, already a veteran of World War I; became, after the armistice, an active (and actively thuggish) member of a paramilitary organization (the Rossbach Freikorps), in which capacity he participated in the fatal beating of a schoolteacher; was, for this crime, sentenced to ten years in prison, of which he served five; became, after his release in 1928, involved in the proto-fascist agrarian nationalist movement; was, after the Nazis acceded to power in 1933, personally recruited into the SS by his friend Heinrich Himmler; was handpicked to help operate the first concentration camp at Dachau…

But we are, of course, no longer talking about Mr. Smith. We are talking about a man who presided over the murder of 1.2 million people, most of them Jews, and who believed, until the end of his life, that what he had done was right—who continued to assert that he was completely normal. Weeks before his death by hanging in 1947, Höss wrote in the closing lines of his autobiography, “Let the public continue to regard [the commandant of Auschwitz] as the bloodthirsty beast, the cruel sadist and the mass murderer…. They could never understand that he, too, had a heart and that he was not evil.”

If Glazer, in recreating the Hösses, wants us to look at Mr. and Mrs. Smith at No. 26 in a new light—potential killers!—then he is pointing us in the wrong direction. You can’t think about Rudolf Höss without thinking about three things: history, ideology, and psychology. The Zone of Interest renounces all three. Glazer’s razor cuts away too much. Reconstructing the Höss villa, filming with hidden cameras, compiling a six-hundred-page dossier on sound design: all of these things testify to an insistence on truth, or on the formal rigor that promotes truth. But these things also testify to a conflation of truth with fact, and to a view of things that mistakes juxtaposition for analysis.

You get the feeling, as you watch, that Glazer hasn’t so much dramatized Arendt’s thesis about the banality of evil as he has riffed expertly on its central terms. Banality and evil, side by side. But the fact of Nazi banality shouldn’t be where you end up. It should be where you start from. Glazer has taken the long way round to get us where we already were. As Golo Thomsen puts it at the end of Amis’s novel: “Who somebody really was. That was the zone of interest.” Glazer doesn’t tell us who the Hösses really were. Which means that he doesn’t tell us anything about who we are, either. All he does is rattle us. As if that could ever be enough.