Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
First Edition Details
John Boyne, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. Oxford: David Fickling Books, 2006. 215 pp.
Social realist fiction*
We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.
Author of the Entry:
Krzysztof Rybak, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Elżbieta Olechowska, University of Warsaw, elzbieta.olechowska
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, S.Deacy@roehampton.ac.uk
, b. 1971
John Boyne was born in Dublin, Ireland. He studied English Literature at Trinity College in Dublin and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich. He has won awards for literature for children and young adults as well as for adults. He has written 15 novels, among which the most notable for children and young adults is The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (the novel won many prizes, including Irish Book Award Children’s Book of the Year, Irish Book Award People’s Choice Book of the Year, Bisto Book of the Year, Que Leer Award Best International Novel of the Year [Spain], Orange Prize Readers Group Book of the Year).
Bio prepared by Krzysztof Rybak, University of Warsaw, email@example.com
In 2008 the book was adapted into a film directed by Mark Herman and produced by BBC Films and Heyday Films. The film, starring such actors as Asa Butterfield (Bruno), Jack Scanion (Shmuel) and David Thewlis (Bruno’s father), is a more or less precise adaptation of the novel, although the character of Fury is absent, so the viewer is not exposed to the use of classical tradition present in the novel.
Arabic, Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Korean, Marathi, Norwegian, Polish, Portugal, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Sinhala, Slovakian, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese.
The story is about a German nine year-old boy named Bruno, who lives with his mother, father and older sister in Berlin. One day they are ordered by the father’s boss called ‘the Fury’ to move to the countryside. Bruno is not fully aware what his father’s job is, but he is obviously sad to leave his friends in Berlin and spend the near future outside the city. There, he sees through a window people in a fenced area–he asks his mother who they are, and his mother tells him that these people are simple farmers. But one day Bruno goes for a walk near the fence of the ‘farm’. On the other side he meets Shmuel, a boy in striped pyjamas, with whom he begins to talk about many things; they even play chess and ball through the fence. At one of their next meetings Bruno decides to cross over to Shmuel’s side of the fence, change into striped pyjamas and help the him find his lost father–the events that follow constitute the novel’s climax. An aware reader can spot the Holocaust story hidden behind Bruno’s naïve perception from the first pages. Bruno’s father is a Nazi soldier and his boss, called ‘the Fury’ (a children’s misheard version of the word ‘Führer’, Adolf Hitler’s title) sent him to work in Out-With (Bruno’s interpretation of ‘Auschwitz’, a place where the biggest Nazi concentration/death camp was located).
The novel presents a popular device of connecting Adolf Hitler’s title ‘Führer’ with Fury, one of the Furies, the Latin version of the ancient Greek chthonic deities of vengeance, the Erinyes (Ἐρῑνύες). The Latin common use of the word ‘furia’ means ‘rage, fury, frenzy’. This word play is also used in some translations, i.e. Dutch (‘Führer’/‘de Furie’), French (‘Führer’/ ‘le Fourreur’, similar to the French ‘fureur’ – fury), German (‘Führer’/‘der Furor’), Polish (‘Führer’/‘Furia’), Russian (‘фюрер’ [‘Führer’]/ ‘Фюрор’, similar to the Russian ‘фурор’ – fury).
Boyne, John, Transcript of Talk Given at Dublin City Libraries as part of the series ‛In Other Words… Irish Literature in Translation in Your Library’, 10 November 2010, available at www.dublincity.ie/story/john-boyne-transcript(accessed January 3, 2017).
Gilbert, Ruth, “Grasping the Unimaginable: Recent Holocaust Novels for Children by Morris Gleitzman and John Boyne,” Children’s Literature in Education 41 (2010): 355–366.
Gray, Michael, “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas: A Blessing or Curse for Holocaust Education?,” Holocaust Studies 20 (2014): 109–136.
Macguire, Nora, “»What Bruno Knew«: Childhood Innocence and Models of Morality in John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2006),” in Ciara Ní Bhroin and Patricia Kennon, eds. What Do We Tell the Children? Critical Essays on Children’s Literature, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012, 56–73.