An Eye for an Eye

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

AN EYE FOR AN EYE is a factual account of survival, first of the body, then of the soul. Sack introduces Lola, a gentle school girl transformed by Nazi persecution into a ruthless avenging angel; Pinek, torn between bitterness and his desire to do good; Chaim, steely-eyed and heartless; and Shlomo, a singer, storyteller, and cold-blooded murderer.

Jews who had suffered though the Holocaust were made bureaucrats and prison wardens as eastern Europe was de-Nazified. Except that they were built to contain Germans instead of Jews, these prisons were virtually indistinguishable from Hitler’s concentration camps both in form and purpose. Germans were rounded up and imprisoned indiscriminately. They succumbed by the thousands to typhus and torture, were beaten to death, or simply were executed.

Yet AN EYE FOR AN EYE is also about redemption, and the author describes how some eventually found a way out of the system and their own consuming hatred. Lola escapes with her Russian lover and Pinek abandons his post as Silesian security chief, while Chaim and Shlomo remain unrepentant, even in old age. This is a difficult book that challenges one’s sympathies. Although it is easy to understand how the persecuted may become persecutors themselves once the tables are turned, it is not all that easy to forgive them for it. AN EYE FOR AN EYE asks hard questions about the meaning and consequences of hatred.