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Literature / Götz and Meyer

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From November 1941 to April 1942, a truck drove every day from a concentration camp in Belgrade to what were supposedly better accommodations for the inmates they transported. Poisonous gas was pumped into the rear compartment, and when the inmates were dead, the bodies were removed and disposed of. Most records of this time have been lost, but it is known that five thousand people were murdered this way, and it is known that the truck was always driven by the same two people, Götz and Meyer.

In the present, a Jewish schoolteacher in Serbia is watching his life slowly disintegrate. As he consoles himself in filling in his family tree, left incomplete by all the deaths and losses from World War II, he finds the records of the camps, and of Götz and Meyer. His attempts to understand what led to their actions will drive him past his breaking point.

Probably one of the most famous Serbian novels outside its country of origin (not that that's saying much.) Written by David Albahari in 1998, only a few years after the Balkan War and its accompanying massacres.

This book provides examples of:

  • Black Comedy
  • Les Collaborateurs: Some of the prisoners agree to bury the corpses. They think this will get them sent to a camp in Norway rather than killed themselves. They could not be more wrong.
  • Everybody's Dead Dave: Out of sixty-seven relatives of the narrator, six are still alive.
  • Filler: Intended as a sign of the narrator's mental state—to avoid concentrating on the horrors of what happened, he keeps going off on tangents about things like whether the truck's broken axle was caused by an irregular distribution of weight when people started to cough and collapse.
  • Gas Chamber
  • Mad Artist: How the narrator considers Götz and Meyer, who "made poetry out of corpses."
  • A Million Is a Statistic: Inverted—according to the narrator, Götz and Meyer could only kill so many people if they thought of each person as not being a real person, but a number. A statistic equals a million. (As his revenge, he thinks up incredibly detailed hypothetical backstories for them, but assigns each to "Götz, or maybe Meyer," robbing them of their own individuality.)
  • No Name Given: The narrator.
  • Pet the Dog: In the narrator's imagination, one of the two gave chocolate to the children at the camp.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: The narrator visualizes the duo as this, but can't quite grasp how the concept works, given the things they did.
  • Sanity Slippage: The narrator gets crazier and crazier as he tries to understand what happened.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: A teenage boy figured out what was going on and stole a gas mask. He got shot trying to get out of the truck after everyone else was dead.