John Boyne

{EN} The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

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1. “But when they asked Bruno what his father did he opened his mouth to tell them, then realized that he didn’t know himself. All he could say was that his father was a man to watch and that the Fury had big things in mind for him. Oh, and that he had a fantastic uniform too.”

2. The new house, however, stood all on its own in an empty, desolate place and there were no other houses anywhere to be seen, which meant there would be no other families around and no other boys to play with, neither friends nor trouble. […] But there was something about the new house that made Bruno think that no one ever laughed there; that there was nothing to laugh at and nothing to be happy about.

3. ‘Some people make all the decisions for us.’

4. “All Gretel’s unpleasant friends seemed to enjoy nothing more than torturing him and said nasty things to him whenever Mother or Maria were nowhere in sight. […] So one good thing about not being in Berlin any more was the fact that none of them would be around to torture him.

5. “About twenty feet further along from the garden and the flowers and the bench with the plaque on it, everything changed. There was a huge wire fence that ran along the length of the house and turned in at the top, extending further along in either direction, further than she could possibly see. The fence was very high, higher even than the house they were standing in, and there were huge wooden posts, like telegraph poles, dotted along it, holding it up. At the top of the fence enormous bales of barbed wire were tangled in spirals, and Gretel felt an unexpected pain inside her as she looked at the sharp spikes sticking out all the way round it.”

‘It is a nasty-looking place, isn’t it?’ agreed Bruno.
‘I think those huts have only one floor too. Look how low they are.’
‘They must be modern types of houses,’ said Gretel.
‘Father hates modern things.’
‘Then he won’t like them very much,’ said Bruno.

6. “Everywhere they looked they could see people, tall, short, old, young, all moving around. Some stood perfectly still in groups, their hands by then-sides, trying to keep their heads up, as a soldier marched in front of them, his mouth opening and closing quickly as if he were shouting something at them. Some were formed into a sort of chain gang and pushing wheelbarrows from one side of the camp to the other, appearing from a place out of sight and taking their wheelbarrows further along behind a hut, where they disappeared again. A few stood near the huts in quiet groups, staring at the ground as if it was the sort of game where they didn’t want to be spotted. Others were on crutches and many had bandages around their heads. Some carried spades and were being led by groups of soldiers to a place where they could no longer be seen. […] And one final thought came into her brother’s head as he watched the hundreds of people in the distance going about their business, and that was the fact that all of them—the small boys, the big boys, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncles, the people who lived on their own on everybody’s road but didn’t seem to have any relatives at all—were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pyjamas with a grey striped cap on their heads.”

7. “Since arriving at Out-With and their new house, Bruno hadn’t seen his father.”

8. “Bruno could make out every word because there had never been a man born who was more capable of being heard from one side of a room to the other than Father. […] He felt sad that Father had not come up to say hello to him in the hour or so that he had been here, but it had been explained to him on many occasions just how busy Father was and that he couldn’t be disturbed by silly things like saying hello to him all the time.”

9. ‘Did you do something bad in work? I know that everyone says you’re an important man and that the Fury has big things in mind for you, but he’d hardly send you to a place like this if you hadn’t done something that he wanted to punish you for.’ […] ‘Well, I don’t think you can have been very good at your job if it means we all have to move away from a very nice home and our friends and come to a horrible place like this. I think you must have done something wrong and you should go and apologize to the Fury and maybe that will be an end to it. Maybe he’ll forgive you if you’re very sincere about it.’

10. ‘Ah, those people,’ said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. ‘Those people… well, they’re not people at all, Bruno.’

11. ‘Don’t make it worse by thinking it’s more painful than it actually is.’

12. “She sat down sadly in one of the armchairs and looked at Father, shaking her head as if he were a huge disappointment to her. […] When Grandmother had something to say she always found a way to say it, no matter how unpopular it might prove to be.
[…]’That’s all you soldiers are interested in anyway,’ Grandmother said, ignoring the children altogether. ‘Looking handsome in your fine uniforms. Dressing up and doing the terrible, terrible things you do. It makes me ashamed. But I blame myself, Ralf, not you.’
[…] ‘A patriot indeed!’ she cried out. ‘The people you have to dinner in this house. Why, it makes me sick. And to see you in that uniform makes me want to tear the eyes from my head!’ she added before storming out of the house and slamming the door behind her.

13. “What exactly was the difference? he wondered to himself. And who decided which people wore the striped pyjamas and which people wore the uniforms?”

14. “And it’s funny that when you think of all the times the soldiers go over there—and he had even seen Father go over there on many occasions—that none of them had ever been invited back to the house.”

15. “The one thing Bruno tried not to think about was that he had been told on countless occasions by both Mother and Father that he was not allowed to walk in this direction, that he was not allowed anywhere near the fence or the camp, and most particularly that exploration was banned at Out-With. With No Exceptions.”

16. “Bruno had read enough books about explorers to know that one could never be sure what one was going to find. Most of the time they came across something interesting that was just sitting there, minding its own business, waiting to be discovered (such as America). Other times they discovered something that was probably best left alone (like a dead mouse at the back of a cupboard).”

17. “The boy was smaller than Bruno and was sitting on the ground with a forlorn expression. He wore the same striped pyjamas that all the other people on that side of the fence wore, and a striped cloth cap on his head. He wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks and his feet were rather dirty. On his arm he wore an armband with a star on it.[…] His skin was almost the colour of grey, but not quite like any grey that Bruno had ever seen before. He had very large eyes and they were the colour of caramel sweets; the whites were very white, and when the boy looked at him all Bruno could see was an enormous pair of sad eyes staring back.

18. “‘I like the way it sounds when I say it. Shmuel. It sounds like the wind blowing.’
[…] ‘Bruno,’ said Shmuel, nodding his head happily. ‘Yes, I think I like your name too. It sounds like someone who’s rubbing their arms to keep warm.’
[…]’There are dozens of Shmuels on this side of the fence,’ said the little boy. ‘Hundreds probably. I wish I had a name all of my own.’

19. “I mean I’m surprised, that’s all. Because my birthday is April the fifteenth too. And I was born in nineteen thirty-four. We were born on the same day.'”

20. “‘It’s so unfair,’ said Bruno. ‘I don’t see why I have to be stuck over here on this side of the fence where there’s no one to talk to and no one to play with and you get to have dozens of friends and are probably playing for hours every day. I’ll have to speak to Father about it.’

21. ‘Poland,’ said Bruno thoughtfully, weighing up the word on his tongue. ‘That’s not as good as Germany, is it?’
Shmuel frowned. ‘Why isn’t it?’ he asked.
‘Well, because Germany is the greatest of all countries,’ Bruno replied, remembering something that he had overheard Father discussing with Grandfather on any number of occasions. ‘We’re superior.’

22. “Bruno felt a strong desire to change the subject because even as he had said the words, they didn’t sound quite right to him and the last thing he wanted was for Shmuel to think that he was being unkind.”

23. ‘And every time we left the house, she told us we had to wear one of these armbands.’
[…] ‘No one’s ever given me an armband,’ said Bruno.
‘But I never asked to wear one,’ said Shmuel.
‘All the same,’ said Bruno, ‘I think I’d quite like one. I don’t know which one I’d prefer though, your one or Father’s.’

24. ‘Of course there were doors,’ said Bruno with a sigh. ‘They’re at the end,’ he repeated. ‘Just past the buffet section.’

25. ‘You haven’t tried living in my house,’ said Bruno. ‘For one thing it doesn’t have five floors, only three. How can anyone live in so small a space as that?’ He’d forgotten Shmuel’s story about the eleven people all living in the same room together before they had come to Out-With, including the boy Luka who kept hitting him even when he did nothing wrong.

26. ‘I’ve never spoken to him,’ said Bruno immediately. ‘I’ve never seen him before in my life. I don’t know him.’
Lieutenant Kotler nodded and seemed satisfied with the answer. Very slowly he turned his head back to look at Shmuel, who wasn’t crying any more, merely staring at the floor and looking as if he was trying to convince his soul not to live inside his tiny body any more, but to slip away and sail to the door and rise up into the sky, gliding through the clouds until it was very far away.

27. “Bruno thought for a moment that he was going to be sick. He had never felt so ashamed in his life; he had never imagined that he could behave so cruelly. He wondered how a boy who thought he was a good person really could act in such a cowardly way towards a friend.”

28. ‘I don’t feel anything any more,’ said Shmuel.

29. ‘It is called Out-With,’ he protested.
‘It’s not,’ she insisted, pronouncing the name of the camp correctly for him.
Bruno frowned and shrugged his shoulders at the same time. ‘But that’s what I said,’ he said.

30. “Gretel sighed and shook her head. ‘With the other Jews, Bruno. Didn’t you know that? That’s why they have to be kept together. They can’t mix with us.’

31. “There was one part of him that remembered that he had loved his own life back there, but so many things would have changed by now.”

32. ‘Well, if that’s the case,’ said Bruno, ‘and if I had a pair of striped pyjamas too, then I could come over on a visit and no one would be any the wiser.’

33. ‘Of course,’ he said, although finding Shmuel’s papa was not as important in his mind as the prospect of exploring the world on the other side of the fence. ‘I wouldn’t let you down.’

34. “It was almost (Shmuel thought) as if they were all exactly the same really.”

35. “You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be, she always told me. I suppose that’s what I’m doing, isn’t it? Pretending to be a person from the other side of the fence.'”

36. “Shmuel smiled too and the two boys stood awkwardly together for a moment, unaccustomed to being on the same side of the fence. Bruno had an urge to give Shmuel a hug, just to let him know how much he liked him and how much he’d enjoyed talking to him over the last year. […] Shmuel had an urge to give Bruno a hug too, just to thank him for all his many kindnesses, and his gifts of food, and the fact that he was going to help him find Papa. Neither of them did hug each other though, and instead they began the walk away from the fence and towards the camp.”

37. “He looked down and did something quite out of character for him: he took hold of Shmuel’s tiny hand in his and squeezed it tightly.”

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