Max is described as a ‘historical fable’ which follows the story of Max, a child of Nazi Germany’s Lebensborn program. Told from his perspective, it starts from his journey from the womb in 1936 til the end of World War Two nine years later. While that sounds somewhat bizarre, Max’s narrative encapsulates the indoctrination of such children, starting with his warlike attitude about tearing his way through his mother and his worry that he might not meet the physical qualification to be considered a perfect Aryan specimen. It’s a deconstruction of propaganda from the perspective of someone who has been immersed in it from birth – before, even.
As he gets older, he can’t help but question things that don’t make sense, including his friend and brother-figure Lukas, who is a Polish Jew who can pass for Aryan. It’s typical ‘how can my enemy be so much like me?’ stuff, but the regularity of that particular trope’s use in no way take away from the powerful epiphany that such a realisation can bring about.
It reminded me a little of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (and was published after it, so may or may not have influenced Cohen-Scall) in the portrayal of World War Two through the eyes of a young boy. An insightful read about the harshness and pointlessness of war, and perhaps one that could prove to be quite relevant in today’s political climate.