Neutrality, yes it is a word Switzerland likes to wave around like a flag of honour. The truth is rather more dismal I’m afraid.
What they call neutrality I call collaboration, what they call being an objective observer I call turning a blind eye to the atrocities going on. The Swiss closed their borders to the Jews, the Swiss helped the criminals to escape and the Swiss are still sat on illegal war gains.
Money, art and artefacts belonging to the victims of WW2 and hidden by so-called neutral Switzerland. Yeh, so much for sitting on your fake laurels and praising yourselves for being such outstanding citizens of the world. Switzerland: synonymous with sanctimonious.
In The Gustav Sonata the horrific events of the Second World War are still influencing the people and their day-to-day lives. Anti-Semitism is still rife, albeit in a subtle way and yet often more insidious in its nature. This is definitely apparent when it comes to Emilie. Gustav finds it hard enough to maintain friendships without his mother weeding out his friends based on their religious beliefs.
Gustav strikes up an unlikely friendship in pre-school with a lonely little boy called Anton Zwiebel. The two of them connect, and despite the occasional argument, they have a friendship that lasts many decades.
Essentially their friendship is the main focus of the story or rather the denial of the emotional attachment between the two of them. In essence the moral of the story is, if you aren’t true to yourself and what you feel, you will never truly be at peace, content and happy.
For me The Gustav Sonata had a certain Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum) feel to it. The little boy who lives inside his head, whilst he battles the injustices around him and fights to survive in a world that doesn’t care whether he is there or not. The relationship between Gustav and his mother is a one-sided one. Emilie can’t seem to get over the traumatic experiences in her past. She feeds and clothes her son, but emotionally she is stunted and Gustav suffers for it. As a child he filters this information in a way which is more comfortable and less hurtful for his own sanity.
Even without the complex and emotional relationship between Anton and Gustav, and the story of discovery of self, it is an interesting read. It’s possibly a book that may fall under the radar. Hopefully it won’t.