Mischling
by Affinity Konar
Discussion Questions:
1. How did you experience this novel? Was it overly gruesome, or did you find rays of hope by the end?

2. Mischling has generated a fair amount of comment by reviewers who have difficulty accepting Affinity Konar's beautiful prose. There is a sense that her poetic writing masks, even separates readers from facing, the horror of Mengele's Zoo. A couple of reviewers mention a famous pronouncement by German philosopher Theodor Adorno in 1949: "after Auschwitz, to write poetry is barbaric." What do you think? Is it immoral to write so poetically about such barbarous actions? Or is Konar's writing a way for us to bear witness to events that are otherwise too terrible to describe and read about?

3. Talk, if you can bear to, about Mengele. How do you come to grips with his monstrosity? How does Mengele eventually die?

4. What about Stasha and Pearl? How do they support one another? How are they alike (aside from appearance) and how do they differ? Consider, especially, their diametrically opposed coping mechanisms.

5. In the twins' narrations, were you able to discern whether they were recounting dreams or suffering hallucinations as a result of Mengele's injections?

6. The children in the Zoo are asked to call Mengele "Uncle Doctor." How does Stasha, in particular, perceive his occasional kindness and at other times his acts of viciousness?

7. What about Dr. Miri and the role she plays? As a Jew, she is wracked by guilt over the surgery she performs in Mengele's Zoo. What is her choice—does she have any? Is it possible to justify her participation in the horrors of Auschwitz?

8. What else do readers learn about the larger world of Auschwitz, which the children hear through gossip?

9. Before handing over her two girls, Pearl and Stash's Mama tells Mengele that Stasha has an imagination. What role does imagination play as a survival tool? By the novel's end, Stasha says emphatically: "I wanted the death of my imagination more than anything. It had no place in this world after war." Is she right? Could her imagination ever offer solace again?

(Discussion Questions by LitLovers)


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