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After Testimony

The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future

Edited by Jakob Lothe, Susan Rubin Suleiman, and James Phelan

Publication Year: 2012

After Testimony: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Holocaust Narrative for the Future collects sixteen essays written with the awareness that we are on the verge of a historical shift in our relation to the Third Reich’s programmatic genocide. Soon there will be no living survivors of the Holocaust, and therefore people not directly connected to the event must assume the full responsibility for representing it. The contributors believe that this shift has broad consequences for narratives of the Holocaust. By virtue of being “after” the accounts of survivors, storytellers must find their own ways of coming to terms with the historical reality that those testimonies have tried to communicate. The ethical and aesthetic dimensions of these stories will be especially crucial to their effectiveness. Guided by these principles and employing the tools of contemporary narrative theory, the contributors analyze a wide range of Holocaust narratives—fictional and nonfictional, literary and filmic—for the dual purpose of offering fresh insights and identifying issues and strategies likely to be significant in the future. In addition to the editors, the contributors are Daphna Erdinast-Vulcan, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, Anniken Greve, Jeremy Hawthorn, Marianne Hirsch, Irene Kacandes, Phillipe Mesnard, J. Hillis Miller, Michael Rothberg, Beatrice Sandberg, Anette H. Storeide, Anne Thelle, and Janet Walker.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press

Series: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

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pp. v-vi


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p. vii-vii

Figure 2 Bracha Lichtenberg-Ettinger, “Mamalangue—Borderline ...

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p. ix-ix

The editors and contributors owe their collaboration on this volume to the Centre for Advanced Study (CAS) at the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters in Oslo. The editors and many of the contributors were members of an international research project on narrative theory and analysis, proposed and led by Jakob and hosted and funded by CAS during the 2005–6 ...

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Introduction: "After" Testimony - Holocaust Representation and Narrative Theory

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pp. 1-19

In a few years, there will be no living survivors of the Holocaust. Although many commentators have acknowledged this fact, few have made sustained efforts to draw out its full implications. Will the disappearance of the last witness affect the way public discourse deals with the Holocaust? Will the Holocaust become, perhaps for the first time, truly “past history”? How will ...

Part I. The Powers and Limits of Fiction

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Chapter 1. Imre Kertész’s Fatelessness

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pp. 23-51

Imre Kertész is a Hungarian Jew who was born in Budapest on November 6, 1929. At age fourteen he was deported to the death camps along with hundreds of thousands of other Hungarian Jews, most of whom died in the camps. Like the hero of his novel Fatelessness, Kertész probably survived by lying about his age, since all those under sixteen were immediately gassed ...

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Chapter 2. Challenges for the Successor Generations of German–Jewish Authors in Germany

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pp. 52-76

In the course of the last twenty years the situation for writers who deal with the consequences of National Socialism in general, and the Shoah specifically, has changed considerably. In what follows I shall examine some narratives by three writers from the “successor generation” who, in spite of the fate of their families, have chosen to live their lives in Germany as Jewish–-...

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Chapter 3. Recent Literature Confronting the Past

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pp. 77-98

First, a few words about my title. I have chosen to speak of “recent” literature in order to avoid the word “contemporary.” The notion of the contemporary, of sharing the same time (whether the present time or the time of the event), remains open to question, and we shall in fact question it later via the opposition between the “news value” (actualité) of memory and “memorial ...

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Chapter 4. Performing a Perpetrator as Witness

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pp. 99-119

In an essay published two decades ago, before he had embarked on his authoritative two-volume study Nazi Germany and the Jews, the historian Saul Friedländer reflected on the “unease in historical interpretation” regarding the Holocaust and the Final Solution. Despite the enormous amount of work that historians had devoted to the subject, he noted, “an opaqueness ...

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Chapter 5. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Backward Narration in Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow

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pp. 120-139

As Susan Rubin Suleiman notes in her essay in this volume, historians and artists working on the Holocaust have recently been giving more attention to the difficult task of comprehending the psychology of the perpetrators. When undertaken by novelists, as Suleiman shows in her insightful analysis of Jonathan Littell’s Les Bienveillantes, this effort inevitably raises significant ...

Part II. Intersections/Border Crossings

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Chapter 6. The Face-to-Face Encounter in Holocaust Narrative

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pp. 143-161

In Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace the captured Pierre is brought in to be interrogated by the French General Davoust. The General is aggressive, accuses his captive of being a spy, and when Pierre gives his name asks: “What proof have I that you are not lying?” ...

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Chapter 7. Knowing Little, Adding Nothing

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pp. 162-178

Can the story of the victims who perished in the Holocaust be adequately told? Clearly, those who perished cannot tell their own stories. But according to Primo Levi, the question has a particular significance in connection with the Muselmänner, those victims of the Holocaust who were destroyed as human beings before they died biologically. “Even if they had paper and ...

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Chapter 8. “When facts are scarce”

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pp. 179-197

Basic premises of this volume are that soon there will be no eyewitnesses alive who can testify to the complicated and tragic series of events we group under the single words “Holocaust” or “Shoah” and, further, that something will be different because all eyewitnesses will be gone. A group of individuals who have been concerned about this issue for a long time are the offspring ...

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Chapter 9. Objects of Return

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pp. 198-220

At the end of Lily Brett’s 1999 novel, Too Many Men, Edek and his Australian- born daughter Ruth return one more time to Kamedulska Street in Lódz where Edek had grown up as a small boy and young man in the 1920s and 30s. They had already been there several times and, each time, had discovered additional objects that provided clues to Edek’s and his family’s ...

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Chapter 10. Narrative, Memory, and Visual Image

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pp. 221-246

One essential reason why the German–British author W. G. Sebald’s prose works are not only peculiarly unclassifiable but also unusually compelling is the way in which their textual surface is interrupted by uncaptioned blackand- white photographs and other visual images. This essay will explore how Sebald responds to the historical events of the Second World War and the ...

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Chaoter 11. Which Narrative of Auschwitz?

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pp. 247-268

The documentary Auschwitz: The Nazis and ‘the Final Solution’ was aired on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War. The main topics of the series are, first, the planning and building of the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz and, second, the perpetrators’ motives; the latter is part of an attempt to explain why Auschwitz was built ...

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Chapter 12. Moving Testimonies

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pp. 269-288

An older Jewish émigré was asked why he had joined a tour to Auschwitz, Majdanek, the Warsaw ghetto, and the Polish village whence he came. Why would he travel years later from his adoptive home in the United States to these Eastern European sites of killing, sickness, and survival? “‘The same reason I did the first time,’” he replied with a shrug, “‘I had to’” (Bukiet 129). Or consider an ...

Part III. The Holocaust and Others

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Chapter 13. From Auschwitz to the Temple Mount

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pp. 291-313

John Coetzee’s most memorable novel taught us that we are always Waiting for the Barbarians: identifying who and where they are is the best way of defining who we are. Aren’t we what is left over after the barbarian is subtracted or banished from our social order? But if we succeed, as C. P. Cavafy warns us, “what’s going to happen to us without barbarians? / They were, ...

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Chapter 14. The Melancholy Generation

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pp. 314-330

The state of Israel rose from the ashes of the Jewish people of Europe in the most literal and blood-chilling sense, out of a desperate need for communal survival, under the motto “never again.” But the first fifteen years which followed the establishment of the state were marked by a “pact of silence” that sealed off the present from the immediate past: the silence of those who ...

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Chapter 15. Fractured Relations

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pp. 331-349

In the concluding lines of André Schwarz-Bart’s novel A Woman Named Solitude (La mulâtresse Solitude, 1972), the narrator recalls the “humiliated ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto” while describing the site of a failed Caribbean slave revolt (Woman 150). Schwarz-Bart, who died on September 30, 2006, was a French Jew of Polish origin who lost his family in the Nazi genocide ...

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Chapter 16. Hiroshima and the Holocaust

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pp. 350-367

All narratives need to address the issue of beginnings and endings. During her adventures in Wonderland, Alice is given the advice “begin at the beginning, continue until you reach the end, then stop.” This seems simple enough, but what is a beginning? Where does a story really start? At what point can one become aware of the fact that an event constituted a ...


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pp. 369-372


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pp. 373-380

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270424
E-ISBN-10: 0814270425
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814251829
Print-ISBN-10: 081425182X

Page Count: 408
Illustrations: 5 images
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Theory and Interpretation of Narrative