Voicing the Void
Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction
Publication Year: 1997
Published by: State University of New York Press
The Idea of Fiction
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Although it claims a vast and growing readership, Holocaust fiction goes against the grain. In the ongoing critical discourse about the Holocaust and its representation, the status of imaginative literature as a serious venue for reflections about historical events comes repeatedly under question. Holocaust fiction is seen by many readers as-at best—a weaker, softer kind of testimony when compared to the ...
The Figure of Muteness
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The desire to fix the facts of the Holocaust, for once and for all, grows more urgent as the event fades further and further into the past. While time erodes the remnants of brutality and extermination, survivors of Nazi genocide push against the limits of language and imagination to revisit—in mind or in body—the deathcamps that once constituted their nightmarish world. With eyewitnesses still among us ...
Voices from the Killing Ground
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"What madness is it that drives one to list the various kinds of ''Yizkor, 1943," as the Nazis systematically liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto. Written on the "Aryan side" of Warsaw, Auerbach's lament for the ghetto Jews represents one piece of a vast project to document Jewish life and its brutal destruction. The "madness" that drove Auerbach ...
The Mute Language of Brutality
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In The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski utilizes the perspective of a mute protagonist to put words to something usually kept outside the boundaries of language: the experience of a self undone by atrocity, told from the perspective of the undone self. As an object of ongoing atrocity, the protagonist's narration comes from outside the linguistic system, outside of the self-defining and world-defining power of words. ...
The Reluctant Witness
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In Peter Morley's documentary film, Kitty: Return to Auschwitz, Kitty Felix Hart returns to the concentration camp where she had been incarcerated thirty-three years earlier. Against the backdrop of present—day Auschwitz, Morley films Hart's struggle to describe her experiences there to her adult son who accompanies her. Hart participates in Morley's film for both a public and a private purpose. She returns to ...
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Tadeusz Rozewicz's 1947 poem, "The Survivor," inspired by his experiences in the Polish underground movement during its struggle against the Nazi invasion, moves from seeming triumph to ironic despair. While the protagonist of The Painted Bird struggles to survive, as Kosinski explains in his Notes, "because he cannot do otherwise, because his is a total incarnation of the urge for self-realization and ...
The Night Side of Speech
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Of all the weapons in the Nazi arsenal, the most deadly by far was the spoken word. In view of the brutalities of the Third Reich, this bald formulation may well strike one as a perverse overstatement. Yet the obsession of Nazi leadership with public speeches and radio broadcasts, with slogans and chants, with word coinage and euphemism, prevents our dismissing it as mere intellectual construct. While the survivors of ...
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Sounding a counter-note to the mute figures of Shoah literature, primarily victims, novels about collaboration often feature spectacularly articulate and loquacious characters. Rather than relying on the conventions and encoded references of Nazi-Deutsch to selectively exclude from language certain unsavory facts, these consummate talkers develop a private lexicon and highly complex symbolic system that ...
The Chain of Testimony
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After a long hiatus, the narrator of Ida Fink's short fiction "A Scrap of Time" reaches into "the ruins of memory" to narrate the story of her city's "first action"—that is, the first roundup of Jews for mass slaughter. A Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust as a child in Poland (we never learn how), she offers as testimony her recollection of what happened to her and to others on that day. She introduces her ...
Page Count: 276
Publication Year: 1997
Series Title: SUNY series in Modern Jewish Literature and Culture