This essay draws on critical theories of post-Holocaust testimony and postmemory in conjunction with the emerging sociological concept of “empathetic identification” to investigate the implications of trauma healing in Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces. The novel features two protagonist narrators—Jacob Beer, a child survivor of the Holocaust, and Ben, a child of Holocaust survivor parents—each acknowledging the moral imperatives to remember the painful past of the Holocaust as well as the need to envision the possibility of coming to terms with the horrors of the past. Contrary to Holocaust literature that focuses on the irredeemable breakdown in the psyche, Fugitive Pieces makes it the central motivating aim to ponder the complex and bewildering experience of healing. With two memoirs—Jacob’s and Ben’s—each addressing the traumatic memory for the dead and to the living, Fugitive Pieces is characteristically structured as a model of the witnessing process, a process that aims to move beyond the isolation imposed by trauma. As a theoretical starting point in my reading of Fugitive Pieces, I turn to the psychoanalytical theory of testimony and postmemory—especially the works of Dori Laub and Marianne Hirsch— to examine how testimony in association with empathetic identification can help sustain life after massive trauma.


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pp. 50-71
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