THE TITLE OF the first volume of Charlotte Delbo's masterwork, Auschwitz and After, is straightforward: Aucun de nous ne reviendra. None of us will return. And yet, of course, some did. Scholars tell us that "Ausch witz"—the cultural symbol, synecdoche for the Holocaust—is in large part a result of the work and writings of those survivors. (What we know of Treblinka II, in contrast, depends largely on the testimony of perpetrators.) And yet, we know what Delbo means. In some sense, no survivor ever returns. The calendar of their life, whatever their future holds, dates from that single moment, that crossroads experience where they "lost the path that does not stray." Whatever was there before has been lost forever.
In this issue, we have the honor of offering our readers a one-act play by Charlotte Delbo (previously untranslated into English), precisely forty-five years after this magazine published her "Phantoms, My Companions," translated by the inimitable Rosette Lamont. This short play stages what was for Delbo that single moment: her final meeting, in a Nazi prison, with her husband and fellow Resistance fighter Georges Dudach, on the morning of his execution. Delbo herself was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrück. As Michael Rothberg and others have noted, Charlotte Delbo's experiences during World War II fueled her writing and social activism; for her, the lesson of Auschwitz was a lens used to examine the world and burn off its dross. We are grateful to Dr. Cynthia Haft for her work in translating the play, and even more for her ongoing dedication to the legacy of her godmother, Charlotte Delbo.
We all, I assume, share the oft-repeated sentiments of Elie Wiesel, that "Nothing, anywhere, can be compared to Auschwitz." And yet, this issue also brings to you a searing short story by Benjamin Abtan, founder and president of EGAM (European Grassroots Antiracist Movement). It will be hard not to measure the acquiescence of Abtan's Rwandan narrator—a mother and génocidaire on her deathbed, confessing her truth at last to her daughter—against the portrait of resistance shown by Delbo. Could there be a starker contrast to Delbo's "those who chose"?
And on a third front, we bring you eight new poems from Ilya Kaminsky, from his stunning new work-in-progress, Deaf Republic. One hardly needs to wonder why, for a poet born in Soviet Odessa, the ravages of history form warp and weft of the experience he brings to the page. Kaminsky's [End Page 6] poem sequence sketches a tale of love and war, in a jolting mix of marvels and brute realism. Not to be missed.
For those of us not cursed to live through interesting times (an ever-shinking category), life still reserves more than one crossroads to bear. Poems by Emily Fragos, Mary Morris, Jona Colson, and Lori Schainuck each commemorate loss, the catalyst to many a crossroad. Is there ever an age beyond which the loss of our parents doesn't orphan us?
In most lives, perhaps, the crossroads may be personal—and the essence of what individuates us. And, at times, inscrutable to others. Take Lara Ehrlich's portrait of a working mom's breakdown, which closes this issue, or, more precisely, rips it wide open. Or Jacinto Lucas Pires's "Gardener in a Swimsuit," translated with meticulous clarity by Dean Thomas Ellis, where another protagonist finds his crossroads on an actual road, in hitting an animal on the highway. Elsewhere, readers may find the beast sought after in Ruvanee Pietersz Vilhauer's "Mr. Roderigo's Identification Company" somewhat less sympathetic than that in Pires—or, for that matter, than the animal in Marilia Arnaud's "Miss Bruna" (translated by Ilze Duarte). In all three, nonetheless, it is the animal that defines the human, as is so often the case. Whether we are, in fact, all that human is the question posed by the great Argentine narrative portraitist Roberto Arlt—contemporary and peer-in-narrative to New York's Ashcan School. We have Sergio Waisman to thank for bringing him into English, and into our pages. Arlt's...