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Letter to the Editor To the Editor: I want to correct an error in my article “Yourcenar, et al.: Styron’s Sources for The Confessions of Nat Turner,” which appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Mississippi Quarterly. On p. 43 of that article I state that Styron took the central dilemma of his novel Sophie’sChoice. (1979) from an incident mentioned by Hannah Arendt in her book Eichmann in Jerusalem (1963). Styron gave Eichmann in Jerusalem as his source in an essay called “A Wheel of Evil Come Full Circle,” first published in the Summer 1997 issue of the Sewanee Review and reprinted in My Generation (2015), a volume of his collected nonfiction. Styron misremembered his source. He had the correct author but the wrong book. The incident was mentioned by Arendt not in Eichmann in Jerusalem but in The Origins of Totalitarianism (rev. ed. 1968), which Styron also read and which he calls “a great illumination” in “A Wheel of Evil” (My Generation 180). In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt mentions a Greek woman who was forced at the train platform at Auschwitz to choose which of her three children would be sent immediately to the gas chambers (452). In a footnote Arendt cites “Albert Camus in Twice a Year, 1947.” This reference is to an essay by Camus called “The Human Crisis,” published in the Fall-Winter 1946-1947 double number of a New York periodical called Twice a Year. It is appropriate that the ultimate source was Camus, a writer who exercised a strong influence on Styron from his second novel, Set This House on Fire (1960), through to the end of his career. MyspeculationsabouttheinfluenceofEichmanninJerusalemonThe Confessions of Nat Turner are still, as speculations, worth making. But the source of the incident that Styron fictionalizes in Sophie’s Choice was The Origins of Totalitarianism, not Eichmann in Jerusalem. This correction will appear in print in an article by Ira Nadel entitled “Odd Fellows: Arendt and Roth,” forthcoming in Studies in English Language and Literature. I am grateful to Professor Nadel for sharing information about Styron’s source with me in advance of the publication of his article. —James L. W. West III ...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2689-517X
Print ISSN
0026-637X
Pages
p. 397
Launched on MUSE
2020-01-28
Open Access
No
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