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This article examines how Charlotte Delbo, a concentration camp survivor and resistance member, employs a structure of comparison in Les Belles lettres (1961) and in Mesure de nos jours (1971). In the former, Delbo recirculates letters about the Algerian War that were published in the French media between 1959-1961. In these letters, World War II is frequently invoked as a point of reference, setting up a structure of juxtaposition between it and the conflict in North Africa. While event and event are compared in Les Belles lettres, testimony and testimony are compared in Mesure de nos jours, a volume comprised of brief testimonial vignettes describing the process of reintegration in France after the Holocaust. Although Les Belles lettres is generically and thematically distinct from Mesure de nos jours, its composition offers insight into the ways that Delbo stages comparison as a process.
While the benefits and drawbacks of drawing comparisons between the Holocaust and other events have been subject to extensive debate, this article explores acts of comparison with regard to Holocaust literary testimony, a genre predicated on a certain degree of incomparability by virtue of its mission to communicate personal experience(s). Through a close-reading of juxtaposition and cross-reference in Mesure de nos jours, I argue that Delbo offers a conceptual apparatus for integrating disparate and conflicting recollections into a single continuous act of memory. I contend that the staging of contrasting dialogue in Mesure de nos jours not only accounts for, but builds contradiction and discrepancy into the form of testimony itself, thus allowing for difference to enrich, rather than diminish, what it means to bear witness.