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Reviewed by:
  • Lebensspuren: Autobiografik von Exil, Widerstand, Verfolgung und Lagererfahrung ed. by Konstantin Kaiser et al.
  • Pamela S. Saur
Konstantin Kaiser, Irene Nawrocka, Corina Prochazka, and Marianne Windsperger, eds., Lebensspuren: Autobiografik von Exil, Widerstand, Verfolgung und Lagererfahrung. Zwischenwelt 15. Vienna: Theodor Kramer Gesellschaft and Drava Verlag, 2020. 464 pp.

The informative, thought-provoking, and often moving collection of articles collected under the title Lebensspuren emerged from an international and interdisciplinary conference in Vienna in 2017. It contains twenty-seven diverse essays by interviewers, historians, literary researchers, filmmakers, and individuals with first- or secondhand knowledge of the experiences of Austrian victims and opponents of the Nazi regime.

Several pieces in the book's first segment, "Grundfragen autobiografischen Schreibens und der Forschung," discuss defining aspects of "Holocaust memoirs" as a distinct genre. In his article, Mark H. Gelber asserts that writing about traumatic experiences typically results in "wesentliche Lücken und Brüche," which may be "zeitliche, örtliche, linguistische, bewusstseins- und erinnerungsverwandte Brüche zwischen Erfahrung und schriftlicher Aufarbeitung" (22). Another contributor, Konstantin Kaiser, addresses difficulties writing about two-part lives. Many survivors, including his father, he contends, produce coherent and sequential accounts of their experiences of persecution and insecurity, but their reporting on life after the struggle to survive is over becomes episodic and anecdotal. In "Was ist eine gute jüdische Autobiographie?" Evelyn Adunka answers this question through interpretation of over twentyJewish memoirs. She writes, "Eine gute jüdische Autobiographie sollte das Leben des Autors bzw. der Autorin von der Kindheit an bis zum Zeitpunkt der Niederschrift schildern. Sie sollte die Aspekte jüdischer Identität in der Familie, Jugend und nicht nur in der Zeit der Verfolgung beschreiben. Sie sollte detailreich, selbstkritisch, ironisch und faktentreu sein und die politischen und ökonomischen Rahmenbedingungen [End Page 155] des beschriebenen Lebens nicht ausblenden" (57). Also included in the segment is Soonim Shin's piece on Jan Reemstma's assertions that autobiographies documenting Nazi terror constitute a new genre. Reemtsma asserts that suffering has long been a literary theme, but never before 1945 have victims of violence been authors of its portrayal and automatically been granted interpretive and moral authority.

The second segment presents "Vergleichende Ansätze," most of which feature two or more victims' or resisters' narratives. In one such study Sanna Schulte discusses the autobiographies, Wie eine Träne im Ozean by Manès Sperber and weiter leben by Ruth Klüger. Shulte asserts that autobiographies from the Nazi era display more insecurity and discontinuity than the traditional linear form of the genre. Their authors are less self-determined and independent. Neither God nor the self directs events, but more often chance or political and social forces. Moreover, past experiences of the life stories incorporate a "metalevel" of self-reflection on writing and remembering and on many strands of past and present. Influential are political issues from the time of writing as well as the past.

Regina Weber compares the autobiographies of two well-known Jewish scholars from Vienna, Egon Schwarz and Heinz Politzer. Both fled Nazi-ruled Vienna and lived in exile in several countries. After unhappy experiences abroad, Politzer in Jerusalem and Schwarz in South America (as an "involuntary adventurer," as he says), both eventually settled in the United States and became successful German professors. Despite rather similar life stories, Weber points to differences. Schwarz was more purposeful and determined in pursuing his life goals, while Politzer's course was "schwankend und von Unsicherheit geprägt" (221). Politzer suffered more, particularly from the loss of his homeland and estrangement from the literature and mythology of Western culture as well as from bitter disillusionment with Zionism.

In the third section of the book, "Monografische Annäherungen," thirteen articles are devoted to the lives and writings of individuals, several of them exile writers. While many of them did achieve personal adjustment and success as writers abroad, others, such Oskar Jellinek, a Viennese writer who resettled in America, suffered great difficulties. In her article, "Wien war gestorben" on Jellinek, his exile and his exile diaries, Kristina Mateescu opens with a quotation by Lion Feuchtwanger about writers in Jellinek's unhappy situation: "[Sie sind] so von innen her gebunden an die Inhalte und...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2327-1809
Print ISSN
2165-669X
Pages
pp. 155-158
Launched on MUSE
2021-10-21
Open Access
No
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