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1 Introduction I remember at one time poets used to "poeticize" The Idea ofFiction it is still possible to write verses it is also possible to do many other things - Tadeusz Rozewics Although it claims a vast and growing readership, Holocaust fiction goes against the grain. In the ongoing critical discourse about the Holocaust and its representation, the status of imaginative literature as a serious venue for reflections about historical events comes repeatedly under question. Holocaust fiction is seen by many readers as-at best-a weaker, softer kind of testimony when compared to the rigors of history, or-at worst-a misleading, dangerous confusion of verisimilitude with reality. Louis Begley, in reflecting on the connection of his novels to his personal experience as a child survivor, succinctly articulates what many readers find most problematic about the idea of Holocaust fiction: "To separate what is true from what is not would be like trying to unscramble an omelet" (Fein CIO). But the word "fiction" as a synonym for "lies" poses it antithetically to truth and reflects negatively on the expressive possibilities ofa particular literary form when applied to the world of actual events. The present study presumes fiction as a serious vehicle for thinking about the Holocaust. The trope of muteness, predominant in Holocaust narratives of all sorts, functions in fiction deliberately and explicitly to 1 2 Introduction raise and explore connections and disjunctures among fictional constructs, textual omissions, and historical events. Writers of Holocaust-centered fiction, like Begley, speak enigmatically of the fictionality oftheir work, simultaneously resisting and embracing this generic categorization. While diminishing the historical authority oftheir work, fictionality frees them from adhering to a certain kind ofexactitude or fidelity, in order to attain a different kind ofexactitude. The complexities ofHolocaust fiction figure importantly not only in the critical discourse about the Holocaust but also within the fictional works themselves. The unravelling ofthese considerations are central to my exploration of muteness. In a letter to the New York Times Book Review, Art Spiegelman takes great pains to insist that his cartoon opus, Maus I and II, not be classified as "fiction" on the Times "best seller" list: "to the extent that 'fiction' indicates that a work isn't factual, I feel a bit queasy." Originally serialized in successive issues of RAW, an avant garde commix magazine edited by Spiegelman and his wife, Franc;oise Mouly, Maus utilizes humanoid animals to depict the life and times of Vladek Spiegelman, Art's father and a survivor of Auschwitz. Two separate but intertwined narratives unfold: Vladek's story of suffering and survival in the past and Art's story ofhis troubled relationship with Vladek in the present, which, by the end ofMaus, also becomes past. Spiegelman's Holocaust book blurs the boundaries of genre in multiple ways. The commix format mixes narrative with graphic representation in the progression of line-drawn panels, utilizing a medium Spiegelman describes as "without pretensions to art"! (Dreifus 34), to enact a "modest" genre of Holocaust art, born of history, remembrance, and comic strip drawings. Graphically, Maus alternatively presents itself, on the one hand, as transparent vehicle for representing the past, replete with diagrams of hideouts and detailed sketches of barracks and bunkers and, on the other hand, as self-consciously contrived artifice, with self-referential depictions of Art in the act of drawing. In addition, within the parameters of the commix, Maus shifts ground constantly between biography and autobiography: Vladek's autobiography , Art's biography ofhis father, Art's autobiography, the father's and the son's biographies of Vladek's wife Anja. As Vladek's autobiography , Maus depicts the survivor speaking his remembrances into a tape recorder, whose transcript the son faithfully reproduces in the vehicle ofthe comic strip. As Art's biography ofVladek, Maus repeatedly represents the son's agonizing over the aesthetically and ethically appropriate ways to represent his father, the Nazi genocide, and the historical and contemporary milieux. As Art's autobiography, Maus interposes Introduction 3 the constant presence of the tape recorder mediating between father and son, an emblem ofthe Holocaust memories that come between them and also constitute the plane oftheir relationship. As Anja's biography, Maus offers spare and fragmentary traces of her life in conversations between her husband and son, whose remembrances clearly shape and perhaps distort her representation. Absent but repeatedly evoked are Anja's missing journals, represented as straightforward memoirs written with the intent ofinforming her son about her life. Fidelity to his father's...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781438407074
Related ISBN
9780791431290
MARC Record
OCLC
42855116
Pages
276
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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