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8 Refused Memory In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.... The Word was the true light that enlightens all men; and he was coming into the world.... The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory.... -John (1:1, 9, 14) We had the chance to observe how the word became flesh and how this incarnated word finally led to heaps of cadavers. -Jean Amery, At the Mind's Limits Sounding a counter-note to the mute figures of Shoah literature, primarily victims, novels about collaboration often feature spectacularly articulate and loquacious characters. Rather than relying on the conventions and encoded references of Nazi-Deutsch to selectively exclude from language certain unsavory facts, these consummate talkers develop a private lexicon and highly complex symbolic system that substitute for concrete events. The presence ofthese hyperfluent characters opens up a means of exploring the seductions of Nazism. Hyperfluent characters dazzle the reader with displays of linguistic cleverness and verbal expertise. Their oral masterliness creates the linguistic texture of the novels they inhabit-novels such as Michel Tournier's The Ogre and Gunter Grass's The Tin Drum. As these novels make clear, excessive talking represents not the antipode of muteness but its other face. The preternatural eloquence of hyperfluent characters distracts the reader from what remains excluded 181 182 Refused Memory from their engaging recitations: the murderous practices of the Third Reich.1 Their hypnotic words and loaded silences associate them with Hitler whom they come to represent, to critique and to parody.2 The narratives further connect hyperfluency and muteness with tropes of decay, excrement, and cannibalism, evolving in this a critique of certain language practices. The hyperfluent character benefits from an unacknowledged association with Nazism by constructing elaborate and complicated symbolic networks, through whose grid atrocity simply disappears. The narrative's engagement with the character's creative brilliance opens up a means of critiquing genius, of making art and the artist available for ethical and not merely aesthetic judgment. The presence of the genius-speaker serves as a touchstone to the crisis of art set off by the Shoah. In narratives about victimization and survival, the figure of the mute witness triggers the question of art's adequacy to "represent" the Holocaust, to speak out of and for the events of history. However, in narratives about collaboration, the hyperfluent character implicates art-the symbolic and artistic imagination-in the construction of Nazi genocidal ideology and practice. In so doing, it dislodges "art" from its place of privilege. Art, in this light, is treated neither as a neutral site unaffected by ideology and politics (as the glib actor featured in Klaus Mann's Mephisto asserts) nor a site of moral privilege where moral questions are seen as inappropriate. Rather than isolating art, separating it out of the spheres oflaw, philosophy, ideology, and behavior, the figure ofthe hyperfluent genius suggests a radical interrogation of the artistic imagination and its complicitousness in the construction of atrocity. This is superlatively illustrated in Michel Tournier's The Ogre, a novel about the life and secret writings of quirky and brilliant Abel Tiffauges during the war years. The novel traces the checkered life of Tiffauges, a self-proclaimed gentle ogre who inhabits simultaneously the seemingly incompatible realms of myth and history. Tiffauges has evolved an eccentric ideology to explain events in his personal life which he believes is bound up in some mysterious fashion with the events of history. He presumes that the external world configures itselfto reveal and accord with his inner reality. In childhood, his boarding school burns down the very day he faces severe punishment for a prank gone awry; later, the French entry into the Second World War saves him from a lengthy prison sentence for the rape of a young girl. Both crimes were falsely attributed to him. A social misfit in his native France, Tiffauges thrives in exile. As a French prisoner of war in Nazi Germany , he gradually penetrates the Nazi power circle. After his capture Refused Memory 183 by the Germans, Tiffauges manages, through a happy concatenation of events, to serve in succession as a forester's assistant, then as forester in Goring's private hunting estate, and, finally, as talent scout-that is, kidnapper-for a Napola (Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten), an elite paramilitary training school for young exemplars ofthe Nazi racial ideal, destined for the SS. The novel interweaves Tiffauges's private meditations as...

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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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