By Ruth Franklin
What's the distinction among writing a unique concerning the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives in regards to the Holocaust have a distinct legal responsibility to be 'truthful'--that is, devoted to the evidence of history?
Or is it alright to lie in such works?
In her provocative examine A Thousand Darknesses, Ruth Franklin investigates those questions as they come up within the most vital works of Holocaust fiction, from Tadeusz Borowski's Auschwitz tales to Jonathan Safran Foer's postmodernist kinfolk background. Franklin argues that the memory-obsessed tradition of the previous couple of many years has led us to mistakenly concentrate on testimony because the simply legitimate type of Holocaust writing. As even the main canonical texts have come less than scrutiny for his or her constancy to the proof, we have now overlooked the basic position that mind's eye performs within the construction of any literary paintings, together with the memoir.
Taking a clean examine memoirs through Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, and reading novels via writers similar to Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, W.G. Sebald, and Wolfgang Koeppen, Franklin makes a persuasive case for literature as an both very important automobile for figuring out the Holocaust (and for memoir as an both ambiguous form). the result's a examine of massive intensity and variety that gives a lucid view of a frequently cloudy field.
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Additional info for A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction
Miłosz, in The Captive Mind, describes this final stage of his career: For all their violence and precision of language, his articles were so dull and one-dimensional that this debasement of a gifted prose writer stirred my curiosity. He was certainly intelligent enough to understand that he was wasting his talent. In conversation with several literary authorities whose word determines a writer’s place in the official hierarchy, I asked why such measures were being applied to him. . ” No one makes him write articles,” came the reply, “that’s the whole misfortune.
Okay, Jew, come on up and eat,” Tadek replies. ” It can be no accident that the high-level prisoners occupy the top bunks; their exalted position contrasts sharply with that of the Jews lying in excrement in the hell down below. Borowski was lucky in another way as well: he was able to pass letters to his fiancée in the women’s camp, and even occasionally to see her. The first time, Kott writes, was when Borowski was sent to the women’s camp to pick up the corpses of infants. Tuśka’s head was shaved, and her body was covered with scabies.
I doubt that I can stop you on the intellectual slope down which you are heading. ” The circumstances of Borowski’s suicide left the doors wide open for speculation about his motives. ” But this does not really explain anything, since by the year before his death it was already far too late for Borowski to avoid compromise. Two weeks before Borowski’s suicide, according to Kott, Czesław Mankiewicz, an old friend of his who had previously been tortured by the Gestapo, was arrested by the Polish Security Service.