By Ruth Franklin

What's the distinction among writing a singular in regards to the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives in regards to the Holocaust have a different legal responsibility to be 'truthful'--that is, devoted to the proof of history?
Or is it ok to lie in such works?

In her provocative research 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 kin heritage. Franklin argues that the memory-obsessed tradition of the previous few many years has led us to mistakenly concentrate on testimony because the purely legitimate kind of Holocaust writing. As even the main canonical texts have come less than scrutiny for his or her constancy to the evidence, now we have overlooked the fundamental function that mind's eye performs within the construction of any literary paintings, together with the memoir.

Taking a clean examine memoirs via Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, and reading novels via writers corresponding to Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, W.G. Sebald, and Wolfgang Koeppen, Franklin makes a persuasive case for literature as an both important motor vehicle for realizing the Holocaust (and for memoir as an both ambiguous form). the result's a research of colossal intensity and diversity that gives a lucid view of a regularly cloudy field.

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Additional info for A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

Sample text

There is nothing artistic about it, since it was written in haste and to order,” he wrote to Tuśka’s uncle, the editor of a literary journal, about the book. ” After his return to Poland in June 1946, Borowski continued to publish stories on what he called “camp themes,” many just a few pages long, which were collected in 1948 as Kamienny świat (Stony World). Some of these were based on his experiences in the German camps; others were intended to demonstrate how “concentration camp reality” persisted into the postwar period.

Of course, there is no mention of any of this in the letters home, composed with the knowledge that the authorities were reading every word. A single cryptic comment—“I’m happy that Tuśka often sees her husband”—is all that he will dare. But the story “Auschwitz, Our Home” reconstructs the letters that Borowski sent to his beloved, which describe a particularly tranquil period when he was training to become an orderly at the Auschwitz hospital—a position highly preferable to hard labor. The inmates who have experienced Birkenau depict Auschwitz as a place not far from paradise: the distinction here is between “Auschwitz I,” the camp’s administrative headquarters, and “Auschwitz II/ Birkenau,” the much larger and better-known extermination camp.

One of the most notorious examples is an exchange in “Auschwitz, Our Home” in which another prisoner proudly describes to the narrator “a new way to burn people”:—the heads of four children are placed together and their hair is set on fire, so that their bodies become a kind of torch. Lawrence Langer writes that “the casual exchange . . ” In the story’s last line, which follows directly upon the passage about the burning children, this tone falters. Here the “fourth wall” breaks down; the author appears to address the reader in his own voice.

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