A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

By Ruth Franklin | Go to book overview
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6
Child of Auschwitz: Imre Kertész

I was stupid enough to encourage him to write it down.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded.

I suppose I really didn’t know.

“It’s fine the way it is,” he continued, “shapeless and bloody, like a
placenta. But once I write it down, it becomes a story. Discerning editor
that you are, how would you assess a story like that ?”

I held my tongue.

“Come on, now,” he urged, “out with it.”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“The hell you don’t,” he fumed. “Look here, I submit to you a piece
concerning how, with the cooperation of a bunch of thoroughly decent
people, a child is born in Auschwitz. The Kapos lay down their clubs and
whips, and, moved to the core, they lift the wailing infant on high. Tears
rise to the eyes of the SS guard.”

“If you put it like that, then of course…”

“Huh?” he urged. “Huh?”

“Well…kitsch,” I said. “But it can also be written in other ways,” I
added hastily.

“It can’t. Kitsch is kitsch.”

“But it’s what happened,” I protested.

That’s precisely the problem, he explained. It happened, yet it’s still not true.

—from Liquidation

-121-

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