The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust

The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust

The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust

The Terror of Our Days: Four American Poets Respond to the Holocaust

Synopsis

"The Holocaust remains incomprehensible to the world at large and without a compelling claim on most people's lives. By contrast the term "Holocaust" occupies a central place in Jewish vocabulary, and it is kept current in American letters and film. This book reflects on and analyzes poetry by four contemporary Americans - Sylvia Plath, William Heyen, Gerald Stern, and Jerome Rothenberg - none of whom directly experienced the war of annihilation directed against European Jewry. For these poets, who must accommodate what they cannot ignore or deny, writing becomes a moral obligation as commemoration, catharsis, atonement, history, insistence on human sensitivities, resistance to brutalization, indifference, and flight from consequences." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

What was the Holocause? A historical phenomenon, the story of what happened to the Jews of Europe between 1933 and 1945? A psychological phenomenon, a study of how cruel people could be to one another if the restraints of ordinary civilization were removed? A political phenomenon, an example of a sick leader unifying most of his society by using others as scapegoats? A theological phenomenon, a series of events that forces us to examine the role of the Divine in human affairs? Or since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has the Nazi decimation of the children of Abraham become a metaphor for universal rather than particular tragedy? However we think of it, the Holocaust remains incomprehensible to the world at large and without a strong claim on most people’s lives. The implication of the horror and the darkness of such diabolic motives are beyond the human capacity to comprehend. Given the complexities of quotidian living people tend to avoid additional trauma.

The term Holocaust is rooted in the Hebrew word olah, the sacrifice that had been offered on the altar of the Temple in Jerusalem up until its destruction in C.E. 70. Not to be eaten as food, the olah was totally consumed by fire. While Elie Wiesel may not have actually coined the phrase, he was prominent in popularizing Holocaust as the term of choice to designate the Nazi assault against the Jews. In this usage, Holocaust is intended as a term to point specifically to the sufferings and intended genocide of European Jewry. More recently, the language of Holocaust has been appropriated by those who want to draw public attention to the crimes, abuses, and assorted sufferings that mar the quality of social . . .

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