Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Synopsis

Since World War II, French and Francophone literature and film have repeatedly sought not to singularize the Holocaust as the paradigm of historical trauma but rather to connect its memory with other memories of violence, namely that of colonialism. These works produced what Debarati Sanyal calls a "memory-in-complicity" attuned to the gray zones that implicate different regimes of violence across history as well as those of different subject positions such as victim, perpetrator, witness, and reader/spectator. Examining a range of works from Albert Camus, Primo Levi, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Paul Sartre to Jonathan Littell, Assia Djebar, Giorgio Agamben, and Boualem Sansal, Memory and Complicity develops an inquiry into the political force and ethical dangers of such implications, contrasting them with contemporary models for thinking about trauma and violence and offering an extended meditation on the role of aesthetic form, especially allegory, within acts of transhistorical remembrance. What are the political benefits and ethical risks of invoking the memory of one history in order to address another? What is the role of complicity in making these connections? How does complicity, rather than affect based discourses of trauma, shame and melancholy, open a critical engagement with the violence of history? What is it about literature and film that have made them such powerful vehicles for this kind of connective memory work?

As it offers new readings of some of the most celebrated and controversial novelists, filmmakers, and playwrights from the French-speaking world, Memory and Complicity addresses these questions in order to reframe the way we think about historical memory and its political uses today.

Excerpt

This book is about how literature and film can bear witness to violence and atrocity by bringing together ostensibly different histories through a reflection on complicity. Complicity is a word typically used to mean participation in wrongdoing, or collaboration with evil, and yet it is also an engagement with the complexity of the world we inhabit. the Latin root of complicity, complicare, “to fold together,” conveys the gathering of subject positions, histories, and memories that are the subject of this investigation. in a time of unpre ce dented connection with other peoples and histories, complicity and solidarity may be two sides of the same coin. the recognition of complicity— of our place in a historical fold, but also of the folds that bring diverse histories into contact— is a challenging task. It requires us to consider our sometimes contradictory position within the po liti cal fabric of a given moment, as victims, perpetrators, accomplices, bystanders, witnesses, or spectators. It demands an awareness of the past’s reverberations in the present, an attunement to the unpredictable affinities between disparate . . .

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