Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction

Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction

Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction

Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction

Synopsis

Explores the connections between muteness and the complicated acts of survival, testimony, memory, and interpretation, through focused readings of Holocaust fiction by Kosinski, Wiesel, Tournier, Ida Fink, and others.

Excerpt

I remember at one time poets used to "poeticize" it is still possible to write verses it is also possible to do many other things

--Tadeusz Rozewics

Although it claims a vast and growing readership, Holocaust fiction goes against the grain. In the ongoing critical discourse about the Holocaust and its representation, the status of imaginative literature as a serious venue for reflections about historical events comes repeatedly under question. Holocaust fiction is seen by many readers as--at best--a weaker, softer kind of testimony when compared to the rigors of history, or--at worst--a misleading, dangerous confusion of verisimilitude with reality. Louis Begley, in reflecting on the connection of his novels to his personal experience as a child survivor, succinctly articulates what many readers find most problematic about the idea of Holocaust fiction: "To separate what is true from what is not would be like trying to unscramble an omelet" (Fein C10). But the word "fiction" as a synonym for "lies" poses it antithetically to truth and reflects negatively on the expressive possibilities of a particular literary form when applied to the world of actual events.

The present study presumes fiction as a serious vehicle for thinking about the Holocaust. The trope of muteness, predominant in Holocaust narratives of all sorts, functions in fiction deliberately and explicitly to . . .

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