Horror and the Absence of Redemption
Only God can guide us in the fog, which seems to move with
us; and God seems to have deserted us.
— BRAM STOKER, Dracula
I died in Auschwitz but no one knows it.
— CHARLOTTE DELBO, Auschwitz and After
Those who have survived traumatic events know something
that the rest of us don't (yet) know: the world is a dangerously
unpredictable place. It is the belief in a safe, predictable world
that is irrational—a belief necessary for daily functioning, but an
— SUSAN BRISON, letter to the editor, New
York Times Magazine, March 21, 1999
After her release from Auschwitz, Charlotte Delbo led a long, productive, and (by the way these things are usually judged) successful life. But in her review of the years of horror and later in her superb book, Auschwitz and After, success or, indeed, positive renewal in any substantial form is not the point she makes either for herself or for her fellow survivors. Rather, as the epigraph above suggests, one does not really survive horror even though life may continue or resume in some so- called normal fashion. Something radical has intervened; one has be