Writing after Hitler: The Work of Jakov Lind

By Andrea Hammel; Silke Hassler et al. | Go to book overview

10
Gender, Individualism and Dialogue:
Jakov Lind’s Counting My Steps and
Ruth Klüger’s weiter leben

ANDREA HAMMEL

EXTREME experiences unleash unstable perceptions of time. Born on 10 February 1927, Jakov Lind has experienced - as Stella Rosenfeld put it - ‘a career in life and literature [which] is both unique and yet exemplary for an entire generation which had come under the same crossfire of history that had threatened to silence him before he had written his first line’ (Rosenfeld 1971:42). Growing up as a Jew in 1930s Vienna, escaping to Holland as a boy and surviving the last year of the war on a river barge with false Dutch papers inside Germany, he feels that these years were spent on a different time scale than the earlier or later part of his life. In the first volume of his autobiography Counting My Steps, written in 1967, he argues ‘J-L. [for Jakov Lind] was seventeen. J.O. [for Jan Overbeek, his assumed Dutch identity] was eighteen. In 1944 I was thirty-five years old, which makes me fifty-eight now’ (CMS 124).

Ruth Klüger’s autobiography weiter leben was published in 1992. In the first chapter she writes:

Es ist unsinnig, die Lager räumlich so darstellen zu wollen, wie
sie damals waren. Aber fast so unsinnig ist es, sie mit Worten
beschreiben zu wollen, als liege nichts zwischen uns und der Zeit als
es sie noch gab. (Kluger 1992: 78)

It is senseless to represent the camps physically as they were then.
But it is nearly as senseless to portray them with words as if nothing
happened between us today and the time when they existed.1

-177-

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