Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction

By Sara R. Horowitz | Go to book overview

8
Refused Memory

In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with
God and the Word was God. . . .
The Wo0rd was the true light that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world. . . .
The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we
saw his glory. . . .

-- John (1:1, 9, 14)

We had the chance to observe how the word became
flesh and how this incarnated word finally led to
heaps of cadavers.

-- Jean Améry, At the Mind's Limits

Sounding a counter-note to the mute figures of Shoah literature, primarily victims, novels about collaboration often feature spectacularly articulate and loquacious characters. Rather than relying on the conventions and encoded references of Nazi-Deutsch to selectively exclude from language certain unsavory facts, these consummate talkers develop a private lexicon and highly complex symbolic system that substitute for concrete events. The presence of these hyperfluent characters opens up a means of exploring the seductions of Nazism.

Hyperfluent characters dazzle the reader with displays of linguistic cleverness and verbal expertise. Their oral masterliness creates the linguistic texture of the novels they inhabit--novels such as Michel Tournier The Ogre and Günter Grass The Tin Drum. As these novels make clear, excessive talking represents not the antipode of muteness but its other face. The preternatural eloquence of hyperfluent characters distracts the reader from what remains excluded

-181-

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Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • 1- Introduction - The Idea of Fiction 1
  • 2- The Figure Of Muteness 33
  • 3- Voices from The Killing Ground 47
  • 4- The Mute Language Of Brutality 71
  • 5- The Reluctant Witness 95
  • 6- Muted Chords - From Victim to Survivor 109
  • 7- The Night Side Of Speech 157
  • 8- Refused Memory 181
  • 9- The Chain Of Testimony 217
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 245
  • Index 265
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