Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations [1° ed.] 0367442973, 9780367442972

Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations analyzes individual multi-generational frameworks o

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Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations [1° ed.]
 0367442973, 9780367442972

Table of contents :
Half Title
Series Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Table of Contents
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Holocaust Traumata and Their Generational Legacies and Emanations
Generations: Structural Frameworks
The Dialogical Nature of (Collective) Trauma
Trauma Theory: Concepts, Implications, Outlooks
Moving Trauma Theory into the Generation of Postmemory
Living in the Aftermath: Forms of Trauma
Insterstices between Individual and Cultural Trauma
Trauma as Connective Force
Structure of the Book
1 Narrating the Inexpressible: Wiesel’s Night as a Testimonial Model
God on the Gallows: Doublings of Faith
Trauma in the Mirror: Identities in the Face of Trauma
Paradigmatic Accuser: Connecting Audiences
Witness in Search of Meaning and Silence
Surviving and Remembering: Representing Trauma in the Present
2 The Truth of Fiction in Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies
Narrated Identities: Fictionalization of the Self and Its Actual Facts
Negotiating Fact and Fiction in Meaningful Representations for an Audience
The Creation of Meaning and Its Passing Ownership
(R/De-)Construction of Narrative and Real Identity
Asserting Control by Narrative Means
3 Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata: Cheryl Pearl Sucher’s the Rescue of Memory
Past and Present: Making a Stance of One’s Own
Photographs and Other Stories: Past Negatives and Healing Trauma
Generational Connections: Approaching First- and Second-Generation Trauma
First-Hand Trauma in Second-Generation Writing
Emancipation through Embedding: Establishing a Meaningful Presence of the Past
Meaningful Incorporation of Past Trauma into Present Narratives
4 Encaustic Memories: Second-Generation Assertions in Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke
Traumatic Impositions: Connecting First- and Second- Generation Trauma
Encountering the Ghosts: Generational Connections to the Past
Close Contact: Breaking Down Past and Present Distinctions
Imposing Trauma: Between Filial Rage and Generational Forgiveness
Individual and Cultural Authorship over Trauma Stories
Damaged Goods: Navigating Parental Trauma and One’s Own
Exclusion from and Inclusion into Parental Narratives
Remembering, Letting Go, and Incorporating the Past into the Present
Progressive and Tragic Narrative Outlook in Overcoming Trauma
5 Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks in Horn’s The World to Come
Generational Temporal Connections
Choosing Narrative, Choosing Life
Linguistic Connections to Translated Pasts
Storied Bridges: Connecting Present, Past, and Future Worlds
Meaningful Narratives: Paper Bridges between (Past) Trauma and (Present) Meanings
Connecting Worlds: People as Stories
Creating a Future from the Past
Stories as Narrative Intersections between Generations
6 When Memory Fails: Fiction as History in Everything is Illuminated
Narrative Trajectories: Limitations of Fictional Meaning Creation
Generational Positions: Midrashic Engagements and Circular Historicity
(Re)constructing the Past: Interrelations between the Place and Its Stories
Language and Silence: Connective Phantasmagorias of Meaning
Workable Terminologies: Integrating Past-Tensed Facts
Fictional Records: Tracking Meanings between the Past and the Present
Narrative Realities: Permeating Events and Stories
Imaginative Representation: Memory’s Narrative Dependencies
Generational Catharsis in Dyadic, Generational Encounters
Conclusion: The Future of Trauma

Citation preview

“A major achievement, bringing subtle analysis of Holocaust trauma to bear on the narratives that construct the collective discourse of its meanings. Wilhelm’s fine analysis helps us understand the continuing impact of the Shoah on ‘the memories of the future’ generated by second and third generation witnesses.” —Professor Emeritus Murray Baumgarten, University of California, Santa Cruz and Founding Director, The Dickens Project “In his penetrating analysis Thorsten Wilhelm binds the remembrance of the past to a remembrance for the future. With every day that separates us from the Holocaust his work becomes more pressing. Wilhelm has summoned each of us to a testimony in which our very humanity is at stake.” —Professor David Patterson, Hillel Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas “The often invoked ‘Never again!’ relies on the continuous, while also impossible, representation of the horrors and the ongoing trauma of the Holocaust. This study is an acute and highly intelligent exploration into the trajectory of literary efforts to conceptualize, record, and narrate the memory of the experience of trauma beyond the generation of direct survivors.” —Dr. Margit Peterfy, Senior Lecturer in American Studies, University of Heidelberg

Holocaust Narratives

Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations analyzes individual multigenerational frameworks of Holocaust trauma to answer one essential question: How do these narratives change to not only transmit the trauma of the Holocaust – and in the process add meaning to what is inherently an event that annihilates meaning – but also construct the trauma as a connector to a past that needs to be continued in the present? Meaningless or not, unspeakable or not, unknowable or not, the trauma, in all its impossibilities and intractabilities, spawns literary and scholarly engagement on a large scale. Narrative is the key connector that structures trauma for both individual and collective. Thorsten Wilhelm has been a Baden-Württemberg Lector at Yale University since 2016. He teaches German language, culture, and writing, and is interested in pedagogy with a focus on cultural learning and the production of cultural perceptions. He is a peer reviewer for Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German and book reviewer for CALICO.

Routledge Studies in Comparative Literature

This series is our home for cutting-edge, upper-level scholarly studies and edited collections. Taking a comparative approach to literary studies, this series visits the relationship of literature and language alongside a variety of interdisciplinary and transnational topics. Titles are characterized by dynamic interventions into established subjects and innovative studies on emerging topics. Cryptic Subtexts in Literature and Film Secret Messages and Buried Treasure Steven F. Walker Narrating Death The Limit of Literature Edited by Daniel K. Jernigan, Walter Wadiak and W. Michelle Wang Spanish Vampire Fiction since 1900 Blood Relations Abigail Lee Six The Limits of Cosmopolitanism Globalization and Its Discontents in Contemporary Literature Aleksandar Stević and Philip Tsang Romantic Legacies Transnational and Transdisciplinary Contexts Shun-liang Chao and John Michael Corrigan Holocaust Narratives Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations Thorsten Wilhelm To learn more about this series, please visit https://www.routledge.com/ literature/series/RSCOL

Holocaust Narratives Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations

Thorsten Wilhelm

First published 2020 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2020 Taylor & Francis The right of Thorsten Wilhelm to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this title has been requested ISBN: 9780367442972 (hbk) ISBN: 9781003087540 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by codeMantra

To Waltraud Bub, who moved on before this work was finished


Foreword List of Abbreviations

xiii xv

Generations: Structural Frameworks 3 The Dialogical Nature of (Collective) Trauma 5 Trauma Theory: Concepts, Implications, Outlooks 8 Moving Trauma Theory into the Generation of Postmemory 10 Living in the Aftermath: Forms of Trauma 12 Insterstices between Individual and Cultural Trauma 14 Trauma as Connective Force 17 Structure of the Book 18 1


Narrating the Inexpressible: Wiesel’s Night as a Testimonial Model God on the Gallows: Doublings of Faith 25 Trauma in the Mirror: Identities in the Face of Trauma 32 Paradigmatic Accuser: Connecting Audiences 34 Witness in Search of Meaning and Silence 37 Surviving and Remembering: Representing Trauma in the Present 41 The Truth of Fiction in Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies Narrated Identities: Fictionalization of the Self and Its Actual Facts 51 Negotiating Fact and Fiction in Meaningful Representations for an Audience 53 The Creation of Meaning and Its Passing Ownership 56 (R/De-)Construction of Narrative and Real Identity 60 Asserting Control by Narrative Means 65



x Contents 3



Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata: Cheryl Pearl Sucher’s The Rescue of Memory Past and Present: Making a Stance of One’s Own 74 Photographs and Other Stories: Past Negatives and Healing Trauma 78 Generational Connections: Approaching Firstand Second-Generation Trauma 81 First-Hand Trauma in Second-Generation Writing 85 Emancipation through Embedding: Establishing a Meaningful Presence of the Past 89 Meaningful Incorporation of Past Trauma into Present Narratives 93 Encaustic Memories: Second-Generation Assertions in Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke Traumatic Impositions: Connecting First- and SecondGeneration Trauma 100 Encountering the Ghosts: Generational Connections to the Past 103 Close Contact: Breaking Down Past and Present Distinctions 105 Imposing Trauma: Between Filial Rage and Generational Forgiveness 108 Individual and Cultural Authorship over Trauma Stories 110 Damaged Goods: Navigating Parental Trauma and One’s Own 111 Exclusion from and Inclusion into Parental Narratives 113 Remembering, Letting Go, and Incorporating the Past into the Present 115 Progressive and Tragic Narrative Outlook in Overcoming Trauma 118 Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks in Horn’s The World to Come Generational Temporal Connections 125 Choosing Narrative, Choosing Life 130 Linguistic Connections to Translated Pasts 132 Storied Bridges: Connecting Present, Past, and Future Worlds 135 Meaningful Narratives: Paper Bridges between (Past) Trauma and (Present) Meanings 137




Contents  xi Connecting Worlds: People as Stories 138 Creating a Future from the Past 140 Stories as Narrative Intersections between Generations 142 6

When Memory Fails: Fiction as History in Everything Is Illuminated Narrative Trajectories: Limitations of Fictional Meaning Creation 149 Generational Positions: Midrashic Engagements and Circular Historicity 150 (Re)constructing the Past: Interrelations between the Place and Its Stories 152 Language and Silence: Connective Phantasmagorias of Meaning 155 Workable Terminologies: Integrating Past-Tensed Facts 158 Fictional Records: Tracking Meanings between the Past and the Present 162 Narrative Realities: Permeating Events and Stories 165 Imaginative Representation: Memory’s Narrative Dependencies 167 Generational Catharsis in Dyadic, Generational Encounters 169





Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations has been accepted as a doctoral dissertation at the English Department of the Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg. It has been a project for almost a decade, although its final stages have been completed within the past five years at Heidelberg. The first seeds for this endeavor to approach not only trauma, pain, loss, and despair but also understanding, transformation, and—yes—even healing, have been laid by Professor Mark Sandy’s incredibly engaging seminars on Jewish American Fiction at Durham University. Professor Sandy’s support, insight, and feedback have drawn me deeper and deeper into the intricate webs of meaning in Jewish History and Holocaust narratives. The circumstances during the research process, the texts and the circumstances under which I engaged with them, as well as the people to whom I explained and with whom I discussed the project have shaped greatly the years of my dissertational research at Heidelberg and Yale. Engaging with the suffering and trauma of the Holocaust—an event that I knew only from schoolbooks and talks by survivors—has been a vital and important experience. Experiencing my own—very small— traumata along the way, the reverberations of individual and collective trauma have resonated with me and spurned me on. With increasing temporal progression from the actual events, it is crucial that the process of witnessing and acknowledging the trauma by audiences expands to reach ever more people to continue remembrance and engage meaningfully with its legacies. Sadly, countless other examples of millionfold suffering, cultural trauma, and genocide are now apparent to humankind, but often going on still. I hope that endeavors such as Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations continue to form interventions in our understanding of these events and their eventual prevention through mutual understanding and respect. Holocaust Narratives: Trauma, Memory and Identity Across Generations would not have been possible without the engaged interest in and the unwavering support, advice, suggestion, and contextualization of Professor Günter Leypoldt, my advisor at Heidelberg University.

xiv Foreword While  advising me on my dissertation project, he helped me grow in unforeseen directions along with the work and its demands. To PD Dr Margit Peterfy of Heidelberg University, I also extend my gratitude for her insightful teaching, her unfailingly kind support, and her encouragement along the way. Professor Emerita Janice Carlisle of Yale University, through her time spent in reading and discussing chapters and segments of this work, has helped me articulate my own thoughts and see patterns in ways that I would not have managed without her. Professor Carlisle’s commitment to my completion of this project and its way to publication has been a steady rock for which I cannot be thankful enough. To the reviewers of the completed book, I would like to offer my very sincere gratitude for a plethora of valuable suggestions and constructive feedback that helped me conceive more clearly of many aspects. Special thanks go to Professor David Patterson of the University of Dallas, Texas, whose extraordinary engagement and dedication were expressed in many helpful remarks, constructive feedback, and kind support. Professor Murray Baumgarten of the University of California, Santa Cruz has my gratitude for his collegial support and encouragement on completing the dissertation and this book. It was the greatest pleasure and privilege to work with Jennifer Abbot, editor, and Mitchell Manners, editorial assistant, for whose exceptionally efficient, diligent, and supportive work I cannot be thankful enough. From proposal to finished book, Routledge’s editorial staff have excelled professionally. Finally, I might not have been able to work on this project without my family. My parents’ encouragement and my wife’s support even through the gloomier hours can only be mentioned without adequately conveying their full meaning.


For reasons of efficiency, the following primary works that are the basis for the analyses in the respective chapters are cited in abbreviated form throughout the book. EII N SHS TRM TWC WL

Jonathan Safran Foer. Everything Is Illuminated: A Novel. Penguin, 2002. Elie Wiesel. Night. Hill and Wang, 2006. Thane Rosenbaum. Second Hand Smoke: A Novel. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2000. Cheryl Pearl Sucher. The Rescue of Memory: A Novel. Scribner, 1997. Dara Horn. The World to Come: A Novel. W. W. Norton, 2006. Louis Begley. Wartime Lies: A Novel. Ballantine Books, 2004.

Introduction Holocaust Traumata and Their Generational Legacies and Emanations

In 1969, the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel wrote in Legends of Our Time that “some events do take place but are not true; others are— although they never occurred” (viii). Like his best-known work Night (1960), Legends of Our Time has been written in French and then translated into English. The original French title Le chant des morts— literally “the chant of the dead”—lends significance to Wiesel’s claim that his writings are born from silences and his intention to give voice to those who could never speak again. One year previously, the French writer Charlotte Delbo, in a short epilogue to her account of Auschwitz in None of Us Will Return, concluded “I am no longer sure that what I have written is true, but I am sure it happened” (128). Both writers point to the commonly perceived deep symbolic meaning and elusive experiential qualities of trauma as defying normal categories and complicating representation. This inherent tension between traumatic reality and its representation necessitates continued efforts to (re)approach the events for both survivors and secondary witnesses of a larger audience. Clearly, this process cannot be achieved by one individual or one generation; rather, it needs to form a transgenerational process of listening to and writing about other’s stories of trauma to reach fuller knowledge and meaningful significance. As the members of each generation position themselves around the Holocaust trauma, they also each establish a narrative around the events that pertain to their own contemporary needs, speak of their own past and present traumata, and contextualize them in relation to their forebears. This shared responsibility for the trauma and its remembrance with increasing distance to the events signifies differently within the generations, forming parts of the respective environments in which the writers move. I therefore emphasize that the trauma narratives are unique sui generis for each generation, but that they are also united in their endeavor to create meaning from the senseless deaths of millions of innocent people. While first-generation writers wrest meaning from their fragmented, traumatic experiences by continuously reapproaching them, the secondgeneration processes traumata and memories that the individuals have not experienced themselves. However, in addition to previous work

2 Introduction on second-generation trauma, I argue that the traumatic experience of having to work through this trauma often negates every experience the protagonists in the selected second-generation novels have of their own. This is a specific form of trauma that is unique to the second generation and should be viewed as a trauma in its own right. Members of the third generation build on a large corpus of engagement with Holocaust trauma, they are further—often feeling too far—removed from the direct traumatic impact, they personally experience the loss of the survivor generation, and they are deeply rooted in their U. S. American background. Using these unique perspectives on the Holocaust trauma, I stress in this book what Michael Rothberg in Multidirectional Memory calls in passing the “powerful creativity” (5) of trauma narratives. Rothberg asks how these narratives change to not only transmit the trauma of the Holocaust but also construct it. I take this a step further to ask, how this process adds meaning to what is integrally an event that annihilates clear-cut distinctions of meaning, and how trauma becomes a connector to a past that continues into the needs and necessities of the present. Traces of narrative can be found even in the absence of obvious narration: Members of the second or third generations seem to be traumatized by the present reality of a past event that they have not experienced. In my readings, I therefore accentuate what Marianne Hirsch, in establishing the theory of The Generation of Postmemory (2012), saw as the “evolving ethical and theoretical discussion about the workings of trauma, memory, and intergenerational acts of transfer” (1–2). From Elie Wiesel’s mythologization in Night and Louis Begley’s fictionalization in Wartime Lies (1991) via Thane Rosenbaum’s and Cheryl Pearl Sucher’s incorporation of parental pasts in Second Hand Smoke (1999) and The Rescue of Memory (1997), respectively, to Dara Horn’s and Jonathan Safran Foer’s exploration and construction of connections in The World to Come (2006) and Everything Is Illuminated (2002), respectively, the following chapters approach the texts as endeavors to lift the veil to see into the traumatic past to make sense of the memories of the future. These texts are, moreover, expressions of the need to connect to a trauma narrative that permeates the collectivity, its various discourses, and cultural manifestations. Without succumbing to relativism, one must consider the experiential quality of each individual’s own trauma and suffering in relation to the traumatizing event(s). This book focuses on discerning these formations when narratives transpose trauma into novelistic form in the belief that narrativization and fictionalization work toward coherence and meaning. The selected examples show that Holocaust trauma and its narratives have become what sociologist Jeffrey Alexander seminally called cultural trauma that reaches a large audience of even those who have no personal, temporal, or spatial connection to it. My concern is

Introduction  3 with the intergenerational trajectories of Holocaust trauma as it appears from, engages with, and transforms first-generation experience and the literary attempts of the second and third generations—the children and grandchildren of survivors—to incorporate the traumata into new narrative forms and their own imaginative—in both senses of the word— engagement with them. The elusiveness of trauma, meaning, and experience is a continual presence in the narratives and the discourses about them. Yet giving voice to the dead is a recurrent trope emphasized by writers as diverse as Elie Wiesel, Olga Lengyel, or Primo Levi. Lengyel’s Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz (1947) presents a much more scientific account than Wiesel’s symbolically laden Night. The account repeatedly offers the need to give voice to those who perished as the ultimate source of Lengyel’s will to survive. Levi, however, emphasized in The Drowned and the Saved (1986), his last book before his death, that, as a survivor, he could never convey the reality of Auschwitz (82–88). It is significantly this aspect upon which the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben in Remnants of Auschwitz (1999) elaborates his theory of the Muselmann as absolute witness. For Agamben, the experiential quality of the concentration camp as “the only true thing” forms an opposition to the “degree of unimaginab[ility]” (12). For Agamben, the “aporia of Auschwitz” as the “non-coincidence between facts and truth” constitutes the Muselmann as prototypical witness “at the ‘bottom’ of the human being” bearing witness from within “a single impossibility of seeing” (54). In the following, I endeavor to show, however, that writing about trauma helps to construct a constructive rather than destructive narrative for both the first- and the following generations. As a result, not only is knowledge passed on to an audience—something impossible for the Muselmann— but so also is responsibility to shape these shared narratives. Alan Gibbs underlines this impact on trauma “by the sufferer’s fantasies” (13) that, according to Susannah Radstone, turns memory into traumatic memory through that which “the mind later does to memory” (17).

Generations: Structural Frameworks I have thus far explained my endeavor in terms of a generational approach without problematizing this theoretically contested term. Aware of the danger of excluding groups or individuals or constructing legitimations by using generation as concept, I apply the term as a structural category instead of a labeling device. Although I analyze works by American Jewish authors with direct, familial ties to the Holocaust, I posit generation as fully “disengaged” from the establishment of “exclusive versions of cultural identity” (Rothberg 11), but as a means to creatively and meaningfully integrate Holocaust trauma and transmit its significance into the future.

4 Introduction Indeed, Avinoam Patt correctly summarizes that a plethora of specificities exists even within such seemingly smooth generational categories such as “first generation” (39–56), let alone second or third generation and beyond. The following analyses of first-, second-, and thirdgeneration works use a familial-personal connection to the Holocaust as one possible perspective among others. Without establishing a hierarchy, the genealogical-generational perspective of each generation shapes their narrative engagement with the trauma and the production of narratives that testify to the specific experiential quality rendered in individual works.1 Gary Weissman, criticizing the flaws of generational categorization in Holocaust trauma studies, debunks scholars’ use of “generational designations” as “the medium, engine, and saving remnant of Holocaust consciousness” (162) that creates exclusivity by proximity to the Holocaust in writers of the so-called second and third generation. Weissman advocates for opening prevalent generational categories. Nevertheless, personal ties—in whatever shape—still produce a powerful—yet admittedly not exclusive—drive to understand others’ trauma through what Norma Rosen distinguishes as possible sympathy and compassion for but the impossibility to feel the original suffering. “Anyone’s suffering,” Rosen concludes in Accidents of Influence (1992), “can be understood and felt only through one’s own suffering” (50).2 Rosen expresses the problematic root of secondary suffering through empathy for those who experienced and/or perished in the Shoah by which the following generations can be driven to overempathize with what others suffered. If indeed we view generational engagement with the Holocaust only from a perspective of generational legitimacy, we lose valuable aspects of the representation of trauma. It is vital to not understand my generational approach as what Rothberg terms “competitive memory.” Instead, I decidedly view the generational endeavors as “multidirectional,” namely “ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing” that are highly “productive” (3, original emphases) in their attempts to understand and represent the past traumata as meaningful narratives in the present. Both individual and collective identity are shaped through orientation in the discourse that shapes them. As such, the position within the ongoing dialogue of and about Holocaust trauma shapes one’s engagement with the original events, is “embedded in [the] social action” of “symbolic representation.” In analogy to Alon Confino and Peter Fritzsche’s endeavor, I attempt here to show how trauma “forms social relations” through its ongoing representations (5). Relevant in this light is Hannah Pollin-Gallay’s Ecologies of Witnessing (2018), in which she compares survivor testimonies from the Israeli–Hebrew, Yiddish–Lithuanian, and English–American contexts. She conceptualizes the idiosyncrasies that shape “ecologies” to include “ideology, poetic tendencies, ethos,

Introduction  5 mythology, material landscape, bodily practice, and the very mechanisms that allow people to organize and connect these” (2). PollinGallay analyzes what I conceptualize as first generation, but her astute formulations of the disparate ecologies from which and into which the witnesses testify form a powerful analogy to what I attempt in this book. I conceive “generation” thus as what could be termed a temporal and sociocultural umbrella for different ecologies. I focus explicitly on the English-American ecology and exclusively on written literary works. Trauma has turned into a seminally productive, identity-forming force for an evergrowing public; mere familial-generational categories are by now not encompassing enough to approach the cultural productions engaging with and growing from the Holocaust trauma. As we proceed in time, the generational concept becomes laudably and necessarily more inclusive and porous; it might soon be completely irrelevant to talk of generations in the plural as only one generation of postmemory emerges from the various reasons for connecting to the Shoah. For the purpose of this book, however, I focus on writers with direct or familial ties to the Holocaust trauma to analyze the dialogical nature of the cultural work of collective trauma as it influences the protagonists according to their unique relationship to the Holocaust while personal ties to the survivors still existed.

The Dialogical Nature of (Collective) Trauma I conceive, this dialogical nature as a “malleable discursive space” between the generations—or gradations of closeness to and interestedness in the original events and their traumata—that, through various engagements, (re-)narrations, and transpositions, that is, the “dialogical interactions with others,” manifests a cultural trauma narrative that is open to [and dependent on] continual reconstruction” (Rothberg 5). What for Geoffrey Hartman is the new (collective) “narrative that emerges through the alliance of the witness and the interviewer,” I term the dialogic nature of intergenerational (collective) trauma that can be performed only through such an alliance between the first and the following generations and the interaction of fact and fiction. To Hartman’s question, “Does the story create the listener or does the listener enable the story?” I take his answer that the “conditions of production involve an active audience” (153) as the point of departure in the following analyses to show how such active audiences are tangible from the first-generation onward. This dialogic relationship, following Dori Laub, catalyzes the relation between the work and its audience through the fundamental need for testifying to the experience of trauma as well as of listening to its narratives. “Genocide trauma,” Laub writes, “refuses knowledge because at its very core lies the complete failure of the empathic human dyad.

6 Introduction The executioner does not heed the victim’s plea for life; instead, he relentlessly proceeds with the execution” (“Reestablishing” 186). By extension, the production of narratives of one’s trauma becomes a forced but forceful means to reopen the conversation, to get the dyadic/dialogic function back. Already in 1992, Laub had conceptualized the relationship between witness and audience in which “the listener to trauma comes to be a participant and co-owner of the traumatic event” (57). For Laub, it is essential that “the indigestible fragments of traumatic sensations and affect” (“Reestablishing” 196) are narrativized and related to a listener who becomes a secondary witness to the trauma. In fact, the absence of this dyad turns the Holocaust into what Laub and Shoshana Felman, his colleague at Yale, paradigmatically coined as an “event without witnesses” (xvii). This often repeated, nowadays increasingly reinvented, statement should not be taken literally, but as a feature that prolongs the trauma and constitutes its refusal of understanding. As he makes clear in 2013: Human responsiveness came to be nonexistent in the death camps. A “Thou” responsive to one’s basic needs no longer existed. Faith in the possibility of communication died; intrapsychically there was no longer a matrix of two people, a self and a resonating other. This despair of being able to communicate with others diminished the victims’ ability to be in contact and in tune with themselves and to be able to register their own experience or reflect upon it. (186) Indeed, testimonial accounts repeatedly report attempts to reestablish this internal–external monologue. Pertinent examples would be Viktor Frankl’s concept of logotherapy; Primo Levi’s reciting pieces of literature during his forced labor; or Wiesel’s Talmud recapitulations, as well as his continued struggles with his God and faith in Night. From an intergenerational perspective, these buried meanings and connections become apparent as the individuals within the generations and the community of texts construct and draw on forms of collective memory to establish a framework for meaning. This “system of periodization,” Yael Zerubavel writes, “imposes a certain order on the past” (8–9). An order, as I will show in relation to Dara Horn’s The World to Come and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated, that provides a schema in which to rearrange, reinterpret, or recreate content. The following generations, as secondary witnesses, need to dialogically approach the trauma for working through and historical localization to occur. In this context, it is a dialogue that happens through and in texts between the past as it is remembered and as the present imagines it to have been. In this transmissibility of trauma through texts, I follow Amy Hungerford’s assertion that in trauma theory, pace Shoshana Felman

Introduction  7 and Cathy Caruth, texts are in themselves “traumatic experience” that becomes “transmissible from person to person through reading” (20). Renate Lachmann, too, attests the existence of a “space between texts” that, through its reference to other texts “produce[s] a tension.” Moreover, “the space of memory is inscribed in the text in the same way that the text inscribes itself in a memory space,” so that the “memory of a text is its intertextuality” (15). Texts form spaces for texts to be set in a dialogue with and draw on each other, either by complementing (continuing the story) or extending each other (finding gaps and interpreting them). The gaps of the earlier generation can be extended in texts by the following generations that pronounce these gaps, find formerly unknown gaps, and reformulate the borders of the gaps by reevaluation, reexamination, or reinterpretation. Monica Osborne—following eminent scholars such as Geoffrey Hartman, Gerald Bruns, Daniel Boyarin, or Michael Fishbane—lucidly argues for a scholarly approach that views such narrative engagements as Midrashic Impulse (2018) in the (trauma) literature. This impulse follows a treatment of narratives as instances of “reading” and “creating” (xvi) the past as a text whose gaps are laid bare and filled from the present standpoint. While we see first instances in the second generation writing of the likes of Rosenbaum and Melvin Jules Bukiet, it is third-generation writing that fully utilizes this form of midrashic engagement in their search for origins and roots beyond the Holocaust. The key feature of such “extensional language” is, according to Osborne, its nonrepresentationality (xvi). For Osborne, the lack of explicit representation allows careful readers to form stories, memories, and connections for themselves, and I would add that, in writing, the author does that, too. While in Sucher’s The Rescue of Memory and Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke the personal connection between parents and children is fraught with trauma, Horn’s and Foer’s narratives undertake to detect what Osborne calls “the fingerprints of someone whose story we can never presume to know” (xvi). Fragmentariness and gaps allow for the stylized production of individual and collective alternatives for these gaps and, hence, create connections between such fingerprints to trace them back to our own reality. This process, however, is necessarily lacking and incomplete and therefore opens up possibilities for the story to grow. There can never be a full identity of a past experience and its present recreation(s); the story “looks different every time it’s told” (Osborne xxiii). Both factual and fictional narratives become attempts to extend the versions of existing texts into the present moment in which they are believed to help us create meaning. Lawrence Langer distinguishes in this respect between the “[f]acts [that] we know because they happened” and the “fictions [that] we only imagine,” and he raises the question of what to do if some or all of the facts are unimaginable. Langer therefore calls on the concept of

8 Introduction “fictional facts,” which, according to him, “play such an important role in our response to and understanding of the Holocaust” (79). He emphasizes that in the absence of data one needs to create this imagination—or extension in Osborne’s terminology—of experience. Only in this way is it possible to approach understanding more closely. Collective trauma is an intricate fabric of forgetting and remembering. Exploring “this duality of the process of recovering and re-covering roots” (Zerubavel 9) characterizes the literary productions engaging trauma of one’s predecessors to embed new meanings in a collective narrative. Finally, it appears, the underlying processes and ongoing mechanisms of trauma are not only narrativized but also analyzed. Meanings and implications come to the fore that have been covered by a layer of traumatic hopelessness. In “The Social Construction of Moral Universals,” Jeffrey Alexander describes “these shifting cultural constructions” as “fatefully affected by the power and identity of the agents in charge, by the competition for symbolic control, and by the structures of power and distribution of resources that condition it” (10). The identity of the generations increasingly ceases to be grounded in the world of the camps and the traumata of the Holocaust. Other traumatic and nontraumatic stories taken from an infinitely rich and vibrant Jewish culture are included to a narrative to create identity. Thereby, the authors find new sources of power to engage with the tradition and tackle the trauma (narratives). Thus, the writer can organize and relate to the experiences, while the audience is able to connect imaginatively to the traumatic past that is the subject matter of the text. It is in this sense that trauma narratives become, to use Claire Colebrook’s expression, a “discursive event” (16). The survivors endeavor to produce a narrative that affirms cohesive sensemaking through a literary work.

Trauma Theory: Concepts, Implications, Outlooks As I analyze the intergenerational endeavors of dialogically working through a trauma by narrative means, I enter into and emerge from an ongoing and lively discourse in a very diverse field. By way of caution, however, “the language of trauma” (Luckhurst 63) should not turn into a static prescriptive marker. Because of the origin of trauma theory not only in (Freudian) psychoanalysis, but (especially) also in (Yale) deconstruction (Felman, Hartman, Caruth), 3 I use Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of cultural trauma extensively because it offers a constructive counter pole to the common deconstructionist view, especially since his work has not gained broader admission into literary trauma studies. Cathy Caruth has arguably done some of the most foundational work in her two most famous books: Trauma: Explorations in Memory (1995) and Unclaimed Experience (1996). Fundamentally, Caruth’s theory is

Introduction  9 one of absence and lack. In Unclaimed Experience, she conceptualizes trauma as a “breach in the mind’s experience of time, self, and the world” that is “experienced too soon, too unexpectedly, to be fully known and is therefore not available to consciousness until it imposes itself again, repeatedly, in the repetitive actions of the survivor” (4). From Caruth’s perspective trauma is, thus, an experientially incomplete experience, one that returns to haunt the survivor in the subconscious attempt to experience and understand it belatedly. As in Delbo’s and Wiesel’s conception, the hidden truth and the underlying nature of traumatic events are approached repeatedly in the aftermath of the actual events. For Caruth, the belated reenactment is a psychological function in understanding “that one survived” (64). The fascinating strength of Caruth’s arguments stems, as Roger Luckhurst tellingly attests, from the “aporia” (5) this belatedness poses in regard to the counterforces of (incomplete) experiencing. With the justified critical engagement with Caruth’s theories by scholars as, among others, Alan Gibbs and Sigrid Weigel, Caruth opens up the possibility for a continuous dialogue of the survivor with their trauma. However, it is vital that we do not use trauma theory in what Gibbs calls an “increasingly and programmatic critical prism” (2), but as a way to engage with the different voices of trauma as they resound meaningfully in their various audiences. In Caruth’s analysis of Torquato Tasso’s La Gerusalemme Liberata (1581), two functional moments are pertinent for my endeavor: First, the dialogue between the self and its other—of the individual and their own past. Second, the inherent quality of a trauma of being tied to another and their wound that may, thus, lead to “the encounter with another, through the very possibility and surprise of listening to another’s wound.” These narratives do not stand on their own; they are connected through the “voice of the wound,” (8) which links the generations and speaks to each in its specific way of the original trauma while attaining meaning within their respective contemporary contexts. In Wiesel’s and Begley’s texts (subjects of Chapters 1 and 2, respectively), the encounter with the wound initiates an agenda to transmit knowledge about the events and express not only one’s own (traumatic) experiences, but also those of the dead. The voice then travels through the conduit of fictionalization into a collectivity of postmemory. Sucher’s and Rosenbaum’s second-generation protagonists (the subject matter of Chapters 3 and 4, respectively) hear the wounded outcry of their afflicted parents. My analyses specifically contextualize their depictions of second-generation attempts to receive the trauma, incorporate it in their present lives, and carry both individual lives and past trauma into the future. Comparatively more located at the fringes of the literary field—Sucher is a journalist and essayist commuting between New Zealand and New York, Rosenbaum a lawyer who has become a political commentator about human rights and a novelist—these works

10 Introduction elaborate succinctly and nuancedly second-generation problematics. In contrast to Art Spiegelman’s canonical Maus (1980), which attempts to bear witness to the parental tale in a staged interview setting, these works regard the second-generation phenomenon itself. For the third generation (Chapters 5 and 6), the wound and voice are still acutely perceivable but enmeshed in the amnesia of people and places. Horn’s characters trace several wounds and voices through a network of narratives, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction or forgery. With these third-generation narratives, the generational trajectory opens up, showing that the traumatic voice has entered the cultural narrative by means of two generations worth of expression of trauma and their relationship to it. The trauma is still excruciating, is still frightening in its unknowability, but is also open to a wider, more imaginative engagement on the part of the following generations, and it allows for a greater capacity for emotional distancing. The tension between knowing and not knowing finds an outlet in imaginative fictionalizations of a past endowed with meaning not only for the collective, but also one directly for their own sense of identity. Third-generation fiction asymptotically approaches events that form different trauma narratives. These narratives, to be precise, are concerned with the ambiguous and fluid meanings of life events that span time and space to (re)appear for different individuals when they carry different meanings at their respective spatiotemporal points. Thus, these texts sum up the process of intergenerationally forming a collective trauma narrative and underline its valence as we move into the post-witness era. In the following analyses, I want to put emphasis on what Radstone calls “the complex processes of meaning negotiation that take place between texts and their various spectators/readers” (24, my emphasis). Writers of this era necessarily have to (re)invent aspects of life, history, and culture, and identity in relation to the Holocaust. The challenge is not only to find “an opening for the imagination in the historical record” (Reisner 59) but also to bridge the chasm left in the historical record and the ensuing gaps in the identity itself, at which meaning arises between linguistic emanation and theoretical explication. Focus on this intersection is also the basis of the following investigations into the diverse set of trauma narratives and their mediation by each generation. Trauma, arguably, both precludes and invites knowledge. Each individual narrative adds to the collective perception of trauma, which then reflects back on how the narrative presents itself.

Moving Trauma Theory into the Generation of Postmemory Even with critical voices such as Gibbs’ Contemporary American Trauma Narratives or Richard McNally’s Remembering Trauma making themselves heard, Caruth’s theories still remain foundational in

Introduction  11 literary trauma studies because of deeper symbolical revelations that appear through literary accounts.4 McNally—from clinical psychology— provides an argument that survivors of trauma have a clear and full understanding as well as a detailed memory of their traumatic experiences. Most importantly, he holds that full repression and forgetting of extremely traumatic experiences seem to be highly dubitable from a clinical point of view. Of course, McNally’s study arises from the socalled false memory debate about the recovery of early childhood abuse during psychotherapy. Nevertheless, the trauma is so shocking that the mind, although forming an all too harrowingly detailed memory of it, has trouble making sense of and producing meaning from it. Hence, the process of sensemaking needs to be ongoing and dialogic, a continuous repetition of the events with an audience that listens. Although trauma cannot result in a narrative that conveys the full meaning, it needs to be narrativized exactly because it precludes a fully elucidating narrative. In analogy to Delbo and Wiesel, I hold it to be vital to engage in an analysis that conceptualizes this crucial interrelationship between witness and audience and adopts a stance of not providing answers, but asking questions about the very act of witnessing itself and the relationship between writer and audience. I therefore explore the dialogic connection between the literary work that bears witness—both first- and second-hand—to the Holocaust trauma and the audience of other writers who are connected to the original trauma, but removed from it through a generational gap. This gap uncovers the seemingly unbridgeable divide between first-generation psychological trauma of an actually experienced event and the postmemorial trauma of being increasingly shut off from these events. The underlying trauma of Hirsch’s concept of postmemory stems from the inability to experience fully and still cope with the effects that overwrite the following generation’s own present engagements with the past. Hirsch’s concept denotes the intrinsic feeling of living in the aftermath of trauma, while remembering events of “cultural trauma of those who came before” not by their own experience, but “by means of stories, images, and behaviors among which they grew up.” It is crucial, in Hirsch’s conception, that the following generations’ relation to past trauma finds sufficient mediation and “imaginative investment, projection, and creation” (5, my emphasis). The generation of postmemory faces the dilemma to somehow take over and make sense of memories not their own. The key elements I will apply in the close readings of the following chapters are thus (1) the existence of a traumatic event to which one relates (2) through narratives and thereby (3) instantiates a cultural trauma that is constituted by the individual accounts but (4) functions on a collective level by means of a mediation of these cultural products. Put differently, the individual ecologies from which and into which the literary works are produced are connected by precisely those products and, through them, shape collective identity.

12 Introduction In order to ground themselves in the present and achieve a whole and stable identity, individuals must also attain a sense of a meaningful past that—including the trauma—can be used to shape a present narrative. Postmemory protagonists, as characterized in the selected fictional accounts, must necessarily overcome this immediacy of their progenitors’ past traumata. Such an incorporation of the past, as well as purposefully moving into the future from the present, is crucial to challenge their own present involvements: not only the Holocaust but also forgetfulness, fragmentation, their personal fears, and unrealized hopes. Secondgeneration writer and theorist Eva Hoffman, in this respect, proposes the following generations’ need “to unfreeze our vision of the past from the point of historical trauma and start exploring again the multifarious life before” (199). While this is essential for all following generations, it is specifically the third generation’s way to engage with traditions in writing about the event to make it part of their identities, by locating this landmark within a larger historical trajectory of a before and after.

Living in the Aftermath: Forms of Trauma The Holocaust recedes in time with and without memory growing dim. With the impending loss of direct (that is, face-to-face instead of audiovisual) testimony that has concerned second-generation writers such as Melvin Jules Bukiet in Signs and Wonders (1999), new forms of connectedness to and rootedness in collective narratives must be found. The necessities to preserve and carry on such narratives become more critical than they might have been at any previous point in time, yet they offer a reintroduction of history, tradition, and religion hitherto overshadowed by the smoking chimneys of Holocaust narratives. Victoria Aarons and her colleagues attest that third-generation writers “acknowledge a legacy of loss and accept an obligation to carry memory into the future” (7). This obligation is no longer as traumatic as it had been for the first, or especially, for the second generation. The second-generation accounts forming the basis of the following analyses are marked by features such as parental silence about their experiences on the one hand, and parental stories of the horrors told without hope or contextualization on the other. Moreover, the description of witnessing the parents’ futile attempts to start over again is combined with the self-imposed role as witness to the results of atrocities as well as to their parents’ survival. In Second Hand Smoke and The Rescue of Memory, the protagonists are members of the second generation for whom parental trauma poses a tremendous legacy that counteracts this yearning. The children not only bear witness to the trauma of the parents, but they also must “never forget!” in order to continue the knowledge of those who perished in the Holocaust to later generations and to ensure that the trauma may, at some point, actually be healed.

Introduction  13 The obligation of tikkun olam, the healing of the world, that is, the bridging of the traumatic rupture in the lives and narratives of the preceding generations, causes a new form of trauma for the children and grandchildren of survivors. All these obligations result in a feeling of helplessness, rage, and near incapability of establishing a stable and independent identity in the face of this legacy. This process establishes a memory of an event not lived through, but still primordially traumatic, and also a first-hand experience of fragmentation, personal and familial fears, and unrealized hopes. This inaccessibility of the initial trauma “to consciousness” (Caruth 3) is at the center of Caruth’s argument of individual, psychological trauma. In the following, I draw on Caruth’s theories, but will move beyond them in terms viable to the experiences of the following generations. Their experience, more than that of the first-generation survivors, really fits Caruth’s terminology and theory in that they a priori have no actual experience of the trauma, but suffer a narrative inheritance. The second-generation characters in The Rescue of Memory and Second Hand Smoke feel no period of latency. Whether their parents remained silent for a while or not, their silence as well as their telling—in combination with the trauma symptoms of nightmares, anxiety, or agitation— produce an immediate deep sense of pain in their children. For genocidal events such as the Holocaust, the different idiosyncrasies and specificities that shape the production and perception of a respective text need to be considered to better understand the cultural work of collective trauma. Hirsch’s estimation is accurate that the inherited memories—transmitted through both narratives and their absence—pose a huge risk of displacing the traumata and life stories of later generations. This displacement adds another layer, a trauma in its own right, to the trauma received from the first generation. It is vital for the second generation to establish a sense of independence while still feeling a connection to and transmission of their parents’ past(s). Only with personal distance, as enacted in the novels, is movement towards the future possible. Hence, what Hirsch calls “traumatic fragments” that “defy narrative reconstruction and exceed comprehension” (5) is not only the negative intrusion of the trauma into the lives and narratives of the following generation(s), but also the chance for imaginative additions of meaning that provide new access to the narratives of the past. In texts by Foer, Horn, Nathan Englander, Ehud Havazelet, Allegra Goodman, or Julie Orringer, on the other hand, narratives create worlds in which author, characters, and reader are drawn towards and repelled from each other. Everything is interdependent in ways that are never fully transparent to the characters, sometimes even lacking full disclosure for the reader. By these means, a constant re-engagement with a narrative and its hidden meanings as well as with the past and its possible substance in the present is not only possible but necessary.

14 Introduction

Insterstices between Individual and Cultural Trauma It was Jeffrey Alexander who, from his sociological perspective, first put forth a comprehensive theory of cultural trauma. This is a trauma decoupled from individual experience yet based on the formation of a collective identity. Alexander approaches trauma from a perspective that unites, yet moves beyond, while still retaining, analysis and study of trauma from the paradigms of universality and unspeakability that characterized trauma theoretical work to that point. In contrast to proponents who view Holocaust trauma as an inherently unknowable evil, Alexander switches the focus towards an understanding of the sociological processes and narrative basis of trauma. He distinguishes between a progressive and a tragic narrative. While the first is characterized by a future-oriented outlook full of hope and strength, the latter focuses on the trauma as a sacral and mythical endpoint that precludes a positive outlook.5 The emphasis on the sociological process and dialogical endowment of collective narratives with meaning enables Alexander to conceptualize collective, or cultural, trauma as “mediated by symbolic representations of social suffering” that, as a “cultural process,” transform the individual narratives of psychological trauma into “the worlds of morality, materiality, and organization” (Trauma 2) of a whole collectivity comprising several generations. In Trauma: A Social Theory (2012), Alexander draws on other trauma theories to establish his concept that acknowledges individual suffering and takes these individual representations as building blocks for a “cultural construction of collective trauma” (2). The fundamental asset with which Alexander’s theory informs the present study is its emphasis on narrative as link between what he calls “carrier groups.” In the following, I will predominantly substitute carrier group with generation to describe the formation of a trauma narrative that is more collective than individual and that is present as a vague shadow in literary works influenced by the Holocaust. This collective narrative changes with each generation, but it keeps a collective identity alive. “Experiencing trauma,” Alexander writes, “can be understood as a sociological process that defines a painful injury to the collectivity, establishes the victim, attributes responsibility, and distributes the ideal and material consequences” (Trauma 26). Hence, the struggle of the following generation(s) for a connection to and acknowledgement of the trauma of the former generation(s) simultaneously is a struggle for their own suffering to be acknowledged as true and important in its own right. Alexander continues that insofar as traumas are so experienced, and thus imagined and represented, the collective identity will shift. This reconstruction means that there will be a searching re-membering of the collective past,

Introduction  15 for memory is not only social and fluid but also deeply connected to the contemporary sense of the self. Identities are continuously constructed and secured not only by facing the present and future but also by reconstructing the collectivity’s earlier life. (26) We will reencounter this connectedness to the contemporary self in Chapters 3 and 4, in which I characterize the need for a meaningful incorporation of past trauma into one’s contemporary identity narrative as vital in overcoming the debilitating effects of trauma. These works are suffused not so much with the Holocaust itself—in fact, none of the second-generation narratives analyzed here grapples with the events of the Holocaust as such—but with struggles with its aftermath and its contemporary demands of remembering, as well as the personal difficulties of integrating the first-generation past into a future-oriented present. According to Alexander, such integration is also an “identification with the tragic narrative” that forces the generation of postmemory “to experience dark and sinister forces […] inside” themselves and “to achieve redemption” by a dramatization and re-dramatization of “the archetypal trauma” as we “pity the victims of the trauma, identifying and sympathizing with their horrible fate” (Trauma 61). Decades after the end of World War II, the Holocaust and its traumata are not forgotten by audiences stretching far beyond the confines of the victims and their families. In what, from some sounds like the second-generation’s takeover of the trauma, the Holocaust trauma is an ever-present past, one that destroys an individual’s present sense of self. The selected novels draw even more attention to the second-generation dilemma produced by the urge to let go and move on, while having to take along most of the memorial baggage. Identification with the trauma still constitutes a tremendous legacy à la Artie in Maus. Allegorically speaking, however, the pressure points that Artie’s mouse mask causes have to be acknowledged in and as present. Hungerford’s unraveling of de Manian deconstructions and their influence on (Caruth’s) trauma theory thus conceives of a generational threshold of and in trauma narratives. Since “trauma is an ‘individual experience’ that ‘exceeds itself,’” Hungerford analyzes, “‘the witnessing of trauma’ may not occur in the individual who experienced it but rather in ‘future generations’” (114). Affirming the trauma and incorporating it into one’s own story allows each generation to move into a meaningful post-Holocaust era, in which witnessing and transmitting trauma become a generational dialogue. German social theorist Hans Joas, critiquing Alexander’s work, asks astutely: “Can the notion of trauma be extended to whole cultures? Is there such a thing as a ‘cultural’ trauma? Does a trauma depend on being defined as such by those most affected by it?” (367). Joas, of course, aims at Alexander’s statement forming my initial approach into the processes of

16 Introduction narrativization of the trauma. Joas’ questions are valid not only to think about Alexander’s theories (Joas draws a brief but erudite overview of Alexander’s Parsonian baggage and Durkheimian (self-)affiliation), but also to reflect on the literary works and their dialogue with the audience—the larger cultural community—into which they are written. Without diminishing Joas’ point, the Holocaust trauma is indeed cultural in various respects. The attempted annihilation of a whole people inevitably resulted in a large-scale loss and destruction of its culture. Yet, and this is a crucial point of my argument, through the active engagement with the Holocaust—its trauma, its origins, its history, its aftermath—the events received a representation in artworks, scholarly works, and fictional renditions that also resulted in a vast identity formation for collectivities. Indeed, beyond the indubitably detrimental effects of the Holocaust on individuals and collectivities, lives and identities, the aftermath of the Holocaust has been marked by what Geoffrey Hartmann characterizes as a rich and “surprising energy and creativity that has emerged from devastation” in the generation’s attempts to “counteract despair” and in the following generation’s “search for ‘hope in the past” (9). Ascriptions like survivor, first, second, or third generation with all their flaws and faults underline that individuals as well as whole groups define the trauma of the Holocaust as part of their individual or group identity.6 While still referring to the actual events, the Holocaust trauma underwent various (re-)presentations within the respective generations. Alexander understands the generational transformation of the trauma as taking on meaning in the construction of cultural trauma “when members of a collectivity feel they have been subjected to a horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental ways” (Trauma 6). This identity-forming collective narrative of cultural trauma is instantiated by a process of “coding, weighting, and narrating” in which the individual narratives agglutinate into “a moral universal” for the group or even all humanity (35–36). In this way, trauma becomes part of the identity and social and cultural makeup of groups and individuals. Pollin-Gallay actually traces this tendency to strongly “underscore a large crisis of values” so that one can “explore how an evil idea takes over” in the “English-language American ecology” (109). In this ongoing search for meaning, cultural trauma frames the connective activity of narrating and understanding trauma through perspectival engagement with its emanations in novels. As this process unfolds, the trauma takes a share in each generation’s collective identity. As Alexander reminds us, the survivor’s real physical and psychological wound is transformed into a cultural trauma. The collectivity on transforming actual traumata—such as those of the Holocaust—into narratives of cultural trauma can, following Alexander, also use “socially mediated attribution[s]” of trauma, that is, events that have not, as

Introduction  17 such, happened. Without denying the deeply traumatic experience of the Holocaust, Alexander’s concept analyzes the structural and collective features of cultural trauma (narratives) as “something [not] naturally existing; [but] something constructed by society” (Trauma 13). People’s active definition of cultural trauma, for Alexander, does not negate immense individual suffering that undoubtedly occurs.

Trauma as Connective Force In his 1968 essay “Who is a Jew?” Isaac Deutscher defines a part of his Jewish identity as an “unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews” (51).7 Deutscher hints at the construction of a collective identity from the Holocaust trauma. Similar statements about the connective force of trauma by Wiesel, George Steiner, or Ozick, among others, spring to mind. I want to expressly emphasize that trauma, through narrative, assumes an identity forming and generationally connective force. It appears in Wiesel’s ruminations about the meaning of life after the Holocaust; for Begley, the act of narration itself creates the bond between author and reader, witness and posterior world. In Rosenbaum’s Golems of Gotham (2002), past trauma connects the secondgeneration sufferer with the literal first-generation ghosts of the past who are called into the present by the third generation to heal the sclerotic second-generation connections. Photographs and stories constitute narratives that overwhelm Sucher’s heroine’s identity. Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated attempts to expose identity relations to a past and trauma of one’s forebears even when they are lost from factual records, just as the protagonists of Horn’s The World to Come navigate the web of family connections through fact and forgery from the past into the future. The spatiotemporal and cultural distance from the Holocaust allows writers of the third generation to relate events not, at first glance, connected to its trauma. The Holocaust, however, still plays a central role in these narratives, if only as a historical caesura against which anterior and posterior events receive their meaning. Reversing Rudolf Otto’s mysterium tremendum, Arthur Cohen, who designates the Holocaust as the tremendum, stresses that such foundational events are never unlimited, making them “naturally bracketed off and separated from the growth and decline of ordinary events,” instead putting the focus on “the immensity of the event that is mysterious” (28–29) and that it is not its nature that is the mystery. In the discussions in Chapters 5 and 6, the pre- and post-Holocaust experiences of individuals become vital. Through a dense web of genealogical ties, events and people are connected to the present characters. Authors like Foer, Horn, Joseph Skibell and Orringer assemble interrelationships of present identities with the

18 Introduction experiences of their progenitors. Third-generation writing, in this respect, is also a point at which formerly (seemingly) clear-cut categories break open; and writers like Nathan Englander who have no genealogical connection to the Holocaust join the fray to narratively engage with its implications for their identity. The characters’ lives in these narratives are, following Kim Atkins, “always already entangled with the lives of others” (1). Explicitly, in The World to Come, and in a broader sense, in Everything Is Illuminated, the “life experiences set up psychological, affective, physical, agential, and moral structures” through which individuals are intergenerationally tied to each other. The questions of individual present identity, for Atkins, are then viewed in an “inter-personal, cultural and historical setting” (1). Yet for the following generations the events are deeply traumatic through their witnessing of the survivors’ narratives, their imaginatively connecting to and engaging with it, and their own mediations. An example on which I will elaborate in Chapter 4 is Duncan Katz’s and Isaac Borowski’s different relationships to their mother’s Holocaust trauma in Second Hand Smoke. I will focus on a reading that, following Alexander’s theories, conceives Duncan as overwhelmed by his mother’s past in a way that causes damage to his body, family life, and present identity. His attributions of the trauma narratives—personal and impersonal— preclude their meaningful inclusion into his present identity narrative. Isaac, however, incorporates past traumata into his present identity in a way that allows him to mourn and yet look ahead. In the following chapters, the textual analyses provide insights into the processes of traumatic transmission and the establishment of collective trauma narratives that shape identities beyond the confines of a specific group of survivors. With a collective trauma narrative established, with the Holocaust engrained as a moral universal, the following generations know about the events on an encompassing factual level. They also know about some aspects of their connections to the original events, though in many cases the generational gap prevents direct access to the survivors and their personal stories. In the end, it is the narratives of atrocity, trauma, and their results on the human psyche that are traumatizing to the following generations and larger audiences. Once related in the form of a narrative, these accounts draw those who listen to or read them into the trauma. We, all who live in the post-Holocaust world, must become secondary witnesses to transmit the trauma in(to) our own narratives.

Structure of the Book Elie Wiesel’s Night in Chapter 1 and Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies in Chapter 2 form oppositional poles in the analysis of first-generation narratives. I argue that Wiesel, himself one of the most important

Introduction  19 figures in coding, weighting, and narrating the Holocaust in ways that constituted it as an event of mythological status, inherently underwent a change from silent audience to witness to arguably the most eminent voice on the Holocaust in the United States, perhaps even worldwide. I chose not one of his obviously fictional works, but his best-known Night. The analysis of Night as well as its influence on its audience— highlighted by French writer François Mauriac and American critic Alfred Kazin—which in turn reaffirmed Wiesel’s and Night’s canonical status. Louis Begley, of course, took a diametral approach in that he almost forced his audience into an active role in the perception and reception of the narrative. While writing fictionally about his experiences, he seemingly divests himself of the trauma, whereas the reader takes over possession and responsibility of both the narrative and its interpretations and meanings. Begley stresses the use fictionalization in order to approach past traumata. I treat Begley’s account of surviving the war and escaping the Holocaust by living a false identity not as lies, but as symbolic and fictionalized renditions of experiences that allow both writer and reader to approach the trauma from a meaningful perspective. Begley’s agenda constitutes a vital link between past memory and trauma and their personal attributions, meanings, and mediations in the world of postmemory. The problematic nature of past memory, postmemory, and personal engagement with them correlates with the paradigms for the secondgeneration narratives that describe the protagonists’ problems and agendas. The secondary witnessing shapes a whole generation in a post-Holocaust world in which “post” can, at best, be only a temporal but not experiential marker. Starting from the basic tenets of postmemory, Chapter 3 on The Rescue of Memory and Chapter 4 analyzing Second Hand Smoke focus on the second-generation struggle to continue parental memory while establishing a viable narrative of their children’s own present sense of identity. In both novels, Tikkun olam turns berserk and forces Rachel Wallfish (Chapter 3) and Duncan Katz (Chapter 4) into the role of secondary participants who have to relive the past in the present so that a closure by proxy can be achieved. Hilary Clark stresses “this argument for the centrality of narrative in identity formation” in which “one can know oneself as a self only within the context of a (life) narrative.” For Clark, “[t]he narrative of the self is a (re) telling of plotting— establishing relations, causes, and effects—of events that, in reality, simply happen one after another” (2). This of course does not happen in the way imposed upon the protagonists by their first-generation parents. It happens towards the end of each novel, when the characters take over agency and use the traumatic past in a meaningful narrative that is capable of the formation of their own present identity. Chapter 5 interprets Dara Horn’s The World to Come as thirdgeneration imaginative engagement with the Eastern European

20 Introduction ancestral past’s influences on the third-generation protagonist’s life. In a fantastical narrative, Horn weaves threads through time and space to connect generations with each other. Jonathan Safran Foer’s endeavor in Everything Is Illuminated, which is subject of Chapter 6, epitomizes how the story of a member of the third generation, travelling to Ukraine to find traces of his grandfather, fictionally recreates a past to which he has no connection. Magical-realist features bridge the gaps in historical knowledge as a narrative of a possible past is created so that the protagonist has a story onto which a present and future can be built. Chapters 5 and 6 both analyze how the traumatic event becomes a new reference point in history but loses the all-consuming quality that it had in first- and second-generation writing. Making the Holocaust this temporal axis, it is possible to look ahead into the past. This is both a backwards and forwards orientation, a look back in time and a look into a future that is influenced by the culture and its meanings of this refracted past As Yehuda Bauer stresses, the Holocaust, as “unprecedented catastrophe in human civilization,” was also an event that “happened because it could happen; if it could not have happened, it would not have done so” (2). No matter how we may code, weight, or narrate the Holocaust, it still is an historical event, and can happen again if we shut our eyes, ears, and hearts to the narratives of those who lived through it and those who are living in its aftermath.


Introduction  21






Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, she later married her second husband Robert, who escaped the death camps on a Kindertransport but lost both his parents to the Holocaust. Rosen thus can still be grouped in the generation of postmemory with close personal ties to the Holocaust. Her work is deeply concerned with the trauma and its repercussions in the identity of Jewish Americans. The paragraph in which the above quote appears grapples with the human need for understanding and the communication of trauma on a larger level, but also on more personal terms: “One of our human goals, we are frequently reminded, is to try to understand the suffering of others. Sympathized with, yes, but can someone else’s suffering be felt? The answer is obvious. Another’s suffering can be understood and felt only through one’s own suffering. But what if one’s own suffering, terrible as it is, does not approach the sufferings of another? Then the law of human communication is unchanged. We must still work from what we know and try to connect it to what we do not” (50). For an analysis of these topics in regard to Rosen, see Eaglestone (34). For a discussion of trauma theory’s origin, see Susannah Radstone’s “Trauma Theory: Contexts, Politics, Ethics,” in which she highlights the psychoanalytical and deconstructivist moorings as well as the birth of the “term ‘trauma theory’ [that] first appears in Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience” (10). Scholars like not only Stef Craps and Ananya Jahanara Kabir but also Michael Rothberg, among others, have put forth insightful new approaches against trauma theory’s rightly alleged “Eurocentrism.” Buelens, Durrant, and Eaglestone’s seminal The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism (2014) provides a collection of essays that showcases this conceptual opening to broaden trauma theory’s focus on transnational and global phenomena. Alexander states significantly that “in the progressive narrative frame, the Jewish mass killings were not an end but a beginning. They were part of the massive trauma of the Second World War, but in the postwar period they and related incidents of Nazi horror were regarded as a birth trauma, a crossroads in a chronology that would eventually be set right. By contrast, the newly emerging world-historical status of the mass murders suggested that they represented an end point, not a new beginning, a death trauma rather than a trauma of birth, a cause for despair, not the beginning of hope. In place of the progressive story, then, there began to emerge the narrative of tragedy. The end point of a narrative defines its telos” (Trauma 95). On the one hand, these definitions are to some extent chosen by the individuals and groups themselves, on the other hand, they are ascriptions from the outside. Examples for the former are groups such as Wardi describes in Memorial Candles for the second generation, or the New York City based group 3GNY https://www.3gny.org/ for the third generation. An example for the latter is lucidly expressed by Werner Weinberg’s Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Survivor, in which he, although using the term survivor himself, states that “[i]mmediately after the war, we were “liberated prisoners”; in subsequent years we were included in the terms “DPs” or “displaced persons.” […] In the US we were sometimes generally called “new Americans.” Then for a long time […] there was a good chance that we, as a group, might go nameless. But one day I noticed that I had been reclassified as a “survivor” (206). The Essay is a condensed and posthumously published version of an interview given in 1966 to The Jewish Quarterly.

22 Introduction

Works Cited Aarons, Victoria, et  al. “Introduction.” The New Diaspora: The Changing Landscape of American Jewish Fiction. Edited by Victoria Aarons et  al., Wayne State UP, 2015, pp. 1–20. Agamben, Giorgio. Remnants of Auschwitz: The Witness and the Archive, Zone Books, 1999. Alexander, Jeffrey C. “The Social Construction of Moral Universals.” Remembering the Holocaust: A Debate. Edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander, Oxford UP, 2009. ———. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Atkins, Kim. Narrative Identity and Moral Identity: A Practical Perspective. Routledge, 2008. Bauer, Yehuda. Rethinking the Holocaust. Yale UP, 2001. Buelens, Gert, et  al., editors. The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism. Routledge, 2014. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. The Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. Clark, Hilary. “Introduction.” Depression and Narrative: Telling the Dark. Edited by Hilary Clark, State U of New York P, 2008, pp. 1–14. Cohen Arthur A. The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust. Crossroad, 1981. Colebrook, Claire. New Literary Histories: New Historicism and Contemporary Criticism. Manchester UP, 1997. Confino, Alon, and Peter Fritzsche. The Work of Memory: New Directions in the Study of the German Society and Culture. U of Illinois P, 2002. Delbo, Charlotte. None of Us Will Return. Translated by John Githens, Grove P, 1968. Deutscher, Isaac. “Who Is a Jew?” The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays. Edited by Tamara Deutscher, Oxford UP, 1968. Eaglestone, Robert. The Holocaust and the Postmodern. Oxford UP, 2004. Felman, Shoshana. “Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching.” Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Edited by Cathy Caruth, The Johns Hopkins UP, 1995, pp. 13–16. Felman, Shoshana, and Dori Laub. “Foreword.” Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. Edited by Shoshana Felman/ Dori Laub, Routledge, 1992, pp. xiii–xx. Gibbs, Alan. Contemporary American Trauma Narratives. Edinburgh UP, 2014. Hansen, Marcus L. The Problem of the Third Generation Immigrant: A Republication of the 1937 Address with Introductions by Peter Kivisto and Oscar Handlin. Augustana College Library, 1987. Hartman, Geoffrey H. The Longest Shadow: In the Aftermath of the Holocaust. Indiana UP, 1996. Hirsch, Marianne. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. Columbia UP, 2012. Hoffman, Eva. After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust. Secker and Warburg, 2004. Hungerford, Amy. The Holocaust of Texts: Genocide, Literature, and Personification. The U of Chicago P, 2003.

Introduction  23 Joas, Hans. “Cultural Trauma? On the Most Recent Turn in Jeffrey Alexander’s Cultural Sociology.” European Journal of Social Theory vol. 8, no. 3, 2005, pp. 365–374. Lachmann, Renate. Memory and Literature: Intertextuality in Russian Modernism. U of Minnesota P, 1997. Langer, Lawrence L. Admitting the Holocaust: Collected Essays. Oxford UP, 1995. Laub, Dori. “Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening.” Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. Edited by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Routledge, 1992, pp. 57–74. ———. “Reestablishing the Internal “Thou” in Testimony of Trauma.” Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society, vol. 18, no. 2, 2013, pp. 184–198. Levi, Primo. The Drowned and the Saved. Translated by Raymond Rosenthal. Vintage, 1989. Luckhurst, Roger. The Trauma Question. Routledge, 2008. McNally, Richard. Remembering Trauma. The Belknap P of Harvard UP, 2003. Osborne, Monica. The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma. Lexington Books, 2018. Patt, Avinoam. “A Visible Bridge: Contemporary Jewish Fiction and Literary Memorials to the Shoah,” Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives: Memory in Memoir and Fiction. Edited by Victoria Aarons, Lexington Books, 2016. Pollin-Gallay, Hannah. Ecologies of Witnessing: Language, Place, and Holocaust Testimony. Yale UP, 2018. Radstone, Susannah. “Trauma Theory: Contexts, Politics, Ethics.” Paragraph vol. 30, no. 1, 2007, pp. 9–29. Reisner, Rosalind. Jewish American Literature: A Guide to Reading Interests. Libraries Unlimited, 2014. Rosen, Norma. Accidents of Influence: Writing as a Woman and a Jew in America. State U of New York P, 1992. Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford UP, 2009. ———. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. U of Minnesota P, 2000. Weinberg, Werner. Self-Portrait of a Holocaust Survivor. U of Pittsburgh P, 2017. Weissman, Gary. “Against Generational Thinking.” Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives: Memory in Memoir and Fiction. Edited by Victoria Aarons, Lexington Books, 2016. Wiesel, Elie. Legends of Our Time. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968. Zerubavel, Yael. Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition. The U of Chicago P, 1995.


Narrating the Inexpressible Wiesel’s Night as a Testimonial Model

The Hungarian Holocaust survivor Imre Kertész, while asserting the Holocaust “can’t be put in a novel,” chose various fictionalizations to “estrange [… himself] from the narrative” (27). Wiesel, who also stressed the impossibility of Auschwitz novels and also wrote fiction, constructed Night as a testimonial work. Yet, not pure testimony in the narrow sense, but a narrative that, to borrow Ellen Fine’s phrase, “fictionalize[s] the raw material” (2) into a mythologization of the Holocaust as an inextricable paradox between knowledge and antiknowledge in an infinite attempt to come closer. It is thus what Langer sees as Night’s “freight of fiction”—that is, scenic organization, characterization through dialogue, periodic climaxes, elimination of superfluous or repetitive episodes, and especially an ability to arouse the empathy of his readers (16)—that, paired with the frequent “slip[s] in the diegetic level” (Eaglestone 83), constitutes Wiesel’s appeal to a wide audience. To add to Langer’s list, this chapter will pay particular attention to Wiesel’s doublings and repetitions with nuanced differences. By these means, Wiesel infuses the narrative with philosophical, mythical, and theological considerations, fostering the development of a collective narrative that stresses the ongoing moral repercussions for everyone living in the shadow of the Shoah.1 As the fons et origo of Wiesel’s works, Night characterizes the Holocaust in what Arlene Stein paradigmatically terms the “incommunicability” of “survivors’ experiences” (105). In Night, Wiesel establishes a tragic narrative regarding this “one long night seven times sealed” (N, 34). Naomi Seidman, on the contrary, emphasizes the feat of establishing a “mythopoetic narrative” (5) to which the audience can relate.2 The fragments the victims of the Holocaust “took along,” (68) as Wiesel describes it in All Rivers Run to the Sea (1994), connect Eliezer, the narrator of Night, who is torn from his previous self by the traumatic events and who struggles to retrieve the fragments of his past, to the reader, who is scorched by the trauma(tizing) tale. The imperatives to remember, break the silence, and retrieve or create meaning from the event then become the agenda of the whole collective. Wiesel’s doublings and repetitions (apparent in the couples: experiencing Eliezer–narrating

Narrating the Inexpressible  25 Eliezer, Eliezer/Wiesel–Moishe, father–son, or between victims) are most apparent in his creative use of the split self of the survivor who, through traumatic experience, remains fragmented in the aftermath. An important distinction to make in analyzing Night, then, is that between perspectives of narrating I, experiencing I, and the meta commentary provided by the author in other contexts. Night is written from the perspective of Eliezer, who reflects on the meaning of his experiences and tries to establish a sensible narrative from the senselessness of trauma. He interprets events and memories against the backdrop of his beliefs and later experiences.

God on the Gallows: Doublings of Faith Of Wiesel’s doublings, one of the most intricate is his careful construction of the repetitive but changed scenes of the two hangings at the center of Night. Positioned almost in the exact middle of the book, these central scenes form a tight-knit pair as they refer to and determine each other through their significant contradistinctions. The execution of the “little pipel, the sad eyed angel” (N, 64) is treated in most critical engagements with Night, but it often overshadows the close interdependence with the earlier hanging. Pipel, Wiesel elucidates, were “young boys” in the “service” of Kapos and Oberkapos and generally “hated” in Buna, the work camp to which Wiesel and his father were transferred after their arrival at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Significantly, the hatred of the pipel originates in their even “greater cruelty than [that of] their elders” (N, 63). Their corruption doubles with but perverts the purity image of the innocent child, as they contaminate Wiesel’s topical theme of a sacred bond between father and son, a bond recurrently endangered throughout Night by the inhumanity of l’universe concentrationnaire.3 Wiesel splits the prototype into an oppositional double. The prototypical pipel presents the corrupted camp world, whereas this particular pipel with “the face of an angel in distress” is unique for his “beautiful and delicate” features that make him “beloved by all” (N, 63). Eventually, this angelic figure opens explicit comparison with the image of God itself. On a basic level, however, it spins a web connecting other instances in which the split self-navigates between good and evil. Wiesel carefully leads up to this paramount scene by describing another hanging of another “young boy from Warsaw” (N, 61, my emphasis), who has already spent three years in concentration camps. The “usual ritual” of the pipel’s execution is established in this immediately preceding execution: gallows, verdict, execution, procession of the prisoners past the victim, and soup. Yet here the “extinguished eyes” of the convicted boy do not reflect angelic qualities. Instead of the beautiful but diminutive pipel, who suffers in complete, otherworldly silence, this “giant” youth is physically “tall and strong,” and he hurls his

26  Narrating the Inexpressible “curse on Germany” before the “executioner had completed his work” (N, 63–64). It seems to be the contrast between the physical strength and the mystical silence that Wiesel powerfully juxtaposes to underline the deeper meaning of silence and its connection to questioning God. As Eliezer himself is later split in two—silent, questioning sufferer versus clamoring accuser—the two characterizations meaningfully repeat each other in nuances and are repeated in multiple scenes throughout these episodes. After this first execution, “the soup tasted better than ever…” (N, 63). The setting is now known: the work squadron returns to the Appelplatz to find the gallows—black and menacing in both descriptions, but transformed to “black ravens” in the second—that forebode a second cruel hanging. Tellingly, the text refers to “other hangings” (N, 63), yet only this meaningful pair figures in Night. The presence of “hundreds of SS guards” augurs that the Nazis expect trouble during the execution. Was the first execution accomplished with the help of two inmates who received a bowl of soup for their services, the Lagerkapo and other inmates now refuse to help in this second hanging. The SS men conducting this second execution “seemed more preoccupied, more worried”4 since hanging a child “was not a small matter” (N, 64). These three ravens mirror the three ravens of the gallows. Where, in the previous hanging, the convicts—including the young boy from Warsaw—curse their executioners, the pipel’s silence and angelic features, in this second scene, resound with a deep meaning that, together with the “total silence” of the thousands of witnesses as “the sun was setting” (N, 64) on the horizon, initiates another night for Eliezer. As the inmates are forced to file past and look at the victims, witnessing the slow and horrific death of the child, someone asks, “For God’s sake, where is God?”5 and Eliezer hears “from within me […] a voice answer” that “[t]his is where—hanging here from this gallows….” In its horrific vividness and sadness, this scene is exemplary. “That night, the soup tasted of corpses” (N, 65, original ellipsis) and the remainder of the book portrays the protagonist’s questioning of God’s justice and benevolence toward, and in comparison with, the deeds of humans. Symbolically, the one exceptional pure, angelic child comes to signify not only the fundamental loss of Eliezer’s innocent, childlike self, but also causes the essential crisis in his former beliefs and identifications. This crisis is evoked again in Dawn, the fictional sequel to Night. It tells the story of a Holocaust survivor, who living in Paris after liberation, is recruited to fight in the Israeli underground to free Palestine from English occupation and establish a Jewish state. Essentially, the book hinges upon the protagonist’s musings in the night prior to his ordered execution of an English soldier. His past unfolds in front of him through his remembrance of the child he had been before living through the Holocaust. He remembers how he explains to his first love that the opening

Narrating the Inexpressible  27 up of the sky is a chance for God to show himself. In this instance, God’s revelation happens through the eyes of the young boy representing the narrator’s previous self. Disillusioned by his experiences, however, he sees a sky that remains empty. In Night, too, just as the sun sets over the execution of the pipel, an unwavering belief in God’s justice becomes problematic. The pipel’s eyes are “not yet extinguished,” but instead of revelation and redemption, they show only loss and sorrow. Still, it is important not to mistake this execution as the literal loss of Eliezer/Wiesel’s overall beliefs, but to see it as the persistent clash between experiences and belief systems that forces a continued endeavor to negotiate meaning and to come to terms with the events’ intrusions into the self. The question here is also one of perception. As David Patterson points out: The Hebrew word for ‘meaning’ is m’shma’ot, [which] conveys the sense of having heard something: meaning lies in the capacity for hearing. […] For only by hearing Him can we hear the voice of meaning from which we derive our lives. And yet, the way of asking the question is a hearing. (Dilemma 80) The clash is emphasized by Wiesel’s wording. Significantly, the question of God’s presence at the pipel’s hanging happens when Eliezer “heard a voice answer” (N, 65, my emphasis), indicating a split in the self of which he himself has to make sense. Starting from this assumption, I argue that this split is enacted in Night through the dichotomy between prayer and faithfulness to and accusation and questioning of God. Neither the experiencing nor the narrating Eliezer—nor, indeed, Wiesel—has irrevocably lost his God. Like the death of a certain instantiation of the self and the past, Night tells the story of a believer whose faith was challenged and fundamentally altered by traumatic experiences. The challenge continued for Wiesel, as, in an attempt to understand, he studied philosophy at the height of French Existentialism in postwar Paris. Dawn explains the attraction of philosophy as the need “to understand the meaning of the events of which I had been a victim,” against which he had “cried out in sorrow” and which he “was anxious to re-evaluate […] in an atmosphere of detachment, to view it in terms of the present” (132). Night tells of the “paradox” that “the Holocaust does not make sense with God” nor without Him (Ames 96). For Wiesel, this means that, to create and assert meaning, God needs to be questioned as much as possible. Wiesel asserts “the fact that I pray means someone is there to listen, that what I am saying is not uttered to a great void” (qtd. in Dilemma 83). Moreover, it is exactly this endeavor that is the reason that Wiesel, as he asserts in A Jew Today, has “always placed the Holocaust on a mythical level, beyond human understanding.” This mythologization resounds strongly

28  Narrating the Inexpressible in the critical reception of Wiesel’s work. His strong belief that the “concentration-camp phenomenon eludes the philosophers as much as it does the novelists” and that, therefore, it “may not be dealt with lightly” (46) represents Alexander’s coding, weighting, and narrating (Trauma 35), which are not three steps in a process, but represent a simultaneous conglomerate that cannot be separated. In his 1986 Nobel peace prize acceptance speech, Wiesel remembers that “[a] young Jewish boy discovered the Kingdom of Night.” This boy, reappearing as part of his older self, had asked “his father” whether this kingdom “can […] be true?” (qtd. in N, 118). Naturally “father” refers to Shlomo Wiesel, yet, as in Night itself, the father–child relationship is as often under duress as the one between believer and God, and “father” thus also echoes in its theological doubling. Wiesel continues to explicate his faith and his actions, undertaken against “indifference” to suffering, that were possible because of this boy and his question. Finally, Wiesel answers that “[it] is in his name that I speak […] and express to you my deepest gratitude as one who has emerged from the Kingdom of Night. […] Our lives no longer belong to us alone, they belong to all those who need us desperately” (qtd. in N, 120). The path that had begun for Eliezer when he started his mystical studies with Moishe had to continue through the camps, Paris, and the United States. Tellingly, it is the unobtrusive “waiflike” Moishe, teller of stories to which no one listens, who asserts to Eliezer “with great emphasis that every question possessed a power” which does not immediately need a straightforward answer, but that through the act of questioning of God, “man comes closer” to Him. From Moishe, Eliezer also learns that to pray is to “ask Him the real questions” (N, 5). Wiesel realizes this power and continues on his mythical path about which he writes in The Town Beyond the Wall (1964): “The essence of man is to be a question and the essence of the question is to be without an answer” (176). Wiesel’s narrative(s) can be read as ordering attempts in this quest. Facing the Holocaust, one poses questions that might remain unanswerable; but they are, nevertheless, questions that need to be asked. Night, thus, tells the story of the loss of a God who is not confronted with the right questions. Being able to challenge God and his own belief systems helps Eliezer/Wiesel to assert their faith. On arriving in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Eliezer first feels “anger rising within me” (N, 34). After the terrible conditions in the cattle cars, the entrance into this other universe fundamentally breaks each of Eliezer’s conceptions so far. It “could not be real” that “men, women, and children were being burned” (N, 32). Horribly, it was real. The Kaddish is recited all around, people praying it for themselves, breaking with tradition, since it seems dubitable to Eliezer whether “men ever before recited Kaddish for themselves.” With these impressions, Eliezer’s God turns into “the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe” who “chose to be silent” like the

Narrating the Inexpressible  29 world in which such atrocities happen. Still, traditional belief systems prevail at this point, and a few lines later, Eliezer “saying good-bye to my father, to the whole universe” also “found” himself “against [his] will” reciting the Kaddish alongside the others as he feels with a “heart […] about to burst” that he “was face to face with the Angel of Death” (N, 32–34). Again, the text explicitly constructs Eliezer hearing or finding a voice inside him that questions God, while the other belief system is still in place. The challenging and questioning increasingly allow him to “enter eternity, into that time when question and answer would become ONE” (N, 5, original emphasis). However, the challenging, questioning other does not emerge easily. Eliezer finds himself between the Scylla and Charybdis of belief in the God of his tradition and the forced urge to question that God, since unchallenged belief in Him does not provide support. Eliezer can thank “God in an improvised prayer, for having created mud in His infinite and wonderful universe” (N, 38), finding solace in the presence of a God whose infinite wisdom and power provide filthy things—highlighting again the bifurcation between question and perception—to work good even in this place. The mud saves Eliezer from being robbed of his shoes. The continued experience of the horrors of the camps permeates every moment, as the inmates desperately search for meaning and ways to make sense of what is happening to them. There are many instances in which prayer and religious observance do not produce soothing anchorage or meaningful narratives without a questioning challenge to God. One such passage is, of course, the hanging of the pipel. Another, the communal Rosh Hashanah service for which thousands of prisoners assemble. When the officiant’s voice blesses God, Eliezer initially misperceives it as the wind. Yet again, voice is disconnected from body. Perception, itself fragmented, splits the perceiving self in two, as meaning and hearing appear to be disconnected. Soon the “benediction” resounds on “thousands of lips,” and members of the congregation are “bent over like trees in a storm.” Hearing the voice hailing the Almighty—bending over the praying people—Eliezer connects to the question, “What are You, my God?,” so “[e]very fiber in me rebelled” (N, 66–67). Another time, Eliezer wonders why he should observe days of fasting in a world in which inmates fast every day. Why should he atone for sins, Eliezer asks, when he is already living in hell? Although Eliezer states that he “had ceased to pray,” he participates in a different tradition. As he “concurred with Job! [Eliezer] was not denying His existence, but […] doubted His absolute justice” (N, 45). Some Hasidim—including devout and strong Akiba Drumer, who, unable to negotiate belief systems as Eliezer does, turns into a Muselmann vanishing in the crematoria—sing and pray without questions. Eliezer, on the contrary, finds a new role model in Job’s affirmative questioning.

30  Narrating the Inexpressible It actually is the growing doubt and internal struggle by questioning this absolute judgment that provide stability and meaning and are also an assertion of Eliezer’s changing faith. In All Rivers Run to the Sea, almost 40 years later, Wiesel revisits these statements with an account of how he and his father pay food rations to participate in makeshift services including the use of tefillin. Wiesel’s descriptions in both Night and All Rivers Run to the Sea show that the inmates’ practices tried not only to help them retain their faith, but also to provide the structure of ritual observance. This structure provides meaning on a similar but different level to Viktor Frankl’s improvised therapy sessions in the camp (79–84).6 Eliezer’s inscriptions into the tradition of Job and in observing Jewish rituals are examples of his active assertion of faith and the meaning provided by the Covenant. Similar to Jacob’s struggle with God in Genesis 32: 22–32, Eliezer reconnects in his questioning to this tradition and, consequently, finds new strength in the meaning created from this connection. Eliezer describes the “other prisoners” who, as they observe these rituals, are seemingly “able to overcome time and space, to will both into submission” (N, 66). Like Jacob’s fight at Peniel, Eliezer struggles through his “one long night seven times sealed” (N, 34). The encounter—Peniel means “Face of God”—is constituted forcefully by an observance that collapses time and space into one moment of struggling closeness. Eliezer is true to Moishe’s instruction about the power of the question that strengthens this ritualistic observance. Eliezer must ask, What are You, my God? […] How do You compare to this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance? What does Your grandeur mean, Master of the Universe, in the face of all this cowardice, this decay, and this misery? Why do you go on troubling these poor people’s wounded minds, their ailing bodies? (N, 66) Angry as he is, Eliezer is actively asserting the presence of God with every question uttered, since calling on Him, even in anger and doubt, still presupposes His existence. It shows an attempt to come into contact with Him, and it is within (mystic) tradition. What appears to be denial is a challenging of rituals that have lost their meaning for the adolescent growing up in the Holocaust. Shedding those unquestioning ritualistic narratives necessitates filling the gaps with other narratives. The narrator describes this personal and religious transformation as follows: I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I

Narrating the Inexpressible  31 felt stronger than the Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger. The service ended with Kaddish. Each of us recited Kaddish for his parents, for his children, and for himself. (N, 68) Indeed, like Jacob’s seemingly hopeless struggle with a stranger, Eliezer’s questioning itself becomes the power to regain connection to God and derive meaning from it. Incidentally, there cannot be an answer yet. It has to come later. As Jacob learned later with whom he had wrestled and was consequentially named Israel, the questioning has to continue because, as Patterson emphasizes in his interpretation of Peniel, “in wrestling we have the testimony, in the name we have the teaching” (Genocide 6). For the second time, moreover, Night describes people reciting Kaddish over themselves. Facing the Angel of Death, the prayer for the departed is reversed. The camp changes the relationship between the living and the dead, transforms them into a double-sided pair. Being able to strive with God forces Eliezer out of the congregation into observer status. The feeling of being nothing more than “ashes” relates to being “without God.” Eliezer’s renunciation makes him feel as “terribly alone” as Moishe had been earlier. It entails that he, too, “no longer pleaded” or “lament[ed]” (N, 68), having Jacob-like shed restraints. Eliezer’s aloneness becomes, Patterson remarks, “a dialog or duel with God and his creation, a wrestling match between the soul and itself” (Dilemma 68). Eliezer’s self has been burned in the struggle only to find new meanings, as Jacob had been injured in receiving a new meaning in form of a new name. Rebelling and questioning, in other words, transform Eliezer. While the voice of the officiant seems “broken” and keeps “pausing, as though he lacked the strength to uncover the meaning beneath the text,” Eliezer’s questions make him feel “strong.” While the “weeping,” “sobbing,” and “sighing” (N, 67) people are unable to penetrate to the meaning of the words, Eliezer descents deeper into the tradition to grapple with God and receive a name, receive a meaning. In this respect, mythologizing the events constitutes a form of going beneath the words to a silence that fills the person with dread.7 Is God still there? Am I still there? Even the ghosts are silent. Wiesel attempts to fill the silence by expressing his fear about and cope with it all. After Kaddish, the “congregation […] remained standing in the Appelplatz” because everyone seemed “unable to detach [themselves] from this surreal moment” (N, 68).8 Something keeps the inmates rooted to the spot where usually they spend endless and pointless hours of waiting, suffering, and often dying, but whose “time and place” are “overcome” to form this “surreal moment” that delves more deeply than the words into the hearing and meaning of their faith. The self-imposed waiting

32  Narrating the Inexpressible envelops them with something that translates them out of their camp experience into another kind of (surreal) experience. This transformation is so powerful that one would have to actively “detach” oneself from it. Although congregating, everyone is also alone, deeply connected to a deeper soul and faith. Eliezer, along with his fellow inmates, is traumatized, beaten, starved, in constant fear of death. Yet, in the midst of all this turmoil, he discovers a new, deeper sense. According to Carl Gustav Jung, this meaning can be discovered only by shedding the hitherto overlaying concepts and religious symbols. Put differently, Eliezer feels that he had to shed the common narrative about the presence and purpose of God to establish his highly personal mission of questioning in order to “come […] closer to God” (N, 5). Filled with this experience, Eliezer runs to his father, finds him and, as he kisses his hand, feels “a tear on his hand. Whose was it?” he wonders. “Mine? His? I said nothing. Nor did he. Never before had we understood each other so clearly” (N, 68–69). In the confluence of time and space, in the questioning that forms this surreal moment, something in Eliezer changes that enables a moment of deep understanding between father and son, an understanding that does not need words, but can be expressed only in silence.

Trauma in the Mirror: Identities in the Face of Trauma The traumatic confrontation within Eliezer’s self is portrayed in the final image of Night. Eliezer, after severe illness from food poisoning, sees his reflection in a mirror in Buchenwald and perceives a self he barely recognizes. The “poisoning” happens “three days after liberation,” so that Eliezer “spent two weeks between life and death” (N, 115). With Night coming to an end, the narrative asserts that the Shoah’s long night is not waning; it extends into the post-Holocaust world in which it can still mortally affect its victims. Existence, at the end of the narrative, is changed and seen through the gaze of a mirror image. For both Wiesel and the reader, the experiences culminate in this image of suffering beyond the actual events. One day when I was able to get up, I decided to look at myself in the mirror on the opposite wall. I had not seen myself since the ghetto. From the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me. The look in his eyes as he gazed at me has never left me. (N, 115) This charring gaze picks up the almost extinguished eyes of the pipel and emblematizes Wiesel as a person who never fully returned from the camps. From the perspective of the two narrative voices, this final scene brackets Eliezer’s experiences as they are recounted in Night. Since that last time in the ghetto in Sighet, he survived cattle-car transports,

Narrating the Inexpressible  33 witnesses the incineration of living babies, endures strenuous labor and torture in Buna, and barely makes it through death marches in the midst of winter, after which his father dies. These devastating experiences leave the bokher who studied Talmud and Torah before the war visibly maimed. Night paradigmatically expresses this split self in its mirror image. It is, vitally, a death-like reflection contemplating its physical counterpart. This fragmentation, highlighted more than ever by the truncated sentence structure of this passage, underlines the dual and changed perception of and in the self. Delbo, similarly attests, while the world is still the same, “within us [survivors] nothing is the same,” (263), and Langer characterizes that in many survivor accounts, “not the loss of identity but a shift” (“Moralizing” 5, original emphasis) due to the traumatic reality has split the individual’s self. In confronting the mirror image, both experiencing and narrating Eliezer come into contact with their split self. While in Night the two realities continue into the future with the trauma still hauntingly present, the character/narrator at the end of the earlier … Un di velt hot geshvign attempts to smother this harrowing presence by smashing his reflection. Did Wiesel delete this episode because he realized that this overall destruction would not lead to an undivided self, but result in complete fragmentation? Seidman, in her foundational comparison of …Un di velt hot geshvign and Night, summarizes that Night—in its explicit portrayal of a distinct pre-Holocaust identity that is lost in trauma—is an intricate account of a young man firmly rooted in an individual identity in dialogue with a community and tradition around him. Seidman conceives the ending of Night as a projection of the surviving Eliezer into the post-Holocaust world in which the witness becomes a torn mediator between the need to speak and the silence and death born by an unspeakable event whose reality is inadequately expressible linguistically (7). The narrative, put differently, is crafted from Wiesel’s stylizations that are readily embraced by the audience. Seidman traces a change in the witness’s identity from one that destroys the enforced traumatic existence to the other embracing the tragic narrative as a springboard for an ongoing engagement with the trauma (7). The juxtaposition of the two versions shows, on the textual level, Alexander’s conceptualization of an enraged but teleologically future-oriented progressive narrative that turns into the portrait of the survivor as maimed figure with a vital message. One needs to narrowly discriminate between two concepts: First: Wiesel’s identity as a Holocaust writer, the survivor who claims and constructs an identity as witness, public accuser, and continuous voice for the lost, one whose role is acknowledged and further stylized by the audience. Second, the identity of the narrator-protagonist Eliezer who is rooted in Jewish mysticism as well as the Jewish life of Sighet. For the “student of Talmud,” his experiences, Night claims, have established a

34  Narrating the Inexpressible new identity, “a different person,” into whose “soul” the “black flame” had “invaded,” leaving only “a shape that resembled me.” The metaphor clearly prefigures the inevitable exchange of identities from “the child that I was” (N, 37) to “a corpse” whose “look […] never left me” (N, 115). This narrative move allows the reflecting narrator to highlight the nature of a trauma that obstructs the connection to both past and former identity. Moreover, the protagonist’s anger, as Seidman comments, which is palpable in …Un di velt hot geshvign, is not only missing, but actively denied (7). “No thought of revenge, or of parents. Only of bread. And even when we were no longer hungry, not one of us thought of revenge” (N, 115). This change shows the different mode of stylizations many years later: one that is due to changing collective narratives and helps shape the perception of Wiesel as tragic survivor. As Seidman emphasizes, “[t]he survivor is no longer the enraged seeker of revenge but a religiously potent emblem of martyrdom, and Jewish martyrdom in particular” (16). This martyrdom is heightened in some of the most potent scenes that show the helplessness and outrage at his father’s imminent death that want “[t]o set the whole world on fire!” along with “My father’s murderers!” (N, 109). Acknowledging the existence of this self is an example of the process of witnessing, surviving, mending. While narratively constructing a new identity that incorporates trauma and tradition, Night negotiates an identity fundamentally influenced by the trauma with the expectations of the audience(s). The audiences take up the mythical, mystical, ontological quality that Wiesel, in long wrestling with the meaning and silence of the Shoah and in a career as professional witness and voice and against forgetting, constructs and inscribes into the changing perceptions of the narrative(s).

Paradigmatic Accuser: Connecting Audiences Powerful accounts of Wiesel’s role as enigmatic yet paradigmatic survivor as linked to the audience(s)’s perception are François Mauriac’s and Alfred Kazin’s critical readings of Night. In both the French Nobel laureate’s and the American critic’s conceptions, respectively, Wiesel doubles as the survivor whose essentially split self continues the Holocaust trauma into the present moment. Thus, both accounts continue the doubling repetition of the text and, from their respective positions in time and place confirm it in public perception. Mauriac’s foreword to Night, included in every edition, provides the first powerful account of the reception and interpretation of Night in terms of an audience’s reaction. Combining extratextual with textual information, Mauriac sets out conflating the boy Eliezer, who experiences and relates the Holocaust throughout the book, with “cattle cars filled with Jewish children” (N, xvii) deported from France; and it ends

Narrating the Inexpressible  35 with a suggestive doubling between Eliezer/Wiesel in the final mirror image, the hanging of the pipel, and the traumatized survivor in front of him. Mauriac needs the survivor narrative to secondarily approach this traumatic “image”—characterized in broad, impersonal genera in contrast to the personal figuration of Wiesel—that he did not witness himself. Instead, his “wife […] described them […] still under the shock of the horror.” Eliezer of Night, the deported children, and Wiesel are interlinked inextricably with the “miracle” (N, xvii–xviii) of the child’s escape. Mauriac’s descriptions, which Wiesel initially resented, contextualize the trauma narrative in one of Catholic imagery and theology as Jewish children become “lambs torn from their mothers” (N, xviii) and the deportations, camps, and deaths turn into a Christological narrative. It is thus that Mauriac’s perspective imposes a new script on Wiesel’s depiction of the struggle of a Jewish adolescent from a Chassidic background who confronts the destruction of his entire belief system. Exemplifying a receiving audience, Mauriac does more than introduce the story. He sets the tone and represents, if not the, at least a strong interpretation that has influenced the reception and perception of the subsequent account. Creating another repetitive pair, Mauriac, thus, functions similarly as the audience as Wiesel does as the survivor. His teleological/theological interpretation establishes a narrative of a freighted survival. That is why, for Mauriac, “this personal record, coming as it does after so many others” (N, xviii) becomes incomparable.9 Long before the survivor figure is distinctly endowed—one might say overladen—with extraordinary moral weight by writers and scholars, the survivor is, according to Mauriac, “one of God’s chosen,” who connects to the past in his “gaze of a Lazarus risen from the dead” but is, significantly, still “held captive in the somber regions” of the “desecrated corpses” (N, xix–xx). Put differently, Mauriac sets out with the premise that Night is a tragic narrative of the survivor who cannot leave behind the past. Mauriac sees in Wiesel’s eyes “the reflection of the angelic sadness that had one day appeared on the face of a hanged child” (N, xxi). As we see in later forms of trauma discourse, the survivor becomes the graspable connection to and present reflection of traumatic experiences. The survivor figure that Mauriac creates is one of proxy, the imagination and endowment of a person with all hopes, wishes and traumata that he can approach only imaginative-experientially rather than factual-historically. Repeating Mauriac’s points with a difference, the American Jewish literary critic Alfred Kazin, emblematically constructs Wiesel as “‘my’ Holocaust” (121). The similarities between their accounts are striking: both meet the reporter Wiesel, both have a personal but indirect connection to the Holocaust, both connect to the theologically laden account, both see the emanation of the text in the present survivor figure. Kazin, too, perceives the thirty-two-year-old Wiesel as “still visibly suffering the

36  Narrating the Inexpressible atrocities” about which Kazin had read when writing a review of Night, and he constructs Wiesel as one who “personified the Holocaust as no one else in New York did” (115). Apparently, by the time he encountered Wiesel and his work, Kazin had already tried to establish an emphatic connection through factual accounts of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Even though he had met “the occasional survivor,” Kazin “knew [him] self to be far removed from the actuality of what had haunted [him] virtually since boyhood” (117). It is then the “spiritual vehemence” with which Night spoke to Kazin and the “intellectual passion” with which it was coupled in Mauriac’s preface that drew him in. The deeply damaging images and facts of atrocities, in other words, leave a void: Kazin “found […] salutary in its despair” a foundational destruction of meaning and spirituality; a sense of speechlessness and unimaginability that was, in a sense, “mystically ancestral” and that required “Wiesel’s ‘religious’ intensity” (119). It is explicitly the “presentation of a world that remained unreal, unbearable, seemingly fictitious for all its terrible reality” that draws Kazin into the “fiction-world” (120) of Nazism. Touched much more deeply by Wiesel’s presentational mode than by other accounts, Night, for Kazin, provides meaning that bridges some of the void and transforms Wiesel into Kazin’s tropological survivor.10 It is, remarkably, the individual figuration, the meaning that the author and their work are endowed with by their audience, that characterizes the survivor’s impact. This vital mediation between writer and reader, witness and secondary witness, first and following generations, I consider in greater detail in my analyses of second- and third-generation writing. Even Kazin’s demolition of his own prototypical figurations is a case in point for their weight in establishing collective trauma narratives. Kazin finds “a far more trustworthy witness” (123) in Primo Levi, whose earlier death precluded further active participation in a dialogue with his audiences, the kind of dialogue in which Wiesel continued to participate. Levi’s death, of course, changed some of the narratives about him and resulted in other images, yet it made his work a relatively fixed entity, open only to changes in the perception of the audience. Kazin’s account shows how writer and narrative are inextricably linked in and to the (changeable) perception of the audience. Through the bond between primary and secondary witness that comes into existence in the testimonial act, this reader-writer bond is even more pronounced and fragile in terms of trauma literature than in other forms of literature. As Kazin’s account underlines, the precarious nature of mythological-religious interpretations was the constitutive feature for inclusion and connection and, in the end, exclusion and resistance.11 On the narrative level of Night itself, we see a similar displacement of characterizations in Moishe as Wiesel traces his permeable identity within the context of the town’s ascriptions and, in a clever stylistic move, merges Moishe’s destiny with his own role in the post-Holocaust world.

Narrating the Inexpressible  37

Witness in Search of Meaning and Silence What if the message of the witness remains unheard? What if the message is best understood from/as silence? Silence, Rothberg attests, is foundational for Wiesel’s approach to Holocaust trauma (289). In Wiesel’s work it figures as a desire to speak out and an urge to remain silent. Such bipolarity speaks of the need for meaning in a world characterized by the meaninglessness of trauma. It is also based on the will to give testimony for those who perished and hence cannot tell their stories. While it is already a formidable task to make sense of the senselessness of the Holocaust, creating meaning from the fate of others seems even more dangerous and traumatizing. Psychiatrist Robert Lifton, one of the first to work psychologically with Holocaust trauma, explains the sense of responsibility of survivors toward the dead as an identification resulting in the permanent urge to give testimony, to bear witness to these real victims (Leys 113). While attesting to another’s trauma is, for Lifton, a way to transform surviving into a sense of responsibility (1993), it is also, Olga Lengyel writes, a statement of “what I saw with my own eyes.” The agenda of witnessing not only for oneself, but also for the nameless dead in a narrative that gives them a presence institutes a process of narrativizing that goes beyond mere memoir. Writing about trauma must then attest to one’s experience because it “must never be allowed to happen again” (89). In an interview with Heidi Walker, Wiesel formulates writing as a duty that is born from the silence of those who died in order to fill their silence with memories that must not be forgotten. I entered literature through silence; I seek the role of witness, and I am duty bound to justify each moment of my life as a survivor. Not to transmit my experience is to betray that experience. Words can never express the inexpressible; language is finally inadequate, but we do know the beauty of literature. We must give truth a name, force man to look. That man will forget, that I will forget, that is my obsession. […] I must be the emissary of the dead, even though that role is painful. […] The question is the answer; what I do, what I write, is the answer. I write to understand as much as to be understood. Literature is an act of conscience. It is up to us to rebuild with memories, with ruins, with efforts, and with moments of grace. (49–50) Just as significant is the command to remember as much as possible of the traumatic experiences that take over one’s identity. The command “to give truth a name” and “force man to look” arises on the part of both victims and secondary witnesses. Wiesel, like Moishe who for Eliezer and Sighet functions as emissary of the dead, emphasizes

38  Narrating the Inexpressible his own forgetfulness, underlining what Hasia Diner calls “limitations of remembering” (85), as he maintains the memory of the lost and translates that memory into stories to which others can connect. Olga Lengyel, in comparison, writes that “in setting down this personal record I have tried to carry out the mandate given to me by the many fellow internees in Auschwitz who perished so horribly. This is my memorial to them” (225). Night portrays Eliezer as a silent member of this world. Being a witness from the first letter of the text, he remains a silent and disbelieving one for some time. Through the figure of Moishe the Beadle, however, one sees highlighted the essential point Wiesel stressed in the above interview. Moishe shows Eliezer how continued questioning is more forceful than answering—a theme of extreme importance if one wants to understand Wiesel’s questioning of God—and he is Eliezer’s first contact with the trauma of the Holocaust as a real emissary of the dead to whose tale Eliezer responds with unbelieving silence. Beyond his fleeting appearance in Night, Moishe, in his role as “first survivor” Moishe, takes on special meaning “in the world of [Wiesel’s] books” (All Rivers 60). The naming and interpretation by the narrator leave Moishe bereft of a surname and therefore a certain amount of identity and past. Instead, his identity merges with the generic title of gabbai or shamash, a helper and assistant at the synagogue. In “his waiflike shyness” he seems to be “insignificant, invisible” to the people of Sighet who were never “bothered” by his “presence.” Yet for the narrator he takes on special significance through his “wide, dreamy eyes, gazing off into the distance” (N, 3), a central metaphor in Night. Playing again on the distinction between perception and reception of the self and the audience, it remains fascinatingly ambiguous whether Moishe’s invisibility, nonidentity, and perceptual absence within the community is because he “mastered the art of rendering himself” so (N, 3) or because the people ascribe these qualities to him. Or both. Moishe becomes a physical presence with a more distinct identity for Eliezer when he starts instructing him in the Kabbalah, that is, “receiving” or “tradition.” Applying this etymology, Eliezer, who seeks instruction in Jewish mysticism, literally receives a tradition from Moishe. Eliezer—and so the reflecting Eliezer writing about his younger self’s perspective—becomes Moishe’s double and continues this tradition by narrating the events of the Holocaust to bear witness. Emblematically, Night testifies to Moishe’s lost testimony that approaches meaning through continued questions. Appearing in several of Wiesel’s works and portraying one of Wiesel’s identificatory character types (the madman), Moishe is a prophetic figure who remains entirely unheard by an audience that does not want to acknowledge his tales. When Peter Manseau contends that Moishe functions as a “mouthpiece” for Wiesel’s own agenda of clamoring against a silent audience, wrenching

Narrating the Inexpressible  39 meaning from silence, and propagating the uniqueness of the Holocaust (396), he thus underemphasizes the repetition and doubling between Moishe and Eliezer. Moishe oscillates between Eliezer (experiencer and narrator) and Elie (author and survivor witness). The former is caught up in the events and unable to change anything, whereas the latter creates meaning by narrativizing his story and telling the lost testimony of the other. Wiesel’s presentation—almost a meta-level comment—exemplifies the going awry of the dialogical feature of trauma discourse between witnesses and non-witnesses. At first, Night claims, nobody yet knows about the atrocities committed by the Nazis in other parts of Europe or, if rumors reach Sighet, dares believe that the “nation of poets, philosophers, and humanists” could sink so low. When the Germans eventually arrive, their civilized mask “rather reassuring,” makes people doubt their “famous cruelty,” and “the Jews of Sighet were still smiling” (N, 9–10). Against this disbelief, in which Eliezer takes part, Moishe takes on the duty of the survivor. Prefiguring Wiesel’s role, he is a “messenger of the dead” who “shouted his testimony from the rooftops and delivered it in silence” (All Rivers 60). In the space between speech and silence, testimony unites past, present, and future. Moishe openly accuses Sighet of being unresponsive in their violation of the dialogic nature of testimony. “I wanted to return to Sighet to describe to you my death […] while there is still time,” he exclaims to Eliezer, who thinks that he “would not care whether they believed me or not ….” Formerly separate but part of the community, Moishe is “alone” now, removed from the others by his traumatic experience to which “no one is listening.” Moishe’s experience cannot be transmitted to the collective consciousness. Although he endlessly visits the Jewish community “telling his story and that of Malka, the young girl who lay dying for three days, and that of Tobie, the tailor who begged to die before his sons were killed,” (N, 7) neither his nor the others’ stories are received. Moishe again prefigures the later events in Night: the urge to remember and testify to the atrocious deaths of children and the breakdown of the father–son relationship. God or Kabbalah, he “no longer mention[s],” speaking only “of what he had seen.” The distance into which the wide, dreamy eyes gaze is now the past trauma, a time Eliezer does not “understand” yet. In Eliezer’s eyes, he “was not the same,” the “joy in his eyes was gone” (N, 7) in the same way as Wiesel emanates from the final mirror scene for Mauriac, changed like Moishe and sad-eyed like the pipel. Unlike Wiesel, who seeks to understand by relating his traumatic experience to his belief systems and questioning them along with God, Moishe stops relating anything but trauma. Eliezer is still removed and has not yet become the harrowing “corpse” with “the look in his eyes” that “never left” (N, 115) him. He has not yet, that is, transfigured into Moishe’s double in either his own or the audiences’ perception.

40  Narrating the Inexpressible In the end, Moishe turns silent, and the trauma unfolds. Wiesel conceptualizes language and texts as born from a silence that cannot be fully filled. This silence, however, is crafted as a meaningful mythical moment for an audience, initially, unresponsive, a silence of the lost souls who leave behind nothing but “thick, dirty smoke” (N, 6) and the silence of the survivors who fall mute when they are not listened to. Wiesel makes this silence, like the metaphorical night, one of his most emphatic tropes. Silence prevails before Moishe returns to Sighet. His deportation, the denial by the townspeople, and his subsequent return to tell his story mirror not only Holocaust survivors’ stories of witnessing and telling about the events so that others know, but also Caruth’s theorem of the trauma that cries out a second time. The narrator makes the essential point that the trauma—the story of events—need not— cannot—be understood fully at this point, but it needs to be thoroughly accepted. Only with such acceptance can it be received and continuously transmitted in other stories. Full understanding is impossible although experiential truth—Begley, we will see in Chapter 2, calls it “profound moral and psychological truth” (WL, 201)—needs to be transmitted to a listening audience. As a result of the community’s denial, it is neither coded, nor weighted, nor narrated as evil enough (“Social Construction” 35), the traumatic meaning to the whole community, the people of Sighet fails to enter the collective identity and to “leave[] indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental ways” (“Social Construction” 6), as it happens in the postwar era. Wiesel writes in “An Interview Unlike Any Other”—recapitulating his initial meeting with Mauriac that is also given from the latter’s perspective in the foreword to Night—that he “knew that the role of the survivor was to testify,” but that he “did not know how” (Jew Today 15); and this statement further elucidates how this process of coding, weighting, and narrating starts at the individual level and continues (interdependently) into the formation of collective trauma/identity narratives: I lacked experience, I lacked a framework. I mistrusted the tools, the procedures. Should one say it all or hold it all back? […] how can one be sure that the words, one uttered, will not betray, distort the message they bear? […] I made a vow: not to speak, not to touch upon the essentials for at least ten years. Long enough to see clearly. Long enough to listen to the voices inside my own. Long enough to regain possession of my memory. Long enough to unite the languages of man with the silence of the dead. (Jew Today 15) The implications of this “vow” deserve reevaluation against the backdrop of intergenerational trauma narratives. Similarly, but long before

Narrating the Inexpressible  41 Begley, Wiesel emphasizes that he needed time to make sense of his experiences and establish a framework that would enable him to narrate his experience in a way that would most effectively unite language and silence, the living and the dead. The temporal distance as well as the tools and procedures here are not, however, expressions of explicit repression and belatedness à la Caruth. The voices and memories are vividly there, but one needs to grapple with them to “regain possession.” Wiesel’s … Un di velt hot geshvign, for instance, published in 1956 in a Yiddish series dedicated to Dos Poylishe Yiddntum, was, due to the language barrier, written for a select audience of those with close ties to, certainly, the language and culture and, presumably, the events described, a first attempt to unite the voices inside him in the language that was extinguished along with the dead. In All Rivers Run to the Sea, Wiesel explains that he wrote this Yiddish version as notes in Buchenwald and in a final 862-page manuscript “feverishly” on a voyage to Brazil in order “to testify, to stop the dead from dying, to justify my own survival” (319). Shortly after, Wiesel met Mauriac, who urged him to publish his account. The result is the greatly reworked La Nuit, whose production specifically turns the trauma inwards, and leaves more spaces for theological, mystical, and narratological sensemaking. These spaces constitute the opening and closing doors of frameworks that are constructed when the witness comes into contact with the audience.

Surviving and Remembering: Representing Trauma in the Present Night tells of the “paradox” that “the Holocaust does not make sense with God” nor without Him (Ames 96). Moreover, it is exactly Wiesel’s endeavor to gain meaning by questioning God that is the reason that he has “always placed the Holocaust on a mythical level, beyond human understanding” (Jew Today 46). This mythologization resounds strongly in the reception of Wiesel’s works and should be seen as a larger endeavor to uphold both the mythological quality of the Holocaust and Wiesel’s professionalized voice in dialogue with the “terms of the present” (Dawn 132) audience. This reevaluation of trauma has similar but different motivations in the following generations. Wiesel’s pledge to remain silent to find a framework, and to establish a coherent narrative is thus part of larger figurations, those that, indeed, are undermined and thus mythologized further by varying accounts. Speaking it out, Wiesel codes the “traumatic event” as “unspeakable,” thus removing the Holocaust from other forms of trauma. Alexander asserts, “[d]epending on the nature of representation, a traumatic event may be regarded as ontologically evil, or its badness, its ‘evilness,’ may be conceived as contingent and relative, as something that can be ameliorated and overcome” (“Social Construction” 36). Wiesel chooses the

42  Narrating the Inexpressible first path and helps—along with the voices that compose his reception— to inaugurate a tradition of “symbolic production” (“Social Construction” 37) that weights the Holocaust as inexplicable, ontological, and universal. Wiesel achieves in his writings what Alexander describes as a “quality of compulsively returning to the trauma-drama” by which the Shoah attains a “status [of] archetypal sacred evil” (“Social Construction” 61). Narrating trauma within the framework of inexpressibility and ungraspability—the preeminent, but increasingly challenged trope of contemporary trauma theory—Wiesel sets the model for a collective trauma narrative that is much stronger than the previous “selfidentification[s]” of “modernity” (“Social Construction” 61). “The true witness[es] of the ‘Final Solution,’ as […] eyewitness[es] of inevitable and ultimate death,” Christopher Bigsby echoes Agamben, are those who remain silent forever because they have perished (23). Far from trying to theorize or establish a narrative of survivor’s guilt, one needs to acknowledge that the senseless killings of a whole people and culture leave behind a desperate urge to come to terms with and understand why one died while another lived. The continued retelling, reframing, representing that is part of this need to make others understand enables those in the collective who have not experienced the events to “re-witness” the trauma without “personal contact with a survivor” (Bigsby 23). Alan Berger, speaking of Wiesel, calls this “concentric circles of witness” in a collective trauma narrative that “transcends spatial and temporal borders” (253). These circles surround Wiesel’s main and fundamental foci: “always injustice, always God, always death, always man’s dialectical impossibility to understand and not understand what is happening to him. […] ‘How do I live with God, and how can I live without Him?’” (“Questions and Answers” 229). These circles draw the reader into the text, into the absences and voids that are left and only partially filled by narrative; indeed narrative itself functions to create some of these absences and voids to probe the potential meanings of events. “Wiesel’s reference to historical events of the Holocaust only creates,” Graham Walker writes, “further gaps and dissonances because understanding the Holocaust lacks any degree of the horror experienced there” (160). Texts like Wiesel’s Night, Lengyel’s Five Chimneys, Delbo’s Auschwitz and After, or Levi’s If this Is a Man (1988) are accounts of personal trauma. Together, testifying to trauma and dealing with trauma’s afterlife form concentric circles that, with each new ring, close some of the voids and open up new absences. From this viewpoint, the Holocaust constitutes a sacred, mystic event that precludes any comparison, but links humanity “by common destiny” (Berger 253). Neither individual nor collective can ever escape this narrative of an ontological evil that is inexpressible and ungraspable, but therefore constituting a moral universal. Alexander’s theories challenge these formulations of inexpressibility and ungraspability together with voices criticizing not only the Western bias of trauma concepts but also

Narrating the Inexpressible  43 the challenges to its forms of narrativization (Whitehead 3–15; Eaglestone 72–85; Gibbs 1–28; Radstone 9–29). Unfortunately, inexpressible and ungraspable theorems still spawn a prolific output of literary, scholarly, and cultural work by people who feel personally affected by the events they retell as they make sense of their present collective narrative. Like Primo Levi’s “here, there is no why” (29) and providing a powerful example of the loss of the interpersonal relationship that Laub describes, Eliezer is told that “there is no such thing father, brother, friend. Each of us lives and dies alone” (N, 110).12 But, according to Wiesel’s recurrent emphasis, they are still present, retained as memories in the survivor and in the pages of the story. In a meaningful twist to Night’s key metaphor, night becomes, in Dawn, a moment of connection to the dead. Shortly before the protagonist proceeds to execute an English soldier, the night leading up to that event becomes by dawn a mnemonic tour de force of the events of his life. Most importantly, at midnight, the protagonist is visited by all the ghosts of the people who have made him the person he is. The pivotal figure appears as that of “a boy who looked strangely like myself as I had been before the concentration camps, before the war, before everything” (167). The description of the boy and his later remarks to the narrator establish a striking distinction between chronotopical stages within the narrator, which, in the critical moments of life, reappear in the present. A past re-presented within the self, these stages are omnipresent palimpsests to the survivor of trauma. These revenants form ever-elusive determinants in the narrative that brings them back into present and future significance. Memory of the living becomes the anchor to the dead. The ties of memory, essential in the post-Holocaust world, are endangered in the camps. With palpable agony, Eliezer states that soon after their arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where he is separated from his mother and sisters, “the absent [family members] no longer entered even our thoughts” (N, 36, my emphasis). While this assessment does not hold true for the narrative itself, in which memory of his younger sister Tziporah frequently enters Eliezer’s thoughts, it highlights the impact of trauma and the individual’s attempts to ward it off. Incidentally “one spoke of them [i.e. the family members]” while one tried not to think of “their fate” (N, 36) because this reality—acutely known—would be too much. The fine-grained difference between the presence of memory and the reality of the fate of one’s loved ones is vital to protect one’s integrity in the traumatic camp experience. Indicative of Jewish tradition, in Wiesel’s narrative, victims and future generations are linked in a web of stories, in which “the present and the past are the same;” as Wiesel stated in an interview, “in our tradition and in Hebrew past and future can be interchanged—it’s almost the same word” (Cargas 108; Trodd 23). The word—simultaneously beginning, middle, and end of silence and trauma—is of the utmost importance to Wiesel. In remembering and relating—even rewriting—events,

44  Narrating the Inexpressible words become connective markers. A substitution changes meaning, sometimes precluding understanding, sometimes allowing for new meanings to be formed. The words strung together from ever- changing narratives allow the survivors to relate their experiences and allow the descendants to relate to them. Although Eliezer’s particular form of non-memory attempts to establish a protection against despair, “time,” as Wiesel stresses in A Jew Today, “does not heal all wounds”; it even accentuates “those that remain painfully open” (188, original emphasis). In fact, the loss of memory would turn Eliezer and his fellow victims into “damned souls wandering through the void, souls condemned to wander through space until the end of time, seeking redemption, seeking oblivion, without any hope of finding either” (N, 36). Prefiguring contemporary trauma theory, Night here puts the emphasis on the ongoing traumatization of the victim. Wiesel’s way of narration, in this respect, is simultaneously a continuous reopening of wounds and an attempt of reestablishing significance from the breakages. The Jewish tradition, in the face of Holocaust trauma, evokes, for Wiesel, to use Mikhail Bakhtin’s terminology, a “time […] essentially instantaneous; it is as if it has no duration and falls out of the normal course of biographical time” (248). Wiesel stresses, in my Bakhtinian reading, that in relating extremely traumatic experiences, linear time takes a narrative structure that provides meaning of one’s own feelings of loss. Trauma opposes clearly delineated temporal phases like past, present, and future as the past becomes the overall image for and of the present (Adams 132–133). Wiesel draws on this idea that “Jews” are eternally and “intimately linked” by “a historical consciousness that transcends individual consciousness” because “Jew[s] live[] in more than one place” and past and present are for them bound together by trauma and “sadness” (Jew Today 159–160). Indeed, this narrative tradition spans beyond to all the members of the following generations, who, through the continual reopening of wounds via narrative, consistently and continuously reengage with the present particularities of the Holocaust trauma. Wiesel claims that in this process each of his books is a logical sequence in which each “is also a door that closes” (Bortoli 8). The important point, however, is that the continuing reengagement with and intermixture of interrelations of both individual and collective trauma processes shape new discourses and meanings. Not only for survivors but also for the following generations do these narratives impart connections. Moreover, new connections allow the following generations to establish what these narratives mean to them in the present. Just as “our memory does not begin with our own” (Jew Today 188–189), so also do our life stories fail to be our own entirely. Wiesel relates parts of his soul—the lost one from Sighet and the new one born from Auschwitz—and in doing so gives voice to the generations of Jews that made him the person he is. This chronotopical

Narrating the Inexpressible  45 concurrence is part of Wiesel’s forcefulness. Night is the moment when his childhood and adolescent selves die, along with Wiesel’s sister, mother, father, and millions of others, but it is also the moment of deep connection to the past.

Notes 1 Jeffrey Alexander, analyzing the Holocaust’s transcendent status as “moral universal” in collective discourses, distinguishes a duality of progressive versus tragic narrative (“Social Construction” 7). He traces a shift from the audience’s future-oriented, progressive outlook that refuses to be continuously traumatized by a defeated evil regime toward a narrative that refuses closure and stresses ongoing traumatization by the transcendent event. 2 In Night, Wiesel recounts part of his experiences and uses historical and fictional reappraisal to bridge the void between silence and memory. Wiesel shows that inexplicability and unspeakability—tropes that have become (criticized) staples of contemporary trauma theory (Luckhurst; Radstone)— are no hindrance to speak of trauma but, rather, provide means to continuously approach the subject in an attempt of linguistic expression. 3 A term coined by David Rousset in The Other Kingdom (1947), whose original title l’universe concentrationnaire. Langer and other trauma theorists use the English rendering “concentrationary universe” in reference to Rousset’s title. 4 “Disturbed” in the 1960 translation. 5 Strikingly different to the 1960 translation of “Where is God now?” (72). 6 My gratitude to the personal comments of David Patterson regarding Judaic thought and meaning in Wiesel’s work. My interpretations in this chapter try not to insinuate that Wiesel and his fellow inmates create meaning through the use of tefillin. Rather, they use religious traditions to create meaning from them. Wiesel, I argue, remained deeply faithful throughout, but his questioning constitutes a strong urge to find, establish, and create meaning. 7 In The Tremendum, Arthur Cohen significantly posits that it is the “subscendance” into the tragic events that eventually allows their meaningful overcoming. I will revisit Cohen’s theories fully in Chapter 4. 8 The original French gives “mirage” (La Nuit 110)—which in the 1960 translation retains the English “mirage.” “Mirage” is the key word to understand this reading. According to the OED, it can simply mean “(optical) illusion,” having “its roots in the concept of vision.” But it is derived from the French mirer, which means “to look at” stemming itself from the Latin mirari (“to wonder at”). Mirari is also the ancestor of the English words admire, miracle, and marvel.” The latter meaning of the word mirage strongly emphasizes itself at this moment that is as pivotal as the one of the hanging of the pipel. 9 Mauriac’s claim that there have been many other works before Night— indeed there were—establishes a counterargument to the popular story of an initial, almost complete silence about the Holocaust. The most obvious proponent of this argument, of course, is Peter Novick. At this point, the year 1958, when Night was first published in French, Mauriac characterizes Wiesel’s account as part and culmination of a long tradition of Holocaust testimony. 10 Primo Levi later replaced Wiesel as Kazin’s role model when the latter took offense about Wiesel’s mythologization of “his relation to God, with himself as the bearer of the myth” and his professionalized embodiment of the

46  Narrating the Inexpressible suffering Holocaust survivor whose “ability to fuse personality, voice, text into the most expressive myth” makes him a “Jewish sage” in the public eye (121–123). Survivor narratives not only connect nonsurvivors “intimately and directly” (Weissman 30) to the Holocaust; they are also, in reverse, shaped by their respective audiences. Kazin’s remarks, in this respect, hint at an underlying ready acceptance of early stylizations and resulted in, Weissman criticizes, Wiesel’s status as “survivor through whom we may come closest to the actual experience and meaning of the Holocaust” (31). For Weissman, Kazin’s stylization fulfils a dual function: a preference of Wiesel, endowed with authority, and a personal connection to events otherwise known “only from books” (Kazin 121). 11 Ruth Franklin’s A Thousand Darknesses offers more recent personifications. She categorizes Wiesel as “the great mystic of the Holocaust,” Levi as “its great analyst” and Tadeusz Borowski as “the pent-up vessel of pressurized fury” (48). Pertinently, Rosenbaum’s, The Golems of Gotham, resurrects Levi, Jean Améry, Paul Celan, Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, and Borowski (Wiesel, still alive at that time could not be fictionally resurrected). Their resurrection by third-generation teenager Ariel is intended to help secondgeneration writer, Oliver, achieve some form of equilibrium with his Holocaust past. Rosenbaum’s novel conflates Jewish mysticism, post-Holocaust trauma and testimony, and explicitly draws on the literary legacy of these survivors. In a telling preface, Rosenbaum poses A warning to all readers: Please take the labeling of this book as a novel seriously. It is indeed a work of fiction. While it is true that the writers Primo Levi, Jean Améry, Paul Celan, Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, and Tadeusz Borowski were all Holocaust survivors who ultimately committed suicide, many of the events described in this novel that relate to the pre-suicide lives of the authors, as well as the circumstances of the suicides themselves, did not in fact take place. Similarly, all the writers in this novel are resurrected as ghosts, and it is in this form that they haunt its pages. To the best of my knowledge, this supernatural phenomenon never happened to any of these men, although I wouldn’t put it past them — particularly Jerzy. (Golems ix) Rosenbaum’s revenants are resurrected imaginations formed by a later generation on the basis of the impressions gleaned from the real persons’ narratives. Arguably, analogies and labels such as these provide the potential of further interpretation, as they show that what influences the shape and perception of the narratives is the audiences’ categorizations and characterizations. Depending on how much the author is categorized, the narrative’s perception differs. What must be considered, therefore, is the development of an author’s narratives and the perception of these very same narratives within respective audiences. The 1960 translation strikingly is much closer to Levi in that it states “here, 12 there are no fathers, no brothers, no friends (105).

Works Cited Adams, Jenni. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real. Palgrave, 2011. Alexander, Jeffrey C. “The Social Construction of Moral Universals.” Remembering the Holocaust: A Debate. Edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander, Oxford UP, 2009.

Narrating the Inexpressible  47 ———. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Ames, Deborah L. “Wrestling with Oblivion: Wiesel’s Autobiographical Storytelling as Midrash.” Elie Wiesel and the Art of Storytelling. Edited by Rosemary Horowitz, McFarland, 2006, pp. 90–101. Bakhtin, Mikhail M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Edited by Michael Holquist, translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, U of Texas P, 2008. Berger, Alan L. “Bearing Witness: Theological Implications of SecondGeneration Literature in America.” Breaking Crystal: Writing and Memory after Auschwitz. Edited by Efraim Sicher, U of Illinois P, 1998, pp. 252–275. Bigsby, Christopher. Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory. Cambridge UP, 2006. Bortoli, George. “Elie Wiesel Saw God Die in Auschwitz.” Elie Wiesel: Conversations. Edited by Robert Fanciosi, translated by Anne Caillard, UP of Mississippi, 2002, pp. 6–8. Originally published in Le Figaro Littérataire, June 15, 1963. Cargas, Harry J. Conversations with Elie Wiesel. Justice Books, 1992. Cohen, Arthur A. The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust. Crossroad, 1981. Delbo, Charlotte. Auschwitz and After. Translated by Rosette C. Lamont, Yale UP, 1995. Diner, Hasia R. We Remember with Reference and Love: American Jews and the Myth of Silence after the Holocaust, 1945–1962. New York UP, 2009. Eaglestone, Robert. “‘You Would Not Add to My Suffering if You Knew What I Have Seen:’ Holocaust Testimony and Contemporary African Trauma Literature.” Studies in the Novel, vol. 40, no. 1/2, 2008, pp. 72–85. Fine, Ellen S. Legacy of Night: The Literary Universe of Elie Wiesel. State U of New York P, 1982. Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to “Logotherapy.” Translated by Ilse Lasch, Beacon Press, 1959. ———. Psychologie des Konzentrationslagers: Synchronisation in Birkenwald, und ausgewählte Briefe 1945–1993. Edited by Alexander Batthyany et al., Böhlau, 2006. Franklin, Ruth. A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction. Oxford UP, 2011. Gibbs, Alan. Contemporary American Trauma Narratives. Edinburgh UP, 2014. Kazin, Alfred. “My Debt to Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi.” Testimony: Contemporary Writers Make the Holocaust Personal. Edited by David Rosenberg, Times Books, 1989. Kertész, Imre. The Holocaust as Culture. Translated by Thomas Cooper, Seagull Books, 2001. Langer, Lawrence. “The Dominion of Death.” Elie Wiesel’s Night: Modern Critical Interpretations. Edited by Harold Bloom, Chelsea House, 2001, pp. 3–16. ———. “Moralizing and Demoralizing the Holocaust.” Using and Abusing the Holocaust. Edited by Lawrence L. Langer, Indiana UP, 2006, pp. 112–122. Lengyel, Olga. Five Chimneys: The True Story of Auschwitz. Academy of Chicago Publishers, 1995.

48  Narrating the Inexpressible Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity. Translated by Stuart Woolf, Simon and Schuster, 1996. Leys, Ruth. “Die Überlebensschuld im Psychoanalytischen Diskurs: Ein kurzer historischer Überblick,” Holocaust und Trauma: Kritische Perspektiven zur Entstehung und Wirkung eines Paradigmas. Wallstein, 2011, pp. 86–115. Lifton, Robert J. The Protean Self: Human Resilience in an Age of Fragmentation. BasicBooks, 1993. Luckhurst, Roger. The Trauma Question. Routledge, 2008. Manseau, Peter. “Revising Night: Elie Wiesel and the Hazards of Holocaust Theology.” CrossCurrents, vol. 56, no. 3, 2006, pp. 387–399. “Mirage”. Merriam Webster Dictionary Online. Accessed 14 October 2019. Patterson, David. Genocide in Jewish Thought. Cambridge UP, 2012. ———. In Dialog and Dilemma with Elie Wiesel. Longwood Academie, 1991. Radstone, Susannah. “Trauma Theory: Contexts, Politics, Ethics.” Paragraph, vol. 30, no. 1, 2007, pp. 9–29. Rosenbaum, Thane. The Golems of Gotham: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2002. Rothberg, Michael. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. U of Minnesota P, 2000. Rousset, David. The Other Kingdom. Translated by Ramon Guthrie, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947. Seidman, Naomi. “Elie Wiesel and the Scandal of Jewish Rage.” Jewish Social Studies: New Series, vol. 3, no. 1, 1996, pp. 1–19. Stein, Arlene. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014. Trodd, Zoe. “Mosaics and Mirrors: Wiesel, American Autobiographies, and the Shaping of a Storied Subject.” Elie Wiesel and the Art of Storytelling. Edited by Rosemary Horowitz, McFarland, 2006, pp. 15–37. Walker, Graham B. Jr. “Transfiguration.” Elie Wiesel and the Art of Storytelling. Edited by Rosemary Horowitz, McFarland, 2006, pp. 156–181. Walker, Heidi A. and Elie Wiesel. “How and Why I Write: An Interview with Elie Wiesel.” The Journal of Education: Reflection and Renewal, vol. 189, no. 3, 2008/2009, pp. 49–52. Weissman, Gary. Fantasies of Witnessing. Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Cornell UP, 2004. Whitehead, Anne. Trauma Fiction. Edinburgh UP, 2004. Wiesel, Elie. A Jew Today. Vintage, 1978. ———. All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs, Volume One, 1928–1969. Harper Collins, 1996. ———. La Nuit: Preface de François Mauriac de l’Academie Française. Les Editions de Minuit, 1958. ———. Night. Translated by Marion Wiesel, Hill and Wang, 2006. ———. Night – Dawn – Day. U of Michigan P, 1985. ———. “Questions and Answers at the University of Oregon, 1975.” Against Silence: The Voice and Vision of Elie Wiesel. Edited by Irving Abrahamson, Holocaust Library, 1985, pp. 228–232. ———. The Town beyond the Wall. Translated by Stephen Becker, Atheneum, 1964.


The Truth of Fiction in Louis Begley’s Wartime Lies

As Begley states in the 2004 afterword, “little Maciek in T. in the years before World War II was not very different from my own life during that time […] and the subsequent adventures of Tania and Maciek resemble, in broad outline, my mother’s and my experiences.” These, he renders in a work that is “quintessentially a work of fiction and not an autobiography or memoir” (WL, 200) because the eleven-year-old’s memories— like his life during the occupation—are much too scarce, disconnected, and ephemeral to be enough for “writers of my kind who, in writing, draw on their experiences” to “create a whole world of novels” (“Ziellinie” 173–174). Indeed, Begley understands to masterfully create narrative coherence through both explicit and implicit prolepsis and analepsis that endows the more or less (dis)connected events with meaning and it structures experience ex post facto. Contrary to the common view of trauma theory that trauma is marked by an essential lack of understanding, consequential repression, and eventual resurfacing of trauma in a subconscious attempt to understand, my reading of Begley embraces Alexander’s concepts of collective trauma as “symbolic construction and framing, of creating stories and characters” (Trauma 3). Individual trauma is real, it deeply affects the suffering person, and it must not be relativized. Each trauma is a unique violation of the afflicted person that results in a personal coding, weighting, narrating of the event within a framework that is most meaningful to the victim. Begley was born in 1933 in the small village of Stryi, less than 300 kilometers from Wiesel’s birthplace Sighet. Evading persecution, Begley and his mother spent the war years in hiding under a false identity. Begley is not a concentration camp survivor, but Wartime Lies testifies to another traumatic aspect of the Holocaust: a hiding that polluted the narrator’s sense of identity and left him “hollowed out and bereft” without “discernible destiny” (WL, 4, original emphasis).1 Begley thus provides an example that goes beyond Alvin Rosenfeld’s contention that readers— and writers—“inevitably ‘complete’ the narrative” (6–7). Like Eliezer’s extradiegetic remarks that construct a sense of causality and order that was not part of his immediate experience, Begley chooses the narrative

50  The Truth of Fiction voice of an older survivor who recreates the events from the experiencing perspective of a boy. Much younger than Eliezer, Maciek, in Wartime Lies, experiences atrocities, flight, hiding, and the enactment of a false identity, with only his aunt, Tania, as personal connection to rely on. As such, Wartime Lies’ fictional representation establishes a rehumanization, and it enables an empathic connection to past experiences for both author and his audience. Stressing, like Wiesel, the prerequisite “emotional distance” from the trauma of the Holocaust to make sense of and create a meaningful narrative from his experiences, Begley simultaneously creates distance and involvement through fictionalization. Begley’s experiences find their way into the story as the general basis from whose trauma he can distance himself to see more clearly and to “release thoughts and images of which one has had no premonition; one did not know they were within one’s ability to summon up” (WL, 200–201). The fictional account enables Begley to fill the voids and rearrange the images in order to create a story that helps him interpret and make sense of actual experiences that will not, in spite or because of the temporal distance, go away, but which need to be transmitted to an audience. The chaotic nature of the trauma for Maciek often melds fragmentary experiences, atrocities, situational thoughts, memories, or emotions. This “phenomenological chaos” of traumatic experiences is decidedly, the theorists Ana Douglass and Thomas Vogler point out, not itself of “story” (46) but it is given a specific form as a coherent narrative in Wartime Lies. Fictionalization, for Begley, as for the Hungarian Nobel prize laureate Imre Kertész, provides a means to break through and make sense of the “phenomenological chaos” of his experiences, as his experiences influence the way he conceptualizes the narrative of Wartime Lies. For Begley, the “invention” has consisted in the reframing, restricting, and representing events in different contexts in order to make sense of them and to create a meaningful narrative to which the audience could relate. The novel thus provides a deeper understanding of the process of fictionalization in coming to terms with traumatic experiences. In extension, Begley’s need to fictionally transpose his experiences to make sense of them mirrors the collective endeavor to form a collective trauma narrative from various individual trauma stories. Begley emphasizes that his endeavor is one of “psychological honesty and historical truth” that is distinct from what he calls “the factual truth of an on-the-scene reportage” (WL, 203). It is also a truth that is permeable and dependent on the circumstances of the individual’s contemporary relation to the facts. “Traumatic realism,” Rothberg suggests, can be a literary means to provide, even for the most traumatizing tale of Holocaust horrors, an attempt to arrive at an “aesthetic and cognitive solution” in that it enables the author to draw on a longstanding genre tradition that can aid the representation and, by extension, it creates narrative means to put the events into a different perspective, thereby

The Truth of Fiction  51 fostering understanding of them” (9). Begley’s active inscription in “convention of the realistic novel” (WL, 200) helps him to put into different perspectives the fragments of memory and the experiments with various interpretations in the web of significations that he weaves throughout the novel. Begley’s representation of the basic intractability between truths and lies, moreover, shows an awareness of the inextricability of “the everyday in the extreme” (Rothberg 9) that is mediated in Wartime Lies in particular and in trauma narratives in general. Begley’s narrative agenda, therefore, is the fictional approach to real truths so that a speaking out and a transmission to later generations is possible. While for the lawyer and political commentator Thane Rosenbaum the telling of one’s story—however formed—is essential, Begley emphasizes that he cannot and does not want to repeat the story, highlighting that with writing it is passed on to the audience. In The Myth of Moral Justice (2004), Rosenbaum argues that “the zeal for finality overrides the truth behind the story” (17). The telling of the story is the most important means to make sense of one’s experiences and to work “toward resolution” (17). Only through the shared system of signs can witness and nonwitness connect and negotiate the past trauma and the present trauma narratives. That way the writer takes on a double role as witness who relates his experiences and as something closer to the secondary witness who relates to the experiences from a present perspective.

Narrated Identities: Fictionalization of the Self and Its Actual Facts The novel’s structure works on several levels. Grown-up Maciek, the first-person narrator, functions as a fictional foil: an imagined figure who expresses the deeper meaning the events take on for the survivor in looking back. Narrating Maciek recounts the experiences of his younger self, who, with his aunt Tania had to live a fake identity dependent on constant charade, forged identity papers, and the ingenuity of their deceptions of others in order to evade the omnipresent threat of discovery. This narrative is framed and irrupted by analogical references to Italian and Latin texts (predominantly Dante’s Divine Comedy [1320] and Virgil’s Aeneid [29–19 BCE] respectively) that are themselves part of an impersonal, third-person narrating voice. This narrator, taking over the first and last chapters that comment on Maciek’s postwar experiences, has detailed insights into the boy’s and the grown-up narrator’s psyches, thoughts, and fears. Yet this narrator also comments on the postwar pogroms and aspects of Jewish life in Poland from the perspective of a “we” and “us Poles” that is explicitly, though satirically, anti-Semitic. Significantly for the mutability of identity and the strength of narrative to create or reflect reality, this third-person narrator sets out to introduce

52  The Truth of Fiction not Maciek or any other identifiable individual. Rather, the narrator invites us to imagine “a man with a nice face and sad eyes.” In the aftermath of events, the boy with changing identities has become an elusive generalization; only the eyes—as in Wiesel’s case—reflect his experiences. “Our man,” that is to say, “avoids Holocaust books and dinner conversations about Poland in the Second World War,” and while “his knowledge was never precise,” he still has his former “power to grasp meaning and to remember.” These capabilities he uses in a repeated attempt to find “civil expression” for the trauma that he survived himself and that he needs to view and compare to the “naked, skeletal men and women alive and staring at the camera, corpses lying in disorderly piles,” because “his skin [is] intact and virgin of a tattoo” (WL, 3–4). The changing identities and narratives that were necessary for survival, the third-person narrator underlines, depend on the outside world and leave repercussions on the psyche. After all, the “man with the sad eyes believes he has been changed inside forever, […]. He has no good deeds to look back upon” (WL, 4). Lies, the lead metaphor of the novel, become a loaded signification for the dilemma of narrative sensemaking from traumatic events. The device of the third-person narrative elucidates metafictionally the repeated attempts to understand “the story of the child that became such a man.” Thus, the narrative itself, along with the lies and truths it camouflages, turns into a distancing device—the protagonist/narrator himself becomes “a voyeur of evil” (WL, 5)—as well as a means by which to plunge more deeply into the trauma’s meanings. These comments highlight the fact that, although Maciek and Tania are able to walk (almost) free in Warsaw and connect to other people, survival is bargained for at a price. They are repeatedly confronted with the traumatizing fear and witnessing of atrocities committed against Jews and Poles. Moreover, they constantly maneuver between identities and stories that are crafted to appease an overall hostile community. Growing up within such a web of stories is, in itself, traumatic, and it begs questions about the relationship between trauma and survival. Langer distinguishes in this respect between two forms of hiding: external and internal. The latter entails that the individual, unable to portray an assumed identity to the outside world, is “cut off from contact with others and daily fearing discovery,” while the former, due to knowledge of language, appearance, and creating a passable identity were able to “circulate openly” (“Wounded” 65–66). Maciek and Tania navigate the lawlessness of the Nazi occupation of Poland, the erection of ghettos, and the deportation and extermination of millions of Jews and other victims of Nazism externally hiding with detrimental repercussions in the individual’s psyche. In this way, Wartime Lies strikingly emphasizes the destructive quality of the constant threat of discovery and execution if the fake identity enacted for the world is discovered. Since child survivors like Maciek cannot draw on a plethora of memories and a strong sense of self, traumatic

The Truth of Fiction  53 events deeply influence their identity development. Susan Rubin Suleiman, in an influential 2002 essay, conceptualizes this phenomenon of child survivors as the “1.5 generation.”2 Maciek experiences the traumatizing events of hiding not only from threatening persecution but also within his own cover stories. He must do so at a stage of his mental development at which he is, Suleiman conceives, “old enough to remember but too young to understand” fully what is going on (283). Twelve years old at the end of World War II, Maciek has grown up into the fake identities, changing charades, and fluid impersonations, all of which leave him, even after the war, in immense internal turmoil and an entangled sense of self. Begley manifests this turmoil cleverly throughout the narrative. Wartime Lies, for instance, gains temporal structure not through the experiences of young Maciek, but by means of historical references, highlighting the fact that in the child’s lack of adequate references, external sources provide temporal location in hindsight. Maciek is “born a few months after the burning of the Reichstag” (WL, 7), that is sometime after February 1933. He recounts personal experiences until Tania and he have to leave grandmother and T., their hometown, to go to live in Lvov with Reinhard, the German who has an affair with Tania and tries to rescue them, when “the Germans were losing the battle of Moscow” (WL, 65). That is between the end of 1941 and early 1942. They later arrive in Warsaw on “March 30, 1943” just when “Berliners leaving air-raid shelters […] could discern the face of their city-to-be in bomb craters” (WL, 89). These extradiegetic references not only underline the personal, idiosyncratic nature of Maciek’s account that connects him to the pan-European tableau of the war but also manifests the experiencing-I’s helplessness and dependence on his aunt and the favorable incidences they will encounter. They pinpoint the child’s memory in a framework of reference. Within this framework, Wartime Lies approaches the fragmentary experiences of Maciek to glean sense from the layers between narrative and biographical identity as they start to constitute one entangled representation of identity.

Negotiating Fact and Fiction in Meaningful Representations for an Audience In accounts of the Holocaust, the thin “line between fact and fiction,” Weissman highlights, becomes “tenuous at best” (66). Does Begley’s account, posing openly as fictional, threaten to contaminate other factual accounts with unreliability and falsity? Following Birgit Neumann’s conception, I argue for the opposite, since the text openly engages with its own fictionality and its strengths and shortcomings. Neumann makes this point questioning the conscious act of the remembering (unreliable) narrator to discredit this very act in what she calls “fictions of memory.”3 Begley stresses his intention to “write avowedly invented stories that engage

54  The Truth of Fiction the reader’s interest and sympathy” and in which they can believe “while the spell lasts” (WL, 200). Thus, his agenda confers with Maciek’s need to portray convincing stories about his identity that are believable to his respective audiences or that, at least, induce them to “suspend[ ] disbelief” (WL, 200) for a while. Since everyone in the house in which he and Tania live in Warsaw takes “an interest in [Maciek’s] progress” (WL, 108), he must learn how to convince them, portray the right narrative, counteract their suspicions and interests in gossip and denunciation, and “be more consistent […] than the truth.” Significantly, Maciek and Tania’s “lies” are situational and limited only by their “inventiveness and memory” (WL, 105). They have to respond to the specific audience that is to be hoodwinked and empathetically brought to one’s side. Characteristically playing this out, Tania astonishingly transforms herself at the train station at Warsaw to escape deportation to Auschwitz. From a “stooped-over, sootsmeared old woman” she turns into “a dignified and self-confident young matron” as she is “putting on a very special show” of “barely contain[ed] […] impatience and indignation” for the benefit of a “Wehrmacht captain” in charge of the deportations (WL, 147–148). Tania literally changes her identity here as she and Maciek have done through various narratives and forged identity papers throughout the novel. Failure to portray a convincing identity that caters exactly to the audience’s expectations results in certain death. When a Polish mother fails to consider her audience’s needs for order and toughness, begging a German officer on her knees for her and her baby’s life, both of them are killed. Tania navigates this fluidity between deception, lies, and truth masterfully in contrast to Maciek, who, at various points, is too obviously in the “habit of insinuating flattery” (WL, 106). Eventually, he learns to take the audience in through the emphatic dyad between teller and listener established through the active crafting of one’s narrative. He learns that the other children at the farm in Piasowe “liked to listen to me” once he “learned to avoid talking about things that troubled them” (WL, 155). Begley presents a valuable addition to the literary trauma work, one that Suleiman describes as “the kind of work on language and thought that produces the most complex understandings of self and world, both on the part of the writer and on that of readers” (Suleiman 291). Wartime Lies elucidates literary representations of experienced trauma that are deeply felt by the individual and, through its narrativization, become a constitutional part of a collective trauma spanning different audiences and different generations. Begley states in his acceptance speech for the Prize for Literature of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on May 14, 2000 in Weimar: If a novel such as Wartime Lies can give my readers the feeling that, in spite of all the attempts to dehumanize them and, because of their difference, to treat them with hatred, Maciek and Tania, the

The Truth of Fiction  55 grandfather and the other Jews who play a part in it are still human beings, if the art of the novelist achieves this, then [the novelist] has a good reason to continue writing novels. (“Ziellinie” 172) Clearly, the bond between reader and writer, witness and audience, becomes one of the underlying empathies between human beings to counteract dehumanization. The child growing up within large-scale atrocities “has become a voyeur of evil” who is “sometimes uncertain which role he plays in the vile pictures that pass before his eyes”—it remains tellingly unresolved whether those are memories or imaginations—to the extent that he wonders whether this is “the inevitable evolution of the child” he was and whether this lost sense of self and guilty conscience are “the price to be paid for this sort of survival?” (WL, 5). The novelist’s endeavor is one of a decidedly moral and ethical character as he tries to (re)establish the human dyad within himself and between himself and the audience. For Begley, lenses of fiction function as filters for memory and as merger of mnemonically disconnected facts into fictional cohesiveness to gain “psychological truth” (WL, 201). As in Maciek and Tania’s case, this is a truth uncovered for the author/narrator and one that the audience constructs from it. Maciek’s story about living and acting false identities during the war years is tied in with the overall endeavor of approaching the past in a narrative that is meant to be told and to be made sense of. Aharon Appelfeld, who, like Begley and Maciek, lived in hiding before he joined the Russian Army, goes so far as to claim that a good memory is responsible for people’s incapacity to survive the Nazi terror. Echoing Nietzsche, Appelfeld states that “those who remembered were blown away afterwards […]. Their brooding thoughts drive them insane” (qtd. in Wardi 23).4 Losing control over one’s feelings and the true or false memories that construct their cover story would mean for Tania and Maciek the failure of their identity narratives and their exposure to damnation and death. As the third-person narrator comments in a meaningful analogy, Dante’s “disdain is for the damned. They are naked, the reader knows it” (WL, 120). To avoid damnation, the Polish audience to Maciek and Tania’s performance must not know the real story beneath the cover. The continuous control of emotions and every aspect of life and self becomes, however, almost unbearable for Maciek while he lives his false identity. He is controlled by the identity he creates under Tania’s instruction because neither will she allow her grasp over the child to slacken nor will survival be possible if the underlying story is uncovered. It is striking how the construction of the narrative for the hiding child—and adult caregiver—runs parallel to the construction of an identity in the overall narrative of Wartime Lies, as it considers the fine-grained intractabilities

56  The Truth of Fiction involved in Maciek and Tania’s hiding behind (narrated) assumed identities. It is, incidentally, the ability to venture out into the open—their external hiding—that makes vital a plausible identity (narrative), which, in reverse, clashes with their real identities. Maciek, the name itself is an invention for “the sake of an old song” in which “polite little Maciek [is] dancing tirelessly while the music plays” (WL, 5), undergoes a name change with his new identification papers. The real name and identity of “our man” (WL, 4) cannot be given, the wartime lies continue beyond the actual events, the music never stops playing, and Maciek continues to dance. Significantly, Maciek has many more problems dancing to the tunes of the hide-and-seek of identity necessary throughout the novel. Wartime Lies never gives Tania another name. Although “haunted by indistinct tales of a romance with a Catholic painter” (WL, 8), her identity is a fixed and unchanging constant for Maciek and, in the text’s relentless identification of her as Tania, also for the reader. Maciek undergoes different changes. With the first new papers, “my name was no longer Maciek, and Tania was no longer Tania” (who else she becomes is not revealed). Maciek now “was to be called Janek,” and ensuring “we used the names without fail would also require practice” (WL, 85). Not only the usage of the new name requires practice; to be convincingly hidden behind the new identity and be able to move around in the society of their housemates and enter Polish society at large, they also “had to talk […] about books” and “about oneself” (WL, 105). The self that is, is the one that one enacts in that moment. “Questions” Tania and Maciek “had rehearsed were to be answered before they were asked, so that the inquisitive landlady or fellow lodger would never begin the dreaded inquiry that might lead to the truth” (WL, 97). The so-called facts that have to come up are sparse, and they depend on the audience’s knowledge. Maciek’s and Tania’s identification papers refer to a “Tadeusz” as father and husband; yet neither Tania nor Maciek know whether “such a Tadeusz had ever existed in Lwów or elsewhere” (WL, 101). To be convincing, inventiveness and memory (of one’s lies) depend on each other in a quintessential relationship that ensures that the (invented and real) past is consistently interwoven with the present(s) and its audience(s). The invented story has to be “more consistent” than the real one, since any gap in the protective narrative will have fatal results.

The Creation of Meaning and Its Passing Ownership Begley writes five decades after the original events that he experienced as a boy. He writes about a “past [that] dissipates much more quickly than one would expect. Experiences that hurt as if they were a stigma burned in with a red-hot iron are suddenly left completely isolated, without connection” (“36 Stunden” 106). Hence, Begley not only offers

The Truth of Fiction  57 but also actively looks for the possibility of fictional freedom and narrative contortion, explicitly embracing them as a means for deeper understanding and new-found meanings for himself and his audience. Begley claims “the freedom to invent, consistent with the profound moral and psychological truth of the story.” He holds that “the passage of time and exile” function as “a psychic screen” (WL, 201) that helps him grapple with the topic. Like Wiesel, he needed temporal distance. Unlike Delbo’s “deep memory,” however, which represents “the Auschwitz me” and that is “enveloped in the skin of memory, an [almost] impermeable skin that isolates it from my present self” (Langer/Delbo xi), Begley actively uses his writing to puncture and temporarily shed that skin. In this way only can he approach “certain moments of grotesque horror during our flight from Warsaw in September 1944” (“36 Stunden” 106). The skin, for Begley—Delbo herself describes it as at times ineffective to contain the trauma—is incapable of holding memory in but still precludes an engagement with the underlying implications of the events of the Holocaust. Shortly before the Germans and Ukrainians enter the basement in which Maciek and Tania hide with others, Tania soothes Maciek by saying that “it was lucky we had not forgotten for a moment we were Catholic Poles” and that they “would make [themselves] very small and inconspicuous to survive.” After giving him instructions on how to behave in this extreme situation, Tania admonishes Maciek “to go to sleep.” When the persecutors arrive, it seems to Maciek exactly “the same bellowing as for Jews in T.,” levelling everyone in the same moment of atrocity (WL, 139). The following vivid scenes of violence and cruelty show the helplessness of the victims. Maciek’s voice recedes to become a mere descriptor of the events. With shocking calmness, the boy relates brutality, rape, and death. Scenes that, at the beginning of Wartime Lies, the third-person narrator compares with the Aeneid’s fall of Ilium, but in which an “SS black-shirt, imperturbably beating an aged former human,” becomes a “pretty good stand-in for Pyrrhus slaughtering Priam” (WL, 3). These analogies are not the reflections of the boy at the moment. His presence is pushed back as the cruel images follow each other. Although young Maciek already uses his readings of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island (1883) or Mickiewicz’s Konrad Wallenrod (1828) to make sense of his experiences, the victims he witnesses in Warsaw are not yet former human beings. Through this prolepsis in the form of an analogical comparison of two texts, Wartime Lies emphasizes the contrast between the reflecting impersonal narrative voice that compares elusive childhood memories in an attempt to find meaning and “civil expression” (WL, 3). The Warsaw scenes powerfully explicate Begley’s engagement with memories instead of shutting them away. Only on the fictional plane do they become approachable.

58  The Truth of Fiction Shedding this skin within and behind the protective screen of fictional distortion is also a means to shed part of the horror that accompanies these ephemeral childhood memories. Identifying a lucid example for a writing cure, Begley compares the process of writing Wartime Lies— borrowing from one of his literary idols, Vladimir Nabokov, “the master illusionist”—to a passing of ownership. “When we write a novel, we turn over our possessions [the memories of past events that are the basis of the fictional work] page for page. They pass into the ownership of our readers. We [writers] impoverish” ourselves (“36 Stunden” 107). This also means that the audience, the secondary witnesses to the events retold in the narrative, have to take on the role of receptors of the meanings conveyed, and they must accept this ownership and its legacy. In Begley’s line of thought, these successors cannot deny this ownership since reading alone produces the kind of connection that leaves no one unaltered. The memories of trauma need to be acknowledged and spoken out. Begley’s readers might, like the Jews of Sighet, remain silent, but, on reading, they become a part of the story. Begley does not force the readers into this role. For him, rather, the natural consequence of his narratives leaves all the members of the audience the freedom to process the story individually. Yet forming the narrative of individual trauma puts it on the public level for an audience to acknowledge and to incorporate it meaningfully and adequately into collective constructions of identity. Without the individual narratives, the (un-)traumatized collective of descendants would have nothing from which to establish a relation to a collective trauma. Without the audience in need for the stories of a past they have not experienced, the traumatized survivors would not be able to engage with the past and its traumata sufficiently. “After I had written Wartime Lies, whose subject matter is my life in Poland till 1946, only that is left of me from that life which I recorded on the pages of my book” (“36 Stunden” 107). Asserting such a depletion of the ownership of his past really is a statement about the newly created meaning that is engrained in a newly established dialogue between writer and reader, work and audience, one that palimpsestically overwrites other meanings and memories of the past. Far from a destruction and repression of other memories and experiences, these palimsests have to be read in cooperation with the new significations erected in the narrative. The passing of ownership is important in another respect. It creates, through fictional writing, a connection between human beings across geographical and temporal spaces. Narrative possessions are created in the act of writing and reading, but for the survivor they have already existed before in another form. They can be shared now to form new instances of a constitutive identity that powerfully echoes Wiesel’s example in Dawn of the protagonist’s predecessors forming his present identity. For Begley, great narratives arise out of one’s own experiences to powerfully construct a meaningful present.

The Truth of Fiction  59 Early in the novel, Maciek the narrator relates to an early childhood anxiety about being haunted by a giant, a fear that prevented him from sleeping alone. “At that time, when my memories of the monster and the other circumstances of my life begin to be my own, rather than stories of that idyllic time that Tania later told me about during the war years, she and my father were out most evenings” (WL, 10). The narrator describes the ways his aunt and father and, finally, his nurse, Zosia, try to coax him into leaving this childhood myth behind. Only when he is allowed to sleep in Zosia’s bed and feel her body “warm and wet from sleep” with her naked skin on his, is Maciek able to withstand the return of the monster: Although “the fear is still vivid in my memory when I think of the door to my father’s study and the porcelain stove beside it, the giant has never returned in my dreams again” (WL, 26–27). Beyond a mere instance of narrative immediacy, the use of the present indicates that the memory of these childhood fears becomes present again in the moment of recounting. The fears vividly haunt, not only the child that is the experiencing I, but also the adult who is narrating these instances and is drawn back into the narrative of the trauma to reexperience it. The story of the giant is an image of the invention of the narrative covers around the actual trauma. The giant—not merely a childhood fancy, but rather a figurative emanation of trauma—is still present; it was never completely absent. By analogy, the wartime experiences form a kind of trauma that is always present, but one can cope with it as long as there is an audience that follows (into) the narrative. The trauma, although present and harrowing, is less so if one speaks out and shares it with a community. Zosia and Maciek actively engage with the giant in a way his father and aunt will not and cannot do. While Tania denies the monster any reality, Maciek’s father goes on a hunt for it with his revolver. Both represent an external and superficial engagement with the real needs of the young boy— closeness, understanding, and acceptance. Zosia provides all of these because she accompanies the boy into his narrative to encounter the traumatizing apparition on its terms. The monster “might pick on a little boy all alone. But I was a big boy now, and, with her, I would never be alone. I would tell her I was still afraid and tug at her shirt so that as much of me as possible was right next to her, inside her smell and warmth” (WL, 26). Having the chance to word his fears in communion with another human being allows Maciek to overcome his fears. The reestablishment of the human dyad through narrative, in other words, helps to put the past into the significance of the present. Like the little boy, tugging himself into the “warmth” of his caring companion, the novel becomes part of a now receptive audience that provides understanding and acceptance. There is no relief to be found in talking to an audience, like Tania and the father, that is not receptive to the trauma—Moshe’s example in Chapter 1 has shown us that.

60  The Truth of Fiction Only when audience and writer form a bond of mutual support and influence can the meanings of an account be transmitted into the future. Wartime Lies is the inscription into the audience’s receptive need to understand and accompany the writer in confronting the monster of the story. The trauma might not be lost, and it returns again in the present tense; but now there is an audience that needs to know and is ready to be connected to the traumatized witness. This bond is of a double nature: it assures that others know and sympathize. After telling of the trauma, the audience is part of it. The listener becomes a witness as well, but a witness not so much of the real event as of the effects of the trauma on the survivor. To achieve this goal, the survivor has “to be ready to talk about oneself” (WL, 105) and reveal one’s trauma. Secondly, it creates a bond of belonging. During their hiding, Tania teaches Maciek the proper Jewish way to pray. “That was a way for a Jew not to die alone, to join his death to all those that had come before and were still to come” (WL, 78). One is reminded of Wiesel’s description of people saying Kaddish for themselves, so as to not die alone in the gas chambers, and Akiba Drumer’s wish that the others pray for him after his death. Further, the community created by the praying congregation in the concentration camp. Yet writing about the experiences and the trauma of the Holocaust fulfills a similar function of including oneself and those who died into the collective narrative. Writing about it and reading it constitutes a community. It is a participation in the collective consciousness that, reciprocally, can form only in this particular way, as a community of fate, if it can incorporate the individual stories of trauma.

(R/De-)Construction of Narrative and Real Identity Begley emphasizes that it is not only the harrowing instances of brutality against Jews by Nazis, Poles, and Ukrainians, or by Germans and Ukrainians against Poles that are traumatizing. Maciek and Tania live in constant fear of discovery and murder. Apart from openly traumatizing acts of violence and the difficulties of keeping up a convincing identity narrative, another factor in terms of personality and identity development is important as well: the constant close relationship between Tania and Maciek. The latter experiences this relationship as both enticing, for its erotic aspects, and as overwhelming, for the lack of any genuine identity that impedes any self-expression amid their closeness. Maciek’s first contacts with a burgeoning sexuality come through the obscene remarks about girls of the other boys he plays with in T., as well as his very intimate and eroticized interaction with his nurse Zosia and their neighbor’s daughter Irena. Then, during the time of hiding, he has no other focus for his erotic fantasies than Tania. Although Maciek “did not want to think about [Tania] the way [he] thought about Zosia and

The Truth of Fiction  61 Irena,” because of the closeness between them, he “could not always help it,” and he “longed to see, or better yet, touch her breast directly” (WL, 79). His feeling of shame over these fantasies mixes with a sense of oppression and rage against the being he “had never seen […] naked” and whose “bodily functions were private, even under the most constraining conditions,” while his own “nakedness and my bowel and bladder movements continued to be subject to question, inspection and comment” (WL, 168). Beyond the bare necessities of their interactions, Maciek feels resentment about their unequal balance of power, which makes him constantly “subject to question, inspection and comment.” Tania was insistent on my controlling myself and being controlled by her at times when I thought it didn’t matter, when we were alone. More likely, it was because of the effort she was making never to lose the complete hold she had on herself and because we were constantly together. (WL, 168) Her control, absolutely indispensable in their situation, becomes as traumatic for Maciek as the overall situation of hiding. Beyond the absolute indispensability of Tania’s control for their survival, her good intentions for their best interests, and the traumatizing nature this poses for her too, Maciek’s normal development is forcefully channeled by Tania’s control of the charade they have to play. It is only the two of them who are ever alone: they are together, yet lost, alone “contra mundum, with the world against us” (WL, 169) with only each other to hold on to. By contrast, in Night Eliezer’s closeness to his father determines Eliezer to live while he simultaneously feels shame when he realizes that he also wanted to be rid of his father. Maciek cannot escape his togetherness with Tania. That situation changes only when they stay in Piasowe in the Polish countryside. There Maciek, herding cows while Tania does other work, is alone and relatively independent for the first time. He can interact with the other hands on the farm with a certain amount of autonomy and so break his “day-and-night partnership” with Tania (WL, 169). In Warsaw, the external threat demands their total control and play acting, and brings them so close together as to almost make Tania the boy’s physical emanation of a super-ego that hovers over and supervises every action, feeling, and thought. During his lessons with Pani Bronicka, Tania would remain present “listening to every word […] and noting each one of my gestures” unless the teacher “insist[s] that Tania leave the room” so that the “telepathy” (WL, 168–169) between child and guardian would be interrupted. Maciek gets “desperately afraid of Tania” (WL, 108) since her “severity and particular methods of punishment,” which included not only the

62  The Truth of Fiction necessarily “perfect behavior” in enacting a false identity to the outside world, but also her complete control over Maciek. Grown-up Maciek, narrating these childhood events, steps out of the experiencing frame and adds a reflective comment about her “effort […] never to lose the complete hold she had on herself” (WL, 168). This is not the insight of the experiencing protagonist who is eventually induced to “terrorize” Tania with medical issues or flat-out lies that are intended to break some of her hold over him. Smoking bad tobacco with the other children in the fields, Maciek gets sick and “[j]ust as Tania came close to concluding that I had come down with typhoid fever, I miraculously recovered. Nothing could induce me to reveal to her the true nature of my illness” (WL, 167). Resenting the need for this mesh of lies and facades, the adult narrator comments that, at that time, his younger self “was chained to the habit of lying, and I no longer believed that weakness or foolishness or mistakes could be forgiven by Tania or by me” (WL, 171). Is forgiveness not possible at all? Is writing the novel an attempt to enact a giving away of something that one cannot forget and forgive? Does the narrative as such represent a confession that turns the reader into a witness and therefore actively creates someone to absolve some of the aspects of Maciek’s character as the experiencing “I”? On the psychological level, Maciek professes a disgust at the failing of Tania’s power and at his own fear and frustration about what he perceives as his unforgivable sins. Yet he also describes the battle waged by conflicting narratives that he uses to establish and uphold his various identities. A vital instance of Maciek’s conflicting identities is the clash between his Jewish heritage and his impersonated Catholic identity. Like that of the adolescent protagonist in Kertész’s Fatelessness (1975), Maciek’s identity, from the outset, has not been one of deep-rooted Jewishness, although he ironically is persecuted for exactly this aspect of his identity. Maciek’s father, a highly acculturated doctor, seems to lead a fairly secularized household in which mainly the high holidays are observed, Tania is infamous for her affair with a Catholic, and his “grandfather had never taken [him] to the synagogue.” So it is Tania who teaches him to pray Jewish prayers for the moment when death is near. Indeed, Maciek could quickly adapt and successfully pose as non-Jew were it not for the fact of his circumcision. In Warsaw, Maciek is even prepared by a priest for holy communion, so Tania and the boy can more potently uphold their enacted identity to the suspicious community in the house in which they live. During these lessons, Maciek’s Jewish identity is overwritten— as was a sad but necessary experience for the Jews in hiding in wartime Poland—by the Catholic distinction between sin and virtue. The initial comments by the impersonal narrator that grown-up Maciek “has no good deeds to look back upon” (WL, 5) assume a sad connotation when grown-up Maciek “found” that his young self’s “personal situation was desperate and despicable.” If “bearing false witness was forbidden” and

The Truth of Fiction  63 if “serious lying and hypocrisy were the same as bearing false witness; I was a liar and a hypocrite every day” (WL, 115–116), Maciek reasons. For the child, the identity he is not allowed to have, the necessary construction of a cover story if he is to survive, force him into a “state of mortal sin” that is aggravated by the new doctrines he has to embrace as part of his new identity as a Catholic taking communion. As he “knelt to receive the wafer, that would add to the weight of the judgment hanging over me” (WL, 121), even the successful posing of the lie and impersonating the false identity turns into internal guilt and punishment. The new morality system cannot function properly also because the old identity is still there and still perceivable. “It was evident to Maciek, “that every Jew, even if he did not break the Commandments, was damned” (WL, 116). The new Catholic doctrines, though not explicitly anti-Semitic, probably create for Maciek, with his vague sense of Jewish identity, an inner conflict and judgment from which he cannot escape. Even after the war, the patchwork of truths and lies, imposed identity, and self-created narratives, which all establish an identity that is accepted as passable within a hostile community, continue to be a shaping factor in Maciek’s actions. Everything in his postwar experience is related through the third-person narrator in the final chapter of the novel. This narrative voice reflects on events, feelings, thoughts, explaining that Maciek having “his first real friend” (WL, 195), Kościelny, after the war, still feels the need to adopt a mask for both his friend and the town in which he now lives, whose inhabitants do not know the truth about Maciek’s past or who he really is. Nor must they ever find out, as the descriptions of postwar pogroms indicate. And Maciek, now well-trained in creating a narrative of identity for the public, “is at the head of the religion class” (WL, 195), ready to renounce any “whiff of the Jew” (WL, 192). Acting out a false narrative is still perceived as of the outmost importance by both Tania and Maciek. The trauma story continues to shape their lives by forcing them to create ever new stories and lies to be enacted for the outside world. Wartime Lies, in this sense, resembles a process in which the writer does not merely reproduce memories or autobiographical incidents, but also renegotiates their meaning in a fictional narrative. On one level, Begley reconstructs his past for himself and releases “thoughts and images” in order to present them to his present self as well as to a larger audience. The process of remembering becomes a process of communication through the medium of storytelling and storywriting, similar to what Homi Bhabha calls the “pact of interpretation” which “is never simply an act of communication between the I and the You designated in the statement” (53), but a process of telling for and through oneself. By producing a coherent narrative of the past, Begley constructs his identity reflexively as an “integrated” (Stein 236) whole self that is connected to the past, present, and future.

64  The Truth of Fiction The internal struggle between his posited and real identities cause a deeply traumatic discrepancy in Maciek. In this case, we have the third-person narrator commenting on Maciek’s feelings to underline the omniscience of this narrator while simultaneously emphasizing that, within the mesh of fabrication, fictionalization, and biographical truth that the experiencing Maciek and the narrating Maciek weave throughout the story, it is better to make sense of things and to finally open oneself up to an outside perspective. Doing so is a special form of self-realization. “Maciek knows he is again behaving despicably—it is always like the first time in Warsaw—but what is he to do? He cares for Kościelny and needs him and he cannot and will not reveal himself” (WL, 197). The protective behavior of presenting a false identity to the outside world, for Maciek, becomes a part of his trauma because he judges it as a “despicable” sin. He is, after all, acutely aware of the distance he creates between himself and the people around him. The lies and masks that he produces push away Kościelny and preclude any full or meaningful establishment of the human dyad. Moreover, it precludes his opening up to another human being. There are no clear distinctions between before and after. The trauma is the only thing that, however vaguely, shapes action and story. Lies become truth when working it into the present fabric of reality to evade the truth from fully invading this reality.5 The third-person narrator also states that after the war Tania and Maciek “have learned their lesson […]. They have their new names and new lies.” The question remains, however, whether “these lies [are] still useful? Is anyone taken in? You would not think so” (WL, 193–194). But the narrator’s point is that the learning of the lesson is to continue to live a false identity so that the others are taken in and so that Tania and Maciek stay safe. Their narratives continue to be both necessary and unavoidable in postwar Poland, where “[a]fter all, it’s true, there are Jews all over Cracow, crawling out from every hole” (WL, 194). But their narratives have also been so tightly interwoven with their lives that they are sometimes indistinguishable. Earlier, in Maciek’s description, all survivors of the Nazi attacks on Warsaw, disregarding any identificatory traits, resembled “gray human-sized insects” (WL, 189). Identities, stories, even memories merge in the course of the novel to form new lived plots, which even the characters themselves feel to be true realities. As boundaries vanish between fake and true identities, the narrator turns into an all-overwriting commentator. As in the relationship between Maciek and Tania, the impersonal and external voice takes ultimate control. This voice is distinct from Maciek’s story throughout the novel in its allusions to classical texts that are meaningfully scattered into its narrative structure. In a final assertion of authority in

The Truth of Fiction  65 the multifaceted identity narratives, this narrator stresses the need to continue the levitation of fake and true identity. This narrator introduces an increasingly hostile and anti-Semitic comment into the fabric of the story. Just like before the war—what do [the Jews] care if they embarrass the Nation at a time when it needs all the help it can get from the West. […] As for extermination, the Germans could no more get the job done than win the war. They had to leave it to us Poles to clean out the country, as though we had not suffered enough. For instance in Kielce, when the good people there, right behind Pani Dumont’s back, finally organized a pogrom—one year after the war ended— they still found more than forty Jews to kill! (WL, 193) The narrator satirizes bitingly an identification with the Polish gentiles instead of with Maciek and Tania or other Jewish Poles so as to comment on still prevalent anti-Semitism, thus further problematizing the continuation of Maciek and Tania’s wartime lies. As such, the final chapter produces a significant contrast to the rest of the narrative in that it changes perspectives. After the reader has witnessed all the lies and fabrications that Maciek and Tania invent to stay alive, continuing with fake identities is desperately necessary. Yes, Tania and Maciek have learned their lessons and, therefore, they are not among the forty Jews found to kill. The lies will continue to protect as long as they are convincing enough.

Asserting Control by Narrative Means Experience of trauma is also an experience of powerlessness. Retelling one’s experiences, thus, becomes an active reassertion of control over one’s narrative. The literary theorist Dominick LaCapra calls this kind of closure-oriented engagement with trauma “working through.” He emphasizes, however, the “tendency compulsively to repeat, relive, be possessed by, or act out traumatic scenes of the past” (10). The initial impersonal narration compares “our man [who] avoids Holocaust books” and who is ruminating on the “price to be paid” for his survival to Catullus, who “wants to heal, to be well, to throw off the foul sickness that has robbed him of his enjoyments” (WL, 4). The picture drawn here is that of an ongoing affliction from the events one has experienced. It is similar to Alvin Rosenfeld’s description of Primo Levi’s “unusual level of intellectual and moral poise” that was undermined by the “lacerating memories of personal and historical extremity:” culminating in his alleged suicide, Levi may have kept “these memories alive […] returning to

66  The Truth of Fiction them in book after book” (Rosenfeld 124). For Rosenfeld, one’s trauma strikingly becomes a narrative from which there is no escape. There also is a double bind: the trauma must be continuously repeated, but this is precisely what keeps it alive. Strikingly, Rosenfeld hints at a distinction between “survivor”—a figure who leaves behind the trauma in a fashion that resonates very much in Alexander’s progressive narrative—and “victim”—a survivor who, as in Alexander’s tragic narrative, cannot leave the trauma behind but is finally overtaken by it. Our man, too, “has been changed inside” and knows that his is a different sickness than Catullus’s which “he thinks he knows […] to the bone” but has to admit that “this metaphor, too, fails” as his “disease lies deeper than the poet’s.” Still, he repeats Catullus’s poem “over and over” and “will not howl over his own despair” (WL, 5). This witness is conscious of his experiences and the change they have wrought in him. In the failing metaphors and the following narrative, the narrator approaches works through part of his experiences. As much as Wartime Lies, then, is a reengagement with past traumata, it tells the story of a “man who bears one of the names Maciek used” but “has replaced” Maciek because the childhood that has been represented in the previous narrative has to be left behind. By necessity, there is not much of the child Maciek in “our man [who] has no childhood that he can bear to remember” a man who thus “has had to invent one” (WL, 198). Wartime Lies retells a story within the framework of interpretation so as to evade the compulsiveness that LaCapra attests to as a common feature of Holocaust narratives. LaCapra enumerates a variety of possible emanations of the trauma asserting itself: “whether in more or less controlled artistic procedures or in uncontrolled existential experiences of hallucination, flashback, dream, and re-traumatizing breakdown triggered by incidents that more or less obliquely recall the past.” What has sometimes been neglected in this regard is LaCapra’s explicit acknowledgment of “artistic procedures” (10) such as Begley’s. Although it is generally a moot point to determine what counts as “controlled” in this respect, one needs to consider that narratives—in forms of written testimony, historical analyses, graphic productions, audiovisual material, or, paramount for the purposes of the present study, novels and short stories—that constitute the collective corpus represent already mediated materials. The complete dehumanization and reification of Jewish people made apparent in the third-person narrator’s comments make it extremely difficult, even dangerous, to lift the veil and try to make sense of the several layers of jumbled identities beneath it. The narrator in Wartime Lies asks, hence, whether “Maciek’s name [is] Maciek again?” And he continues, “Has the unmentionable Jewish family name been resumed?” The answer is as striking as it is harrowing: “Certainly not; the visor was not lifted in Kielce; it will not be lifted in Cracow.

The Truth of Fiction  67 Maciek has new Aryan papers and a new Polish surname with not a whiff of the Jew in it. Believe me, it is just as well” (WL, 192). The hidden survivor continues to be a hidden victim; the Jewish family name remains “unmentionable.” Like Rosenfeld’s estimate of Primo Levi’s continuing suffering through the writing of the stories of his original trauma, the narrator hints at the ongoing traumatization by vital deceptions that are not to be stopped after the events of the Holocaust have ended. The wound festers on; the “visor” will not be lifted because the result of its removal is perceived as dangerous. The visor, a protection for the eyes when it shields Maciek and Tania from having trauma invade, also impedes their fully functioning perception in the present. As protective and necessary as it is, the visor of stories and lies is both lifted and strengthened through the narrative itself. Thus, the visor might be a continued conflict within the victim’s life and identity; or it might emblematize the continuing precarious relationship between one’s present and past identities as the lies remain necessary. The narrator’s comments beg the question whether the story is a residue of man’s need to find and tell a new alternate identity yet again. Otherwise, he would lay open an identity and vulnerability against which the lies were, in the past, a protective visor and have been produced in the aftermath of trauma. In the end, the narrator remarks, “[i]t doesn’t matter.” Or does it? The final sentence of the novel’s text “Nomen et cineres una cum vanitate sepulta” (WL, 198) closes the circle of the analogies to classical texts at the beginning of the novel. It suggests another reading. That the “names and ashes vanish into nothingness” can be read as a comment on the final superfluity of the lies or as a remark on the need to tell the story of the lies to ensure that they will not vanish with the demise of the survivors’ generation. “One day soon, Tania will leave. Then Maciek and his father and Pani Doctor Olga will also go away. He will never see Kościelny again or have news from him, because Kościelny will not know Maciek’s name or what he has become” (WL, 198). Such a forgetfulness of a place will be important again for many second-and third-generation narratives—indeed, Everything Is Illuminated struggles against such an enforced forgetfulness. The narrator at the end of Wartime Lies does not explicitly refer to the physical emigration of the protagonists to the United States, but that it is the loss of the accounts from those who were there. Fictionalized or not, accounts described as lies are lies only to those who want to annihilate a people and their identity. To those who tell them and those who hear them in the aftermath of the Holocaust, it becomes clear that they are ineradicable versions of the truth that must not be lost. The child Maciek, the narrator relates, has become an adult who “has no childhood that he can bear to remember,” so “he has had to invent one” (WL, 198). Maciek is caught in a feedback loop. His impersonated identity

68  The Truth of Fiction is a lie that, like the trauma itself, is unbearable and, thus, needs to be overwritten by a new identity, a new story. It needs narratives like Begley’s to highlight this danger of identity overwrite and to transmit the stories against the burial of both names and ashes. As long as the accounts of the past persist, even Maciek’s assumed identity has a place in collective stories about it. “Tania and Maciek have learned their lesson” and Maciek, who “declines nouns and conjugates verbs from memory and by instinct, because he knows how they must change, and parses sentences at a glance” (WL, 193–194), continues the invention of himself, the lie about who he is. In the end, even “the old song,” from which Maciek has received his name and part of his identity in Wartime Lies, “is a lie” too because “no matter how long or gaily the music plays, Maciek will not rise and dance again” (WL, 198). “Our man” has replaced him as the real, but elusive, protagonist of Wartime Lies continues the story that the reader cannot parse at a glance. LaCapra’s idea of experiences that “return[ ] in a transformed, at times disfigured and disguised manner” (10) can be seen in the novel’s merging of inventions and realities as memories appear like the invented Maciek from old songs, just to vanish again. “Nomen et cineres una cum vanitate sepulta.” Begley transposes a (meaningless) trauma into a (meaningful) representation in the novel. Its form allows him to view the experiences and memories that come to mind in the process of writing—a process perhaps finally triggered by traumatic memories themselves—through a lens of seeming detachment. Moreover, this fictional engagement allows him to experiment with thoughts, images, and memories that he had forgotten, but which come to him as an afterthought. Yet the narrative is also a connection, incorporation, and mediation of this individual story, as well as the collective corpus of human (traumatic) experience. Hence, he can create new meanings from events that would have been possible, might have happened slightly differently, or that have not happened at all. Yet, through fictional embellishment, they help one understand one’s personal past and present a little better than sticking to the bare facts would do. The novel creates a particular kind of being controlled by a narrative that is determined by the external circumstances. Wartime Lies crafts narrative in, of, and around trauma to take charge of the narrative and give it structure. Writing becomes a reaffirmation of the control that was taken from the victims. Just as in Maciek’s fantastical gameplay, in which his lead soldiers become “the Wehrmacht and SS” because “they looked like winners” (WL, 66), only to later change into better lead soldiers as the advancing Russians, his and Tania’s struggle with bedbugs, in which Maciek was able to turn his fate to become “a hunter and an aggressor” (WL, 93), Begley’s transpositions assert control, to

The Truth of Fiction  69 borrow LaCapra’s concept, over events that negate the slightest possible control. The Nazi regulation of vast aspects of the trauma of the Holocaust, through misinformation, and, in concentration camps, through the creation of contradictory realities, sometimes went as far as controlling a victim’s memories. In retrospect, survivors now, through their own narratives, as Alexander astutely remarks, assert the power to reclaim aspects of their story. Control and coherence are characteristics that are graspable even in the most fragmentary narratives. In Stefan Mächler’s more drastic terms, the achievement of a coherent narrative means that trauma becomes part of the past and loses some of its power over the survivor’s present (298). I emphasize in greater detail in Chapters 3 and 4 that it is precisely the acknowledgment of trauma as a past reality that allows it to be meaningfully incorporated into the present. Begley’s decision to contribute a novelistic account to the discourse on the Holocaust must be seen in the light of gaining control rather than in the light of the postmodernist theme that “[w]e are all writing fictitious versions of our lives all the time, contradictory but mutually entangling stories that, however subtly or grossly falsified, constitute our hold on reality and are the closest thing we have to the truth” (Hornung 121). Contrary to this wholesale surrender of narrative truth, Begley’s claim is that narrative opens up potentialities for truth and makes it more accessible. Especially remarkable, in this respect, is Begley’s insistence that there is a story even before and independently of his telling, a story formed within the individual by the preceding generation. It is a story seen by Wiesel in the eyes of the young boy looking out from the past, and a story that manifests itself in the figure of Maciek as he dances forth from the past to shape part of the present. Begley’s endeavor, therefore, is one of telling his story in a way that allows him to approach the truth of his own experience and trauma, and it enables his audience to connect to both, thereby witnessing things that ought to be remembered.

Notes 1 In the following, systematic, critical conflations of the real writer’s biography with the story related in his work should be approached warily. Such involved readings, definitely, are problematic in many respects. However, by nature of the subject matter of my endeavor, it is necessary to be conscious in one’s comparison about the blurry boundaries between literary fiction and biographical origin from whence they sprang. After all, I follow Paul John Eakin’s summary of Philippe Lejeune’s work On Autobiography that “autobiography is necessarily in its deepest sense a special kind of fiction, its self and its truth as much created as (re)discovered realities” (ix). Indeed, as Begley stresses, transposition of fiction and fact, and negotiation between biography and novel are driving forces of Wartime Lies. However, I do not read Wartime Lies as autobiography or its protagonists as

70  The Truth of Fiction





real people. I will sometimes have to consider Begley’s own statements and biographical facts as an additional vantage point from which to approach the fictional narrative as representations of meanings into present contexts. Apart from the last chapter, the incisions of third-person narrative and classical references are rendered in italics in the text. For purposes of readability, I will in the following refer only to my own emphases made to highlight passages in the text. Her considerations are valuable not only in light of generational classifications, but also for an elaborate critique of such categories. Suleiman shows how experiential qualities are different for children at different ages, even more so in comparison to adolescent or adult experiences of trauma. The category of 1.5 generation makes apparent the blurry distinctions between generations as well as within the generational categories themselves. Suleiman’s category is especially important in that it allows to group Begley as first generation—he did experience aspects of the Holocaust trauma—and analyze Wartime Lies as a link to those writers who have no experiential connection to the actual events. Suleiman explores how experiential qualities are different in children at different ages, even more so in comparison to adolescent or adult experiences of trauma. Her considerations about generational divisions and groupings are especially illuminating in their questioning of borders, influences, and gradations of witnessing. In the context of Canadian memory narratives, Neumann theorizes about the creation of meaning as bound up with the constructive work of narrativization. Within the specifics of a retrospective (memory-based) establishment of meaning, this constructive work, for Neumann, should not evoke an accusation of a narrator who openly acknowledges the limits of his own representation and the mnemonic voids and misremembrances of unreliability. Neumann contends that a narrator with such a level of (self-)reflexivity should be considered even more reliable, since, in the retrospective representation of memory, reliability should be a measure of the acknowledgment of one’s shortcomings (165). As Philip Roth’s The Counterlife (1986) that tells “contradictory yet mutually entangling narratives” (Rothstein 199), Wartime Lies remarks on the necessary and continuous identity play of Jews living in hiding. Illustrative in this context is Nechama Tec’s elaboration of the unsettling implications of a life in hiding like Maciek’s and Tania’s: “The better we played the role,” the Harvard critic Tec states, “the safer we were. Sometimes we were so caught up in the new part that we actually forgot who we really were. Though helpful, this temporary forgetfulness was emotionally costly. For many of us, giving up our true identity created an emotional void and made us feel anxious, worried that we would never recapture our past” (“Wounded” 66). The Swiss historian Stefan Mächler, who published the concise study that was to analyze the affair around the Swiss Binjamin Wilkomirski and determine the extent of truth and fabrication of Wilkomirski’s identity as well as Wilkomirski’s book Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood, emphasizes that it is exactly this quality of non-integrability of traumatic memories into a social group that has not been subjected to this same trauma, which makes traumatic memories highly vulnerable to influences by this audience. Mächler attests—unintentionally quite in line with Begley—that memory needs to be shaped into a meaningful story in which the inherent gaps and breaches are translated into the coherent and cohesive narrative. This process opens up the tale to the audience as well as to one’s own self (289).

The Truth of Fiction  71

Works Cited Alexander, Jeffrey. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Begley, Louis. “36 Stunden in Warschau.” Das Gelobte Land: Beobachtungen aus der Ferne. Edited and translated by Christa Klüger, Suhrkamp, 2001, pp. 101–109. ———. “Wie ein Roman über die Ziellinie gerät: Dankrede.” Das Gelobte Land: Beobachtungen aus der Ferne. Edited and translated by Christa Klüger, Suhrkamp, 2001, pp. 169–176. Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. Routledge, 2004. Douglass, Ana. “The Menchú Effect: Strategic Lies and Approximate Truths in Texts of Witness.” Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma. Edited by Ana Douglass and Thomas Vogler, Routledge, 2003, pp. 55–87. Douglass, Ana and Thomas Vogler. “Introduction.” Witness and Memory: The Discourse of Trauma, Edited by Ana Douglass and Thomas Vogler, Routledge, 2003, pp. 1–53. Eakin, Paul J. “Foreword.” Philippe Lejeune: On Autobiography. Edited by Paul John Eakin, translated by Katherine Leary, U of Minnesota P, 1989. Hoffman, Eva. After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust. Secker and Warburg, 2004. Hornung, Alfred. “Hungerkünstler und die jüdisch amerikanische Literatur: Kafka, Roth, Ozick, Auster.” Identität und Gedächtnis in der jüdischen Literatur nach 1945. Edited by Dieter Lamping, Erich Schmidt, 2003. Horowitz, Rosemary. “Introduction.” Elie Wiesel and the Art of Storytelling. Edited by Rosemary Horowitz, McFarland, 2006, pp. 3–14. LaCapra, Dominick. History and Memory after Auschwitz. Cornell UP, 1998. Langer, Lawrence L. “Introduction to Charlotte Delbo’s Auschwitz and After.” Charlotte Delbo. Auschwitz and After. Translated by Rosette C. Lamont, Yale UP, 1995. ———. “Wounded Families in Holocaust Discourse.” Using and Abusing the Holocaust. Edited by Lawrence L. Langer, Indiana UP, 2006. Laub, Dori. “Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening.” Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. Edited by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Routledge, 1992, pp. 57–74. Mächler, Stefan. Der Fall Wilkomirski: Über die Wahrheit einer Biographie. Pendo, 2000. Neumann, Birgit. Erinnerung, Identität Narration: Gattungspsychologie und Funktionen kanadischer “Fictions of Memory.” Walter de Gruyter, 2005. Rosenbaum, Thane. The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to Do What’s Right. HarperCollins, 2004. Rosenfeld, Alvin H. “The Problematics of Holocaust Literature.” Confronting the Holocaust: The Impact of Elie Wiesel. Edited by Alvin H. Rosenfeld and Irving Greenberg, Indiana UP, 1978. Rothberg, Michael. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. U of Minnesota P, 2000. Rothstein, Mervyn. “Philip Roth and the World of ‘What if?’ Conversations with Philip Roth. Edited by George J. Searles, UP of Mississippi, 1992, pp. 198–201. Originally published in The New York Times, 17 December 1986, sec. C21.

72  The Truth of Fiction Stein, Arlene. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014. Suleiman, Susan Rubin. “The 1.5 Generation: Thinking about Child Survivors and the Holocaust.” American Imago, vol. 59, 2002, pp. 277–295. Trodd, Zoe. “Mosaics and Mirrors: Wiesel, American Autobiographies, and the Shaping of a Storied Subject.” Elie Wiesel and the Art of Storytelling. Edited by Rosemary Horowitz, McFarland, 2006, pp. 15–37. Wardi, Dina. Memorial Candles: Children of the Holocaust. Translated by Naomi Goldblum, Routledge, 1992. Weissman, Gary. Fantasies of Witnessing. Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Cornell UP, 2004.


Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata Cheryl Pearl Sucher’s The Rescue of Memory

“My mother’s voice held me like wings. In its sadness, I heard the necessity of going forward. I would never be alone again. She had given me that gift, never to lose it. In that moment, I felt assured of the possibility of joy” (TRM, 283). These last lines of The Rescue of Memory, dedicated to the protagonist Rachel’s mother’s testimony, underline the meaningful inclusion of first-generation testimony into second-generation reality. Sucher’s example, in comparison with Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke, shows that both silence and overemphasis of trauma can confirm and increase the burden of the second generation. Both novels show not only that the Holocaust “remained acutely present […], taking on a surreal quality” (Stein 53–54), but also that first-generation voices can provide solace and a basis to move forward. Arthur Cohen analyzes the dual processes of re-narrativization and reinterpretation in his seminal work, The Tremendum, in which he emphasizes the survivors’ need “to bridge the chasm which opened beneath them” through a plethora of linguistic means as “a body of images and imaginings; or else vaguely and mystically, floating beyond us, palpable ghosts and specters of a world we never knew” to whom, however, a growing audience of “aides and interpreters” have joined (5). Both the knowledge and the non-knowledge of one’s parents’ lives foster different modes of interpretation, and they bring to the fore other engagements that try to infuse a meaning and structure of their own into the bits and pieces of parental memory. In the context of the literary field, The Rescue of Memory is not one of the most visible—or canonical—examples to draw upon when discussing second-generation works. On the one hand, Sucher is a journalist and writer born in the United States, but she now lives mostly in New Zealand. On the other, her contribution to Holocaust literature, as it is commonly defined, is comparably negligible. Nevertheless, The Rescue of Memory complements the common notion of second-generation writing with its detailed picture of the predicament of growing up in a family deeply maimed by past trauma. For this reason, the book deserves more critical attention since it problematizes the tension between the imperative to bear witness and the imperative to never forget, as opposed to the individual’s need to establish their own identity by navigating past traumata and present personal problems.

74  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata

Past and Present: Making a Stance of One’s Own Rachel Wallfish, second-generation protagonist and narrating interpreter of her own story, is torn between her life—the struggles of growing up in a dysfunctional household; the illness and loss of her mother; the realization of her dreams; and her relation to her own body and to men—and her parents’ Holocaust memories, including her father Raphael’s continuous admonitions and tales, her father’s aunt Nana’s harrowing influence, her mother Luba’s invalidity from meningitis, and her kibbutznik aunt Tsenyeh’s stories. Rachel’s is an agonizing strife to establish her own self and grow into the protective wings of a meaningful past that can emancipate her from the oppression of first-generation trauma. Rachel’s narrative, in a “Prologue: Another Side of the Same Place,” introduces an alternate universe that deeply influences her life: not the people and characters of her actual life, but the black-and-white shadows in her father’s pictures of the events of liberation and after. “Confronting the camera,” the Holocaust survivors “refuse to be captured by the camera” With “eyes […] still webbed by pain” (TRM, 14), they—from Rachel’s perspective—refuse the fact of liberation itself. Left with the images and pieces of their story, Rachel imagines them as their characters, lives, feelings in an attempt to approach their meaning and essence in the photographic past and the immediate present. In this construction of accessible narratives, the original trauma stories become both leveled and heightened to create more involvement by their audiences. Arthur Frank suggests that the mediated and “assimilated” pieces of the story remain hauntingly present as they continue the trauma into the following generation’s feelings and imaginations (60). It was such “isolated fragments” like Rachel’s (and later Duncan Katz’s) that triggered Ernst van Alphen’s inquiry into the “distinction between historical and imaginative discourse,” which led him to explore the “Holocaust Effect,” that is, an oppositional concept to “Holocaust Representation” (1–3). Alphen distinguishes between the latter, characterized as mediated and, therefore, objectified in the sense that it is “made present” through “a reference to it;” and the former, namely the process by which “as viewers or readers, [we] experience directly a certain aspect of the Holocaust or of Nazism, of that which led to the Holocaust. In such moments,” van Alphen continues, “the Holocaust is not re-presented, but rather presented or reenacted” (10). Other criticism aside, actually reexperiencing the Holocaust is, first and foremost, impossible (Rothberg 277), although van Alphen’s theory uncovers the intricate importance of representation as the vital means to reapproach trauma; through narrative mediation in case of the survivors who repeatedly engage with the meanings that trauma holds, or through narrative engagements that mediate the events and their meanings in the post-Holocaust world for the following generations.

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  75 Chapters 1 and 2 considered how even the most powerful accounts cannot achieve the feat of actual reexperience.1 For this reason Maurice Blanchot argues, in regard to William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice (1979), that “there can be no fiction story about Auschwitz” because testimony is possible only “in the singularity of each individual” (68). Personal investment is important for Blanchot, who, like Wiesel and Begley, stresses the importance of experience-based (re)narration. Rachel, try as she may, cannot re-narrate the past of the people whom she sees in her father’s pictures, but whom she must approach via fictional narrative or historical interpretation. Such “symbolic extension” makes possible meaningful engagement and, on a larger scale, an unprecedented “universalization” of the Shoah in terms of responsibility and implication (“Social Construction” 35). Rachel forms such symbolic extensions from Raphael’s narratives and photos as she struggles to create her own meanings from them. In order to ground a whole, stable, and present identity, Rachel must attain a sense of a meaningful past that—including the trauma of the Holocaust—can be used to shape a present narrative. Rachel is engulfed by omnipresent reminders that her reality does not compare to Raphael’s or Luba’s or Nana’s experiences. Unlike Raphael, who did not seek happiness since for him it “was ephemeral, fleeting, as the first dawn breeze, nothing but a transient state of elation,” she tries to establish her own happiness; but, like him, she longs for “a life devoid of problems” (TRM, 15). More accurately, she desires a life that contains her own, persisting happiness with her own problems, since repeatedly, her parents’ trauma is imposed on her as a measure of her reality, frequently characterizing it as inconsequential. Raphael’s, Luba’s, and Nana’s trauma stories overshadow Rachel’s childhood and adolescence, preventing a fully meaningful present. In a world in which “even Nana […] didn’t live a life, only a past” (TRM, 100) and Raphael’s “tales of horror” (TRM, 117) inflict pain on his children, “distance,” as Tsenyeh admonishes, “can be a good thing” (TRM, 39). Rachel has to eventually challenge her own present involvements in her parents’ stories. The conflict between Rachel’s trauma and personal needs and that of her parents elaborates on what Eva Hoffman termed the “agon” of the second generation (41). When, as Erin McGlothlin states, “trauma is produced by persecution of subjects to whom all agency and principle have been denied” (6), then second-generation trauma is the strain of absent trauma and memory without means and agency. Rachel cannot work through her parents’ Holocaust trauma because without experience, she sees “just pictures when [she does not] know the stories behind” (TRM, 103). Yet she must acknowledge her parents’ trauma and include it in her own identity narratives. To do so is an imperative that is partly imposed by her parents, partly as an expectation of society, and also as a necessity she feels herself. Rebellion against this task seems

76  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata futile. Melvin Jules Bukiet emphasizes: “You were born in the fifties so you smoked dope and screwed around like everyone else. But rebellion was pretty halfhearted, because how could you rebel against those people who endured such loss?” (14). Rachel’s and her sister Emily’s example, however, shows that some forms of rebellion can lead to wholesome integration and the acknowledgment of the trauma. For Rachel, the absence of memory, the feelings of bereavement, abandonment, and loss, as well as the rage against and desire for closeness to her parents, need to be mediated and counterbalanced by the present construction of a meaningful, integrated self (McGlothlin 11). Rachel, constructing her own Holocaust narratives in and of the aftermath, embarks upon a process of working through on two levels: first, narratively going over her memories and experiences in the memoir that the reader receives as The Rescue of Memory, and, second, her creative-narrative engagement in the film(s) she produces. Both narratological processes integrate the past and the present. Toward the end of the novel, Rachel realizes what Hoffman calls the impossibility of “undoing the past” to “rescue” her parents “from their grief and mourning” (63) when she creatively integrates their stories into her life. Only in her adulthood, still trying to determine and shape her life, does she start to develop a sense of meaningful equilibrium between past and present trauma, as she establishes a “different relationship to [her parents’] traumatic memories” (Stein 11). Rachel epitomizes the huge uncertainty of herself and her place in the world among Raphael’s and Nana’s vague hints and warnings. Raphael repeatedly uses Rachel as “his sounding board,” even making it unnecessary for her to respond or interact, since she, in those moments, has little other purpose than to allow her father to “hear himself think” (TRM, 15) about and reflect upon his traumatic experiences. Raphael’s telling is decidedly not a reestablishment of the human dyad, as it prevents Rachel from adding her own generational perspective or actively receiving the story. She must “never forget” in order to preserve the knowledge of those who perished—being named after two of them—and to ensure that their trauma may, at some point, actually be healed. These experiences are simply too much for the child who is forced to endure the stories about “the thousand and one nights of [Raphael’s] life” (TRM, 34). The novel describes in stark colors Rachel’s growing up with parents who, as Luba states, “falling into [their] questions, […] fell into [themselves] and away from [Rachel], searching for reason instead of making the most of time” (TRM, 282). Thus, in search of meaning and the rescue of memory, Raphael tells stories that, though often fantastical and vivid, lack all soothing qualities. Rachel “did believe” her father’s stories, but “didn’t say a word, for [Raphael] loved argument more than he loved truth and would seize the opportunity presented by [her] assent to disagree with his own point of view” (TRM, 14). With such

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  77 an extraordinary discrepancy between the stories and their meaningful incorporation into the child’s reality, Rachel is unable to form a coherent sense of what happened, how, and why. What for Raphael is a means to revisit the past and create sense through the structure and creation of multiple narratives, forces Rachel into acceptance of diverse narratives from which her only lesson can be that whatever she experiences can never be of consequence compared to her parents’ experiences. For Rachel, the acutely perceived trauma that she has never lived through forms memories of unexperienced events that are primordially traumatic, and they are connected to and increased by her first-hand experience of her parents’ fragmentation, personal fears, and unrealized hopes. For her, the incessant oscillation between her wish to see the people in Raphael’s photograph collection and her post-Holocaust perception causes a break in her experience of time and self, rendering impossible in different ways her sensemaking within the world. In The Rescue of Memory—as in Second Hand Smoke, but also differently in Golems of Gotham, Anne Michael’s Fugitive Pieces (1996), or Maus— Rachel’s second-generation experience portrays a helplessness of being exposed to the nightmares, insomnia, agitation, and unjustified severity that increase her deep sense of immediate pain. The affective bond between primary and secondary witness is lopsided and, at first, damages Rachel because she does not know how to sensibly protect herself from the power of the trauma to overwrite her own self. To extract a passage from LaCapra’s History and Memory, one could say that Raphael’s memories form the “chocolate-covered madeleine of the psyche on which [he] overdoses” in his attempts both to repeatedly gain “access to experience” that was inherently traumatic, but that is “sacralized or seen as auric—notably the traumatic experience of victimization” (14) and to educate his daughter about that experience. The madeleine overdose of trauma, structuring and potentially liberating for Raphael, intrudes into Rachel’s psyche and, the metaphor becoming literal, results in obesity, eating disorder, and self-victimization. For Rachel, Laub’s argument in “Bearing Witness” that “a testimonial process similar in nature to the psychoanalytic process, in that it is yet another medium that provides a listener to trauma, another medium of re-externalization— thus historicization—of the event” cannot work (70) since she, as a child, lacks the capability to pit her own identity against Raphael’s narratives. Comparable to Maciek’s inability to prevent fake identities taking over, Rachel cannot, as LaCapra admonishes in a different context, “reinforce dimensions of the ‘self’ that can somehow both come to terms with and counteract the force of [Raphael’s] past, as it returns in [Rachel’s] present, in order to further the shaping of [her own] livable future” (14). She is, in other words, Raphael’s embodiment of the sentiment that the fundamental purpose of the following generations is the mending of the world—tikkun olam (Woocher 200). Certainly, Rachel experiences this

78  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata as an objectification that negates her own identity. “Listening,” Rachel attests, “was my birthright, the reason I had been brought into this horrible world” (TRM, 17). The birthright of listening takes the form of existence as only a receptacle. The Rescue of Memory, in this instance, cannot mean the rescue of her father’s memory. She merely receives the trauma. The title can also not mean the rescue of her memory of her father because with all the love and tenderness she feels for him, his trauma remains a continuous violation of her own psyche. Hence, it can connote only the rescue from memory, that is, rescuing and sustaining the memories and remembrances into the next generation, while being able to rescue her own memories—an acute and independent self-awareness—as part of her own existence. Rachel knows her father’s arguments before he has even made them. Overwhelmed by the urge to listen, because it is a way to show her father, “who had seen more horrors than Virgil during his guided tour through Dante’s Inferno” (TRM, 17), that she loves him, there is no way to establish her own narrative as long as she cannot achieve this particular type of rescue. Sucher’s reference to Dante’s Divine Comedy poses an important connection to Begley’s and Levi’s narratives. There and elsewhere, it functions as a common simile and analogical literary reference to make horrible events more graspable for those who were not there. Its incorporation in second-generation writing informs the general narrative connections prevalent in the generational reframing of the collective narrative that transmits trauma.

Photographs and Other Stories: Past Negatives and Healing Trauma Hobby photo- and videographer Raphael Wallfish keeps a vast collection of pictures and videotapes in his room; all pertain to his post-Holocaust life. That it is tellingly a life maimed by the Holocaust, however, is indicated by shared motives: mass graves and individuals after liberation. A set of two photographs that captivates Rachel’s attention and that she “tried to conceal deep in the briefcase’s folds” continually reappears: a mass grave before and after being filled. Nana stands next to the dead bodies and graves that “contained her childhood, like the kindling bones of the earlier, second photograph. In [Nana’s] eyes was more than loss, there was resignation and fear.” In Rachel’s interpretation, Nana’s eyes “perceived a tragedy that would never be over;” a tragedy Rachel cannot feel directly but that she witnesses through Raphael’s pictures. The pictures shape the atmosphere of her home and of her imagination as she moves into the future. These photographic representations, and the trauma she perceives in them, haunt the girl’s imagination when she is “falling asleep” (TRM, 22–23). The first-generation narrative of testifying for those who cannot testify anymore is taken over by the secondary witness that Rachel embodies. Even a corpse in the pictures who “stares

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  79 into his own mind, trying to remember,” but unable “to close his eyes” becomes an admonition for Rachel to “open my own [eyes], wondering if I can remember for him” (TRM, 23). Rachel not only impersonates the role of memorial candle, as Wardi conceptualizes, it but actively inscribes herself into the (imagined) narrative of the pictures in order to fulfill what the people in them cannot do anymore. This kind of rescuing depends on personal involvement. It is telling that Rachel imagines closure and experiential insensibility—emblematized in her assumption that the person in the photo wants to opt out of the witnessing process because the trauma is too much. Rachel, too, in narration’s hindsight, wants to shed the role of the bearer of an overbearing trauma. Rachel assumes—probably from the influence of the collective narrative that mythologizes both survivor and trauma narrative—that the subjects of the pictures are aware of the ongoing trauma, an assumption based on her direct, personal knowledge of her parents’ and Nana’s post-Holocaust traumatization. Of equal importance is her countereffort to open her eyes. Whereas the true witnesses want to close their eyes so they can function in the post-trauma world, Rachel, the secondary witness, opens her eyes wide to remember by proxy and ensure the remembrance of the trauma of the Holocaust and its events. The continuation of a vague, threatening, omnipresent, and overwhelming Holocaust trauma by the members of the following generation(s) is Raphael’s central expectation. The family, greatly diminished by the Holocaust (only Raphael, his aunt Nana, his wife Luba, and her sister Tsenyeh survived the camps), is marked by trauma. This is why none of Rachel’s other relatives is a real one, “but a surrogate assigned relative status because of [their] proximity to my father’s secrets” (TRM, 17). Not the emotional but the traumatic closeness functions as defining category. In the course of the novel, it becomes increasingly apparent that access to these secrets is both unquestioningly expected and unremittingly denied. Moreover, playing even more on the prototypical motif, Raphael has named his second daughter Rachel “after [his] mother and sister, Rukhl and Channah, whom [he] saw walk hand-in-hand into the crematorium” (TRM, 25). With this legacy, it is almost impossible for the Wallfish sisters, Emily and Rachel, to develop identities that are truly their own and distinct from their parents’ trauma. Even outside oppressive family expectations, epitomized here by a rabbi’s admonition at Emily’s bat mitzvah that “being a child of survivors [entailed] a special responsibility.” But Rachel, who is too young to understand the meaning of the rabbi’s words urging her older sister towards “tikkun olam,” namely “[t]he healing of the world” is already able to understand that “Daddy would never let us forget” (TRM, 94–95). The narrating Rachel comments on this passage: If anything, our father’s lessons in memory obscured his lessons in life. I couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t telling us about the cattle cars, the selection lines, the crematoria, the death pits,

80  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata the sadistic Gestapo officers and their rabid guard dogs. Ghettos and concentration camps populated our bedtime fables, inhabiting a haunted wonderland all their own. Almost every night he would describe for us places so terrible that no one would believe they existed once, those who had survived their terrors were no longer alive to testify. (TRM, 95) With the omnipresence of the trauma and its narratives, normal development for the children is almost impossible. Rachel’s metatextual comment emphasizes the trauma narratives’ insidious quality to corrupt even everyday stories. Normal children’s stories and “bedtime fables” (TRM, 95) are rewritten by Raphael to narratively re-externalize and structure his experiences. Thereby, Rachel’s reality turns into a continuous narrative of transformation in which every item can at any time resurface as a reminder of or be transformed into an instance of trauma. This process is part of other second-generation narratives and has been appropriated by “outsiders” inscribing themselves into the holocaustic genre. Most pertinent perhaps is Carl Friedman’s Nightfather, originally posing as second-generation account of a traumatized survivor household, but subsequently unmasked as a hoax.2 Growing up in this oppressive family atmosphere, Rachel is unable to distinguish her father’s trauma stories from her own memories and experiences. Bedtime stories and daytime experiences cause a confluence of Rachel’s reality. A fable, significantly, is a “fictitious narrative or statement” that relates to “supernatural or extraordinary persons” (“fable”). It thus has a legendary or mythical character, but it is also used to “convey some useful lesson” (“fable”). While Rachel’s narrative never suggests that fable means to her “falsehood” or “fabrication,” the other meanings are implicitly elicited. She lets her protagonist acknowledge the usefulness and legitimation of her father’s stories of past trauma. Telling, for the latter, is a therapeutic means to exorcise his ghosts temporarily and to prepare his daughter for a world pockmarked by horrendously traumatic events. Raphael’s stylistic means, on the contrary, in his endeavor to testify to trauma caricatures a contrast between the supernatural/superhuman and suffering/survival. Rachel’s complaint that all forms of narratives take on a traumatized and traumatizing quality functions on several levels. First, it counters the expectation of what constitutes a “normal” story that is not tainted by trauma. Second, the traumatic fact and fiction intrude into the stories’ makeup. Third,  the re-alignment with existing narratives as trauma narratives, that is, the endowment of already existing narratives with meanings of and references to the trauma. The narrative patch- and framework of the memories of trauma constitutes—as a cultural trauma—a communicative tradition of

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  81 experiences, stories, and memories which are continuously retold, reimagined, and represented so they will not be forgotten. This remembrance, however, makes those secondary witnesses who have no personal experience of the actual events active bearers of the memories, and thus of the (cultural) trauma. Such a process, of course, holds true for all generations of postmemory. The effect is not restricted to second- or third-generation classifications. Neither is it restricted to specific persons with familial ties to the Holocaust. Everyone living at the time of or after the Holocaust can be drawn into its continuing trauma and become an active bearer of what Alexander calls a “horrendous event that leaves indelible marks upon their group consciousness, marking their memories forever and changing their future identity in fundamental ways” (Trauma 6). Examples are abundant. Some of the most prevalent authors, among others, are Norma Rosen, Saul Bellow, Cynthia Ozick, Philip Roth, William Styron, and Nathan Englander. This opening of categories becomes increasingly important as we move forward in time away from the original events.3 Between Raphael as first- and Rachel as second-generation witnesses exists a communicative-narrative exchange: the narratives or nonnarratives of the survivor generation communicate a trauma that is taken up by the descendants and incorporated into their own stories as a fragment of the past determining present identity. Remembering, hence, becomes a literal re-membering: a reassembling of fragmented memories and narratives into new narratives that pass on the knowledge of trauma into the present. It also re-members the individuals into a collectivity that is shaped as a community of shared memory, née trauma (Neumann 77–78).

Generational Connections: Approaching Firstand Second-Generation Trauma The most intimate and caring moments between Rachel and Raphael happen during their insomniac night-time wanderings. Meeting in the kitchen, they create almost normal father–daughter moments of tenderness and security, while on most other occasions, Raphael ensures that—because he cannot forget and still cannot “remember anymore because [it] hurt[s] too much” (TRM, 83)—his daughters, too, must not forget. He reminds Emily and Rachel not only of his Holocaust trauma, but also his sufferings in the postwar world that makes his wife an untimely invalid. In his horrifying bedside stories, Raphael incorporates his and others’ trauma to testify into these “bedside fables.” The strange construction testify into, in this context, means that, for Raphael, the constant retelling and narrativization of his various sufferings are his way of including himself into a larger narrative. He remembers not only his own trauma, but invariably his trauma and memory, like Wiesel’s

82  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata and Lengyel’s, interweave with the trauma and remembrance of those who perished in the Shoah. He has really experienced it and has seen people “walk hand-in-hand into the crematorium” (TRM, 25), but he cannot give them actual existence other than by invoking them in his trauma stories. Rachel has not experienced these events and can only belatedly imagine herself into the stories that give testimony of the existence of the past of her family members. Testifying into then becomes an act through which the generations can narratively approach each other as they all become part of the collectivity of trauma in which they can participate together. The representation of trauma becomes crucial for the children’s imagination. For them, there is no story or identity anymore that is not related to the parental trauma. The nightmarish stories of concentration camps and other horrors of the Holocaust become part of Rachel and Emily’s daily reality. Comparable to Maciek’s nightmares of the giant, Raphael’s memories need listeners who accept his trauma on its own terms, but thereby creating a “trauma [in its own right] rather than simple representation” (Grimwood 11) in his daughters’ minds. With her imaginative involvement from earliest childhood, Rachel experiences a representation that becomes a present reality devoid of past experience. Natan Kellermann explains a plethora of different transmission theories for traumatic transference from one generation to the next. Most pertinent in the context of this chapter are his examples from what is called family-system theory, according to which distorted or incomplete communication of traumatic experiences is at the root of survivors’ children’s inability to meaningfully incorporate the trauma into their own reality.4 This intricate mesh of communication between generations complicates the question of a whole self and a distinct identity in The Rescue of Memory. It is not merely the past of the Holocaust that haunts the Wallfishs and precludes a normal childhood for the sisters. The real second-generation trauma that the novel engages with and of which the Holocaust is only one, though important, part is the multilayered inability to create one’s own story. The great chance to take charge of her own story and create a meaningful dialogue with another person comes when Rachel, at an amateur softball contest meets her future husband Girard. Even this meeting epitomizes the problematic complexity of Rachel’s personality. Significantly, Rachel and Girard fell in love by “a process of deductive reasoning, a fast tango away from ourselves and toward each other” (TRM, 60, my emphasis) when Rachel is still struggling to assert herself against Raphael’s Holocaust past. Even the “blind forgetting” that sex with Girard suddenly provides can be only superficial. Rachel looks at the mirror, and “[t]he image staring back at me was that of my father.” It is not merely the striking physical resemblance—the literal and metaphorical weight of the word “makeup”—on which Rachel

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  83 comments, but also the subsumed, transgenerational identicalness between father and daughter that prevents Rachel from “distinguish[ing] what was mine from those features I had always associated with my father,” to separate the makeup of her present identity from Raphael’s past. In this mirror image, Raphael’s and her story are indistinguishable, their lives and life stories intricately intertwined. Yet, while Rachel muses over these intricacies, the rehearsals of her post-apocalyptic film production Drummond are reaching their “first epiphany” in which Drummond “realizes that he has lost everything” (TRM, 61). Vaguely dangling between the imagined world of the film, her mirror musings, and Girard’s attempts to draw her into the present two lines— “You can negotiate everything for a price. Even if that price is your life” (TRM,  61, original emphasis)—float into the narration. At the moment, Rachel cannot realize Girard’s pleas to get away from “the public performance” of their lives and marriage and “take time” for themselves before they “run ourselves into the ground.” At this moment, “‘self’” is still “a dirty word” in Rachel’s family (TRM, 62). Only later, when Luba’s voice testimony and Rachel’s self-assertion against Raphael and Denny allow her to integrate the entanglement into the family trauma, will the epiphany strike and will Rachel learn to negotiate her life in a way that her life will not be the price for such a negotiation of past and present meanings. Rachel, like Eliezer in Night, reacts with affirmative acts of acceptance, incorporation, and creation. To “explain my nightmares, which were wilder than the excesses of my waking imagination,” Rachel conceptualizes herself as “two people: a child who lived during the day and an old woman who lived at night in dreams” (TRM, 110). This metaphor of a bipartite personality fits well into a narrative that is an almost diary-like account divided between a girl’s growing up in and out of her family and the generational link to her predecessors’ past trauma and her role of remembering it. A closer comparison with Raphael’s similarly meaningful reflections clarifies the novel’s concern with identity. Resembling the final lines of Wiesel’s Night are Raphael’s thoughts after liberation when he travels on a train to find Nana, his only surviving relative. Looking out of—or rather into—the window, he realized that something existed that was bigger than my own life. The reflection staring back at me from the scratched train window wasn’t the boy I remembered, green and wild, skipping school all the time, pretty girls on his mind like a fever, but a young man with a responsibility to make something out of his past. The strange thing is that even though I didn’t recognize this man’s reflection, I knew he was who I had been all along. (TRM, 80)

84  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata This passage is set within an anecdote relating a bad fever Raphael had had as a boy and his mother traveling a long distance to beg a wellknown rabbi for his prayers. Not explicitly drawing any religious conclusions from this anecdote, Raphael still admits the possibility of a greater scheme of things. Seen from the novel’s second-generation perspective, this “something” is the generational plotline that connects members of families, communities, and generations through time and space. Although at the time when this event happens—the immediate postwar Germany—Raphael is unable to make real sense of the re-flection, which is an intrusion of memory into the perception of the present, he acknowledges that there is a deeper truth that finally will out. In telling the story, the generational links remain intact. There actually is something greater than his own existence, namely the incursions and imprints of his existence into the existences of other generations. This connectedness works both ways, back in time to his predecessors—Raphael’s mother—and forward in time—to Rachel and her sister. Remembrance becomes the predominant connective link forged between different generations. Tsenyeh emphasizes this point when she tells Rachel that “forgetting means leaving behind the parts of yourself that you most need to retrieve in order to go forward. Believe me, without recovering the past there can be no future, because there can be no healing” (TRM, 234). Such remembrance does not mean that the mnemonic imperative should completely consume the present. Some things, as highlighted by Raphael’s anecdote, need to be forgotten if one is to carry on. The young, hotheaded self is replaced by a more balanced personality. Similarly, the young Rachel must burst the “vice of the past” in which she had been caught since her earliest childhood. As long as she cannot meaningfully incorporate the trauma of her parents into her own story, “no future could be born out of a history not our own that could neither be understood nor forgotten” (TRM, 253). She needs a greater awareness of her own story and traumatic experiences, while forgetting some aspects of her parents’ trauma. Already in second-generation works and decidedly in the thirdgeneration engagements that form the subjects of Chapters 5 and 6, we see a preoccupation with the need to remember trauma in a world in which the ranks of survivors are thinning fast. “Listen to what I’m telling you, girls,” Raphael repeatedly orders his daughters, “because I won’t be here forever to keep on telling you myself!” (TRM, 152). Apart from the obvious need to ensure the continued remembrance of his life and trauma, Raphael uses these frequent incursions into memory as a means of education. In times when his daughters are too rebellious or when he wants to force upon them his views, his stories of trauma and the admonition that he will die along with his story—represented, especially to the younger Rachel, as a complete abandonment of her in a bleak world—are intentionally used to intimidate his children into submission.

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  85 The result for Rachel is a devastating existential fear that leaves her “frightened” to the point that she “wanted him to stop remembering” those “memories [that] were like swarming locusts hovering in the shadows” of her consciousness to “attack” and devour her present reality. While Raphael’s “past,” in Rachel’s memory “had overwhelmed his future, burying the possibility of hope in the swarm of his plague” (TRM, 153), it also threatens to overpower Rachel’s future. Rachel comments on her father’s systematic use of his traumatic past to intentionally break his children’s individuality and resistance. Remembrance becomes a hovering threat that is capable of attacking and destroying present moorings. Hope, thereby, is buried not only for the father but also for the daughter(s), as an individual future separate from trauma changes into an impossibility. Phrased differently, Rachel feels that her “father’s lessons in memory,” rather than fostering a meaningful engagement with trauma for both himself and her, “obscured his lessons in life” (TRM, 95). The second-generation experience, for Rachel, is one of an enforced surrender of her individuality, of the clash of her own distinct experiences with parental ones, and of a personal past, present, and future that cannot be shaped according to her own life.

First-Hand Trauma in Second-Generation Writing The persistent reevaluation of the present according to standards of the traumatic Holocaust past, of course, causes conflict in the Wallfish household. The family, already marked by the loss and trauma of the Holocaust, is additionally troubled by the mother’s meningitis and consequent infirmity as well as the father’s struggle to fulfill the roles of both parents, which goes as far as to have him declare that he “WASN’T BORN TO BE A FATHER AND MOTHER TO YOU AND YOUR SISTER;” and he completely agonizes his daughters with his claim that “if I had known what my life would be like in America, I would have died in concentration camp” (TRM, 28). Not only the conflation of past and present, but also the impossible situation of guilt for Rachel and Emily characterize Raphael’s reprimands. Significantly, Luba’s meningitis relapse, as Tsenyeh apprises, is a recurrence of a near-death meningitis infection Luba had in the concentration camp Ravensbrück. In this way, it signifies the debilitating aftereffects of the Holocaust that can and will recur at any time and change completely the survivors’ post-Holocaust lives as well as their postmemory family. Consequently, when Rachel feels that her “life is just beginning,” she is reprimanded by her helpless father, who declares that his life “is beginning to end.” This censure, of course, does not solve the conflict; rather it cruelly sweeps it away into a “silence” that is “filled with the variable static of thousands of miles” (TRM, 41). Of course, this particular silence results, metaphorically speaking, from more than mere

86  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata geographical miles. It attests to the inherently different experience of the worlds that the different generations are trying to inhabit and to Raphael’s inability to let his offspring establish themselves independently of his world. Instead of making her own experiences in the world outside her family and family history, Rachel “dreamt [all her life] about becoming one of the brides nesting in [Raphael’s] sealskin briefcase” (TRM, 27). While she already bears the names of two Wallfish women who perished in the Holocaust, she now imagines herself into the trauma as a full member of the first generation and as an experiencer instead of a member of the generation of postmemory. Raphael’s wedding pictures “had [even] inspired [her] own wedding plans” (TRM, 14), yet, had Rachel been one of those brides, none of her present reality would have existed. Moreover, the past of her parents and their trauma seems more real than her actual present reality in the United States. It even taints the childhood dreams epitomized in the black-and-white photographs which take on a life of their own in Rachel’s second-generation emphasis on trauma’s continuity. Indeed, Rachel remarks that Raphael’s images seem to “record a single wedding” (TRM, 12), indicating her fantastical confusion of layers of reality that the picture’s punctum infers (Barthes 41–46). It is, however, a punctum upside-down, not one of “co-presence” in the picture; instead the picture creates a “co-presence” of the past in Rachel’s present. Such continuity “produce[s] the mnemonic futuristic fantasy [that Rachel] had fashioned out of the recurrent nightmares that had jolted [her] out of sleep when [she] was a child” (TRM, 34). The futuristic fantasy is characterized, not by dreams or future-oriented expectations, but by memories from the past—a past, the readers come to assume, that is not her own, but the fantasies she creates from the bits and pieces of her father’s stories and pictures. Sucher endows her protagonist with a prototypically artistic capacity; in Rachel’s case, it is one that is also conceptualized as a refuge that constitutes both flight from and fight against these merging realities. Rachel feels that she has no other means of coping than her filmmaking art with both the extrinsic and intrinsic nightmares borrowed from others’ stories. Her pursuit of a career as filmmaker and graphic artist, as well as her first professional film, Drummond, become the first instances of Rachel’s self-assertion. While the first film Rachel has made was a survivor testimony of Raphael for a school project, Drummond functions as the artistic expression of a self in search of itself within the remnants of stories that are both an intimate childhood reality and alien intruders from others’ pasts. The production “was born when my mother became ill, my sister moved into her own bedroom, and my father stopped reading me Golden Books before I went to sleep and started telling me the thousand and one nights of his life” (TRM, 34). Her artistic engagement

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  87 is inherently meant to level Rachel’s own traumata in growing up—the shock of her mother’s meningitis attack and consequent invalidism, the chasm produced by an older sister’s natural distancing from her, and the father’s retreat from the caring father–child relationship. For Rachel in her precarious connection to the Holocaust trauma, these experiences produce a sense of loss and abandonment. At this crucial moment of forlornness, the testimonial film plays a significant role in providing creative engagement with the past and present. Second-generation writer and critic Eva Hoffman emphasizes such processes of wresting meaning from the narratives of trauma and the struggle to achieve some form of sense from them within the framework of the present reality. Hoffman perceives the “compressed cluster of facts” transmitted to her as “first knowledge, a sort of supercondensed pellet of primal information—the kind from which everything else grows, or explodes, or follows, and which it takes a lifetime to unpack and decode” (6). What Hoffman describes is part of an intergenerational healing process that makes possible, according to psychologist Dan Bar-On, a reassessment and critical questioning of limits, gaps, and overt or covert conflicts between the past and present traumata and of the hopes or despair for the future (429). Such an intergenerational approach is essential, since each group offers a new unique perspective. In the particularity of The Rescue of Memory, the process of decoding that Hoffman mentions becomes a narrative process of sensemaking from, with, and against the stories of Raphael’s experiences during the Holocaust. Rachel uses those fragments with which she identifies strongly, yet she changes the material in her own creative way. She collects and collectivizes the first-generation stories and thus forms a corpus of material that is, as a narrative pertaining to a collective identity, imbued with a meaning more encompassing than that of one individual’s trauma narrative. It becomes an instance of survival and memory that is an inherent part—visible or invisible—of the collectivity of the following generations’ writing. In Drummond, the parental trauma and its narratives change so that they can establish new perspectives—new pasts and presents—according to the respective contingencies or functional orientations: a process that, in itself, poses tremendous difficulties when the fragments are put together in new ways or as narratives that clash with the disparate expectations within the collectivity (Welzer 61). Like Walter Benjamin’s seminal interpretation in “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940) of Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus, Rachel, in conceiving Drummond transformed the broken stones into stories, for that was the only way I knew how to get some sleep. Before long, the faces of my father’s friends became my photographs. Their voices spoke the words of my journals, investing my work with a power it had never achieved

88  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata on its own. Junek the Spoon became JoJo the engineer, Natek the Moustache became Griffin the navigator, Koppel the Bald Head became Animo the driver. (TRM, 35) Rachel now actively refashions stories from the bits and pieces of her father’s factual past and accounts as well as from his fictional renderings of other stories, while previously she has been the passive receptacle of Raphael’s tainted texts. Because Rachel comprehensively draws on Raphael’s stories to describe her relationship between his and her trauma, one could argue that both Raphael and Rachel are “telling a version of the truth as they grasped it” (Langer xi). They are writing on different levels and at different stages in the collective trauma narrative; they exhibit different and distinct degrees of involvement and connectedness to the real events. Rachel’s is a singularly creative way to represent a past as it is remembered or imagined. Alexander, in this respect, would suggest that it is the “context for making meaning” that has changed. The Holocaust, as the ultimate event in the systematic annihilation of meaning, calls for a “performative” function of ritualized “symbolic action” (Performance 3–4). Rather than a complete annihilation of meaning creation, the annihilation of meaning itself becomes a means to be put in a different context to create new sense. Rachel, like Benjamin’s historic(al) angel, is carried away by the winds from the past. Just as the back of the angel is turned toward the future— the direction in which he is blown—Rachel cannot conceive of the future independently of the traumatic stories that constitute the repository from which she draws the fragments of her present and future life. Rachel’s identification with events and people she has never known personally becomes so complete and overwhelming that they not only become her own mental photographs but also invade even her private journals. Quite literally, the scripts for Drummond, taken from Raphael’s trauma narratives, overwrite her own scripts of identity populated by long dead individuals that feel as real and as present as dear friends. Especially in light of this Benjaminian reading, it is important that Rachel uses the characters adopted and adapted from Raphael’s past and metamorphoses them into the “band of archangels, commandeering the rusting Nautilus Venture in search of a fertile constellation, leaving behind an earth ravaged by nuclear holocaust” (TRM, 35, my emphasis). The characters, blown into Rachel’s present by the past, turn into the means by which to integrate fragments into a meaningful narrative when Rachel is able to meaningfully incorporate both her own and her father’s past into her own life story. A significant feature of Benjamin’s interpretations is that the wind of progress carries away the angel who is left with nothing but a vista of the growing wreckage. Whereas such inactive drifting is only vaguely, but increasingly, felt by the narrating

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  89 Rachel, the overall conception of the novel stresses that she needs to spread her wings and struggle against the winds blowing from her family’s past trauma and create a narrative of her own.

Emancipation through Embedding: Establishing a Meaningful Presence of the Past Only when Rachel emancipates herself from the oppressive environment of her home by marrying Girard does she stop living a collage of fragments of others’ lives and starts living her own story. Embracing a life of her own does not entail a complete split from the defining stories of her past, as the narrator emphasizes, but it means that Rachel now “undertake[s] the project of writing histories from some standpoint other than that of a utopia that forecloses the possibility of learning anything from the past, of seeing it differently, or of revising the story as time passes” (Martin 115). With the final emancipation from her father, this learning process can commence. She finally has the strength to explore her own standpoint in the present—acknowledging the family’s past— and navigate her own way into the future. Before this time, Rachel had often attempted to “find the girl I had left behind” in her own “closets and shoeboxes,” but now she “found myself drawn to my father’s closet. Unlike my own tokens of memory, his history was artifact, more than a personal chronicle of pain” (TRM, 68). Although she still detects a phenomenological difference between her own memory and that of her father, acknowledging this difference allows her to create a story in which her relationship and love for another person—Girard, in this case—is no longer intruded upon and “[b]itten by the sharp edges of [Raphael’s] liberation photographs” because, now, she is able to elude “their secrets, […] no longer waiting for chance but creating it” (TRM, 22). As Rachel finds herself, she also relieves her father of a great responsibility, and that act results in a first step to work through a past that before had blown away every personal identity. “Freedom is a prison!” as Raphael states. But only because, “[n]o matter how hard you try, you can’t escape your past!” (TRM, 154). There is, at first, no freedom for the second generation either. As the older sister, Emily rebels against parental influence during adolescence and she is met by strict and violent physical retribution that leads to Emily’s further estrangement during her college years and later life. Rachel’s resistance, on the other hand, is the silent, introverted result of deep-set psychological issues and self-destructive behavior. The liberation photographs, hitherto, have not been depictions of something called liberation; rather, they have functioned as a prison carrying the past into the future. They had offered only a tormenting window into the past. The act of lovemaking with Girard in her father’s closet is an act that carries Rachel into the present and enables her to envisage a future. Rachel’s acceptance of

90  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata the fact that answers to some of Raphael’s first-generation secrets might elude her or that she might be able to actively evade some of its trauma, enables her to move into her own space and place in the narrative. Rachel comments on her need for closeness to others: “that was all I had ever wanted: a love that would strengthen, not slight, the bonds that held me fast” (TRM, 27). Girard, in contrast to Denny—Rachel’s Irish playwright lover whom she meets when she studies in London—provides this kind of supportive and enabling love. At first, Girard feels “like a coolie carrying all of [Rachel] over the hot coals” (TRM, 269). He feels that he is bearing a burden similar to Rachel’s regarding her parents. Yet it is exactly his unassuming and caring love that helps Rachel find her own self. “All I want to be is your goddamn husband!”, Girard exclaims at a significant crisis of the novel, echoing Rachel’s unuttered cry toward her family that all she wants is to be their “goddamn” daughter. In this moment, Rachel realizes that she “didn’t know how to tell him how much I needed him, how much I wanted him to stay. His love had given me the strength to move forward. He was the future and he was leaving” (TRM, 269). Girard both accepts the past—even carrying some of its weight in his acknowledgment and acceptance of Rachel—but he also represents and demands a life distinct from that of the family’s traumata: a family life of their own. By far the most important aspect of the trauma to which Rachel and her sister Emily are primary (instead of secondary) witnesses is Luba’s recurring meningitis that robs the two girls of a present, functioning mother and Raphael of a wife. The disease metaphorically conforms to the common theoretical view of the belated resurfacing of an initially incompletely understood experience of trauma as proposed most prominently by Caruth. From the vantage point of the analysis of the second generation it is, for the time being, much more fruitful to disregard such an interpretation and concentrate instead on the primary trauma that their mother’s illness constitutes for Rachel and Emily. Rachel, at the age of five witnesses Luba’s seizure and, helplessly and uncomprehendingly, stays with her until the rest of the family returns. Of course, she does not understand what is happening, and she is completely overpowered by the demands of such a situation. When Raphael and Nana appear, instead of offering her caring and understanding support, Rachel earns reproaches and forceful exclusion from both her mother’s and family’s presence without an explanation or a single caring word. On top of the already traumatizing situation of witnessing her mother’s seizure, the family keeps her in a state of cold uncertainty, even reprimanding her for her presence during the incident. With Luba in the intensive care unit, the Wallfish’s face a taxing time. Grudgingly, Raphael invites Luba’s sister Tsenyeh to leave her kibbutz in Israel and visit them in New York to provide motherly companionship to his daughters. Months later, when her mother faces a second crisis in the hospital,

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  91 Rachel is allowed to visit only through Tsenyeh’s adamant advocacy. Yet looking at her mother, Rachel realizes that “[t]here was nothing left of my mother in that metal contraption” (TRM, 163). The young girl, in the world of a New York hospital, faces a trauma that is allegorically reminiscent of the trauma of her father, who lost his entire family during the Holocaust. Luba, buried under “the life-size steel can, [was] more locomotive than flesh, more mechanical than flesh” (TRM, 162). In Rachel’s eyes, she has lost all resemblance to a mother or even a human being. Technology has replaced her life by keeping her alive. The theology of the technological apocalypse that Darrell Fasching develops is epitomized by the Holocaust’s sad climax of “the long historical trends of urbanization, bureaucratization, rationalization, and desacralization that culminate in ethical relativism—with the privatization of values on the one hand and the absolutization of the power of the state on the other” (63). While the two moments in The Rescue of Memory cannot be completely compared on the same plane, technologization, in the transformative process that kills Luba to Rachel’s childish comprehension, could be seen to constitute such an apocalyptic moment. The linkage to the Holocaust’s technologized mass murder is more forceful in the line immediately following Rachel’s description of the iron lung: “I had seen it in my dreams. The hand emerging from the rag pile. The hungry eyes” (TRM, 262, original emphasis). Rachel’s psyche, oversaturated with all the aspects of the Holocaust trauma, immediately connects her own trauma to Holocaust images in, yet again, another imagistic narrative. Rachel’s trauma, too, is one of helplessly witnessing the loss of her mother: In that moment, I knew that what I most wanted in the world I would never have again. Even if my mother was somehow returned to me, she would be forever different. As I acknowledged my loss, something changed within me, something as vast and irrevocable as Nana’s idea of God. I was suddenly invisible, the semblance of a child with the eyes of a camera. (TRM, 164) The sense of an essential part of the self forever lost suggests traumatization at its core. The loss of a parent, a psychologically incomparably foundational person, is a traumatic event that results in a number of symptoms. That the older, narrating Rachel, in hindsight, acknowledges her loss is striking. The acknowledgment of inevitability works an integral change in Rachel and pushes her into neutrality. Tellingly, Rachel compares the change with the immensity of her devout greataunt’s perception of God. The evocation of an image of God changed by the trauma of the Holocaust appears in a vast number of firstgeneration accounts; the paramount example is Wiesel’s prototypical

92  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata questioning, which is discussed in Chapter 1. Finally, Rachel’s comparison attests to a protective attempt by the traumatized child to neutralize the trauma’s effect. Rachel, on the one hand, wants to escape by becoming an impartial camera; on the other, she aspires to the thoroughness of a “highly complex gradient lens” (TRM, 13). In that way she is still able to record every instance of the experiences with the same punctuating acuity achieved by Raphael’s Leica without the danger of forgetting or missing anything, while she still is not forced to feel any unsettling emotions. Unlike a written narrative, the camera’s representation is one that is outside of the events, depicting all from a distance, but, renders, as McNally explains, an all-too-good intake of the traumatic details (2). To the loss of their mother, the Wallfish sisters react with rebellion, in the case of Emily, and withdrawal, in the case of Rachel. Earlier in the novel, when Luba returns from the hospital “nearly a year after her emergency internment” (TRM, 171), Rachel is particularly unsure how to act. Frightened by the return of a person she cannot fully recognize anymore as her mother, she hides behind the sofa. “No one had ever asked me how I felt,” Rachel explains the rankling, emotional injustice she suffers during this very trying time: “Now I was going to punish them all by not coming out,” least of all to a mother she does not want to recognize as such. Even Rachel’s name turns into a “distant sonority, a disembodied weight” (TRM, 174), underlining the fact that she wants to break free from the former identity oppressed by disembodied, hovering trauma. Rachel knows “that the Rachel my aunt was calling to no longer existed,” replaced by a “sleepwalking and dour” one who is “cold as winter,” is “neither needy nor innocent,” the one who “view[s] the world through the precision of a camera lens” (TRM, 174). With her name carrying a disembodied weight, Rachel does not merely describe the break from the two murdered relatives after whom she is named so that she can find that she is a person distinct from these haunting ghosts. Instead she conceives herself as “a new girl” that “was a part of me, I just hadn’t found her before. Her name was Hannah, my middle name, the name I had inherited from my father’s heroic dead sister. Now I was Hannah who Would Never Let Anybody Hurt Her Again” (TRM, 176). It is unclear from the novel whether this discovery of this new personality is the result of a search for a past that can be meaningfully integrated into her present, thus fulfilling her life and enabling some kind of coping, or whether the discovery of this new girl is the result of her active, creative imagination. Strikingly, the grown-up Rachel’s narrative voice interprets the actions of her younger, experiencing self as the choice to move from one past to another: from one external protagonist who is imposed on her to another external protagonist whom she tries to select for herself from the past. For the young girl, the characteristics of her father’s heroic sister are inherited by the second-generation niece.

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  93 Both passages retrospectively describe Rachel’s attempt to deal with a traumatic situation. What becomes clear is that the child does not want to experience the emotions and fears that she is feeling. The mechanism of denial is one of detachment, the wish to be “another” girl. A girl who does not feel because she is “sleepwalking” and therefore experiencing reality as a dream that is not remembered. At the same time, she is “dour” and independent. Yet again, this time in relation to Raphael’s camera taking the pictures of the survivors, Rachel invokes the metaphor of a camera and establishes a connection with her father’s past. The pictures themselves do not feel the trauma and past that they depict. The young Rachel, finally, has to come out and face her family. Later, she still suffers from emotional problems, abandonment anxiety, an eating disorder, and trouble with interpersonal relationships, but continues to live with her family. Her sister Emily, on the other hand, seeks refuge in open rebellion—“refusing to do whatever was asked of her” (TRM, 175)—and she ultimately leaves home for college, escaping the complicated overbearing family structures. Rachel comments, not without envy, that when “Emily returned home from her visit to the rehabilitative hospital”—something strictly denied Rachel—she would lock herself in her room. Later, while Rachel continues to do whatever is expected of her in the family and to excel at school, Emily’s rebellion expands to partying and developing her sexuality. This otherwise normal part of growing up results in Raphael’s extreme measures of punishment. “The first time, my father spanked her so hard she had to sit on an inner tube for a week. The second time, he didn’t even say a word, he just shook his head and removed his belt from the loops of his work pants” (TRM, 176). The physically and psychologically extremely violent responses leave Rachel stymied: “What had I done? What had Emily done to make our father so angry?” (TRM, 198, original emphasis). The obvious answer of course is, nothing. Yet neither Rachel nor Emily, or anybody else in the family, can really explain Raphael’s actions. The only thing everybody knows is that the traumatic experiences of the Holocaust and of Luba’s illness have haunted the family life. Raphael and Nana completely ignore what this means for the children, who are enforced to remember trauma and are continuously told that what they are experiencing is invalid compared to the Nazi atrocities. In itself, the brutality of the punishment should be considered as traumatic for both Emily and Rachel.

Meaningful Incorporation of Past Trauma into Present Narratives Rachel relives the trauma of Luba’s death “[n]ight after night,” waking up “in a freezing sweat” and seeing “her so clearly” as she never has “[s]ince her death”5 (TRM, 29) and in self-destructive behavior inflicted

94  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata “with the sharp edges of a piece of typing paper” (TRM, 211). This kind of behavior represents Rachel’s acute wish of feeling something bodily when the psyche is too overwhelmed by pain. It is also a plea for help as the bodily scars, in contrast to the psychological ones, are clearly perceptible to the outside world. It is not a razor blade or other instrument, however, with which Rachel performs her self-destructive habits. The piece of typing paper symbolizes the torturing stories she has inherited as well as those she constructs for herself. Writing about the trauma, in this instance, is hurtful and destructive, too. Raphael’s reaction to these visible traumata—in this case not her self-destructiveness, but her eating disorder—is another instance in which his “lessons in memory obscured his lessons in life” (TRM, 95). In an attempt to help his daughter, he explains that “[l]osing a parent is […] maybe the worst thing that can happen to a person in her entire life.” But even on this rare occasion of intimacy, he—consciously or unconsciously—compares Rachel’s struggle to his ghetto experience, so that Rachel, who wants to show Raphael “that he was not alone anymore,” holds back, since, to him, “love had become another form of torture”(TRM, 211). Finally, Luba’s testimonial voice recording (taped before her death) reestablishes the connection that was unachievable during her lifetime. Listening to her mother’s voice that, for the first time since her illness, is her mother’s again, Rachel is finally able to reconcile past, present, and future. Luba’s “voice held [Rachel] like wings.” In the story, in the “sadness [of her voice], I heard the necessity of going forward. I would never be alone again. She had given me that gift, never to lose it. In that moment, I felt assured of the possibility of joy” (TRM, 283). Luba’s testimony allows Rachel, as the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor puts it, to strive to define ourselves on our own to the fullest extent possible, coming as best we can to understand and thus get some control over the influence of our parents and avoiding falling into any more such dependent relationships. We need relationships to fulfill, but not to define, ourselves. (33) Taylor’s comment, made in a completely different context, can still be used to describe the philosophical baseline of a generational quest for closure that is instantiated in Rachel’s connection to Luba. While a large part of The Rescue of Memory attests to the immense strain between a definition of an independent, present self and the influences of one’s parents’ traumatic narratives, Rachel’s creation of her own narrative and the final reestablishment of the human dyad between Rachel and Luba are essential steps in the former’s understanding of herself and the meaning of the past in her life.

Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  95 Embraced by the deceased’s wings of memory, Rachel can achieve a different feat than Benjamin’s original Angelus Novus. When the wind of progress blows into both directions, toward both the memory of the past and the hopes for the future, working through the bits and pieces becomes a possibility. At first glance, Luba’s reaching out of the grave always to be with her daughter resembles the traumatic memory of loss that will never go away; Luba manifests herself as an omnipresence. The difference is that, unlike the Holocaust victims, she is reintroduced into Rachel’s presence to be soothing because Luba retained agency over her narrative and its transmission to Rachel. By actively seeking to leave such a message, she can provide protective wings. The victims of the Holocaust did not have such agency and, therefore, are dependent on survivors and following generations to mnemonically give them presence again. However, Luba’s recorded testimony results from her archival endeavor to preserve testimonies from those who survived for those who have to remember to fulfill a vital role in connecting the generations. Apart from Luba’s recording, it is Rachel’s discovery of love for others that helps her find a footing in the present. When Rachel meets Denny the ground for her burgeoning individuality has already been favorably laid through her leaving home to go to attend an MA program at a prestigious film academy in London. She discovers “a part of me, its passion memorial, dangerous yet thrilling” (TRM, 266). The important aspect of this love are, first, its unequivocal distance to her family and, second, Rachel’s realization that in Denny’s “scenario, there was no place for the home I’d left behind when we first met and fell in love,” but with the distance to her family and the experiences she shares with him are so separate, she sees more clearly, knowing that she “was no longer sure [she] wanted to be such an excellent traveler” (TRM, 266). Leaving Denny and falling in love with Girard pose a fateful crisis that almost destroys the marriage to be. Rachel, “[f]or the first time, […] was able to leave someone I loved without leaving something of myself behind” (TRM, 267). Without her usual abandonment anxiety, Rachel understands to let go. This ability is mirrored in the narrative structure of the novel and its use of stylistic devices. The recurring theme of Rachel and Denny’s relationship is the 1895 version of W. B. Yeats’s “The Sorrow of Love,” which Denny always recites in the wrong order with the final stanza first and the first stanza last. At last capable of “exorcis[ing] the cacophony” (TRM, 35) produced by her own sparrows in the eaves, Rachel realizes that she cannot wait “for chance but [needs to] creat[e] it” (TRM, 22) herself. “Running after Girard, I had discovered that I couldn’t wait for the struck ball to hit me in the head, I had to leap high in the air to catch it, forsaking the ground that held me captive for so long. It was time to let go. It was time to hold on to something new” (TRM, 270). Sucher, here, turns the tables on her heroine: no longer the Benjaminian angel thrown about by the winds of

96  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata the past, her heroine gains some means of steerage as she spreads her wings and moves into her own life and future, flying on the same winds that had tossed her around before. She is, finally, upheld by the wings of the past.


Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata  97

Works Cited Aarons, Victoria, editor. Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives: Memory in Memoir and Fiction. Lexington Books, 2016. Alexander, Jeffrey C. Performance and Power. Polity, 2011. ———. “The Social Construction of Moral Universals.” Remembering the Holocaust: A Debate. Edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander, Oxford UP, 2009, pp. 3–104. ———. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Alphen, Ernst van. Caught by History: Holocaust Effects in Contemporary Art, Literature, and Theory. Stanford UP, 1997. Bar-On, Dan. Furcht und Hoffnung: Von den Überlebenden zu den Enkeln, drei Generationen des Holocaust. Translated by Anne Vanderstein, Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 1997. Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Translated by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, 2010. Benjamin, Walter. “Theses on the Philosophy of History.” Illuminations. Edited by Hannah Arendt, translated by Harry Zohn, Schocken Books, 1977, pp. 253–264. Blanchot, Maurice. “After the Fact.” Vicious Circles: Two Fictions and “After the Fact.” Translated by Paul Auster.Station Hill, 1985. Bukiet, Melvin Jules. Nothing Makes You Free: Writings by Descendants of Jewish Holocaust Survivors. Norton, 2003. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Johns Hopkins UP, 1996. Cohen, Arthur A. The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust. Crossroad, 1981.“Fable” OED Online, Oxford UP, September 2019. Fasching, Darell J. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia. State U of New York P, 1993. Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. U of Chicago P, 1995. Friedman, Carl. Nightfather: A Novel. Persea Books, 1994. Grimwood, Marita. Holocaust Literature of the Second Generation. Palgrave, 2007. Hoffman, Eva. After Such Knowledge: Memory, History, and the Legacy of the Holocaust. Secker and Warburg, 2004. Kellermann, Natan P. F. “‘Geerbtes Trauma:’ Konzeptualisierung der transgenerationellen Weitergabe von Traumata.” Holocaust und Trauma: Kritische Perspektiven zur Entstehung und Wirkung eines Paradigmas. Wallstein, 2011, pp. 145–146. LaCapra, Dominick. History and Memory after Auschwitz. Cornell UP, 1998. Langer, Lawrence L. Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Yale UP, 1991. Laub, Dori. “Bearing Witness or the Vicissitudes of Listening.” Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. Edited by Shoshana Felman and Dori Laub, Routledge, 1992, pp. 57–74. Martin, Wallace. “From the Ends of Theory to Theories of the End.” The Ends of Theory. Edited by Jerry Herron et al., Wayne State UP, 1996, pp. 104–119.

98  Rescuing One’s Memory from Past Traumata McGlothlin, Erin H. Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetuation. Camden House, 2006. Neumann, Birgit. Erinnerung, Identität Narration: Gattungspsychologie und Funktionen kanadischer “Fictions of Memory.” De Gruyter, 2005. Rothberg, Michael. Traumatic Realism: The Demands of Holocaust Representation. U of Minnesota P, 2000. Stein, Arlene. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014. Taylor, Charles. “The Politics of Recognition.” Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition:” An Essay by Charles Taylor. Edited by Amy Gutmann, Princeton UP, 1992. Wardi, Dina. Memorial Candles: Children of the Holocaust. Translated by Naomi Goldblum, Routledge, 1992. Welzer, Harald. “Das kommunikative Gedächtnis und woraus es besteht.” Arbeit am Gedächtnis: Für Aleida Assmann. Wilhelm Fink, 2007. Woocher, Jonathan S. Sacred Survival: The Civil Religion of American Jews. Indiana UP, 1986.


Encaustic Memories Second-Generation Assertions in Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke

“Splintered, disembodied memories that once belonged to [the parents] were now his alone, as though their two lives couldn’t exhaust the outrage” (SHS, 1). Second Hand Smoke, in often ironical tones, engages this outrage highlighted by the cruel implications of the title’s metaphor and contrasts two second-generation perspectives—Duncan Katz’ complete immersion and Isaac Borowski’s removal—as it describes outrage, helplessness, and the difficulties of creating an independent life in a present that just never seems to be able to overcome the past atrocities suffered by his parents. The novel—though it might appear differently on the surface—insists on the “post” as it challenges—like Marianne Hirsch’s theory of postmemory—second-generation tropes of descendants’ identification with “the previous generation’s remembrances of the past [so] that they identify that connection as a form of memory” (3–4) in multifaceted imageries, highlighting that this terminus post quem can become the identificatory trauma that is by all means not terminated. In Second Hand Smoke, writer, essayist, political commentator, and professor of law Thane Rosenbaum negotiates implications between the second-generation trauma of living with parents who survived the Holocaust and their memories that constitute vital pillars of present reality. Rosenbaum, before the publication of Hirsch’s seminal work The Generation of Postmemory, already navigates key aspects of Hirsch’s arguments. The novel traces an interpenetration and permeability of different generational trauma stories, as the half-brothers Duncan and Isaac, though both second generation, approach the original Holocaust trauma from fundamentally different perspectives. Second Hand Smoke greatly reflects Rosenbaum’s wide knowledge in political, juridical, and societal discourses and problems on which he comments in his essays and on TV programs. This chapter highlights the experience of memory and its reimagination in the present when delineating the “post” in second-generation writing. The post becomes a narrative to meaningfully approach past trauma and the inability to establish it as such, which causes a trauma in its own right. Compared to first-generation writing, second-generation writing seeks to erect what James Young terms “a memorial for all the

100  Encaustic Memories generations to come who, by distance from the actual events and people, will depend on it to activate [their own form of postmemory]” (285). Yet Second Hand Smoke problematizes “imagination and fantasy” as “poor substitutes for the lived experience” (SHS 286). The novel invites the reader to abandon labels of surrogate experience or secondary trauma. Indeed, such ascriptions result from the establishment of a collective trauma narrative and are part of the trauma that causes these writings. My reading of Second Hand Smoke intentionally focuses on the textual evidence while disregarding real or imagined autobiographical links between the author and the book. Although Rosenbaum’s background (personal and professional) undoubtedly informs large aspects of his work, it would be misleading to blindly follow biographical interpretations. Duncan grows up in Miami as the only child to the Holocaust survivors Mila and Yankee Katz. While the latter is a mere shadow, the former represents a haunting and daunting figure in his life and, through her involvement with the Jewish mafia, gives Duncan a family connection to the underworld. When Duncan is old enough, he leaves for law school and becomes a special investigator hunting former Holocaust perpetrators for the U.S. government before he loses his job due to malpractice in retrieving evidence from a suspect. Through his underworld relatives, he learns about his hitherto unknown half-brother Isaac Borowski in Poland and leaves to find a future in this remnant of the past.

Traumatic Impositions: Connecting First- and Second-Generation Trauma Duncan, molded by Mila into a Jewish nemesis relentlessly pursuing anti-Semites, is “a child of trauma. Not of love, or happiness, or exceptional wealth. Just trauma. And a nightmare, too.” He experiences a “pain” that “live[s] on as a family heirloom” (SHS, 1) and manifests itself in the “shouts that came from [his parent’s] bed” (SHS, 67). The “inexhaustible sorrow of the parents,” Yankee “rendered impotent by the violence done to his life” and Mila, “a mother who would not, could not, mother” (SHS, 2), make Duncan painfully aware that he is not “a witness to the Holocaust, only to its aftermath,” characterizing his “testimony [as] merely secondhand” (SHS, 1). Stressing the secondhandedness and obstructed legitimation to feel his own pain, Duncan turns into the foil that undermines these very concepts, highlighting, as Hirsch emphasizes, that the parental experiences that “seem to constitute memories in their own right” (5, original emphasis) really are projections of his own attempts to find expression for the discrepancy between the parental stories and his own experiences pitted against them. It is the witnessing of symptoms of acute first-generation trauma, paired with adamant silence about specific, contextualizable events,

Encaustic Memories  101 along with the frequent delegitimization of Duncan’s needs and feelings, that makes it so hard for him to achieve distance from the first-generation trauma. Instead of an actual experience of a trauma he experiences his parents’ “nightmares,” which “kept it all alive” (SHS, 2). Thus, Duncan’s situation highlights problems to reimagine, remember, relive parental trauma. Accusations that such attempts in second-generation writing “equate [second-generation] suffering with that of their parents, appropriating it for their own identity purposes” (220), as Hirsch defends herself against, hence do not consider fully the freighted nature of navigating the respective narratives. Indeed, Second Hand Smoke is critical of Duncan’s stance to transform the second-generation burden, the inability to feel exactly what his parents’ felt during the Holocaust, into his “birthright” (SHS, 264). His reenactment of the original trauma in his desperate attempts to feel and understand also what is happening to him in the present, rather than an appropriation, I hope to show, falls in place in Second Hand Smoke’s critical engagement with the perceived second-handedness in terms of tragic narratives that “compel[s] members of a collectivity to narrate and symbolically re-experience the suffering of a trauma’s victims.” Thus, to prevent “a more restrictive self-love, a feeling that cuts imaginative experience short” Duncan needs to “get beyond the originating trauma” and the “feeling [to be] compelled again and again to return to it” (“Social Construction” 101). Considering the second-generation’s position in what Alexander calls the “trauma drama” (“Social Construction” 101), Second Hand Smoke explicitly mediates this need to symbolically reexperience and grasp parental traumatic experiences in its endeavor to parse trauma narratives and their intergenerational development. Refusing mourning and kaddish, Duncan inadvertently refuses “publicly [to] manifest[] his wish and intention to assume the relation to the Jewish community which his parents had” (Wirth-Nesher 165). As governmental prosecutor, Duncan extends his mother’s intention into a large-scale revenge mission. Although his upbringing and resistance against it includes a complete renunciation of anything but his rage and helplessness. Therefore, when Isaac admonishes his half-brother to “mourn […] right here, now” because Duncan “walked away, carrying [the trauma] with” him (SHS, 263, original emphasis)—as Mila literally does when she leaves Poland after liberation—he means the ritualistic and ritualized mourning that allows the acknowledgment of pain and grief, and movement into one’s own life. As counterweight to Duncan, Isaac’s flexibility shows the necessary distinction between actual memories and the “postmemorial work […] to reactivate” the “individual and familial forms of mediation” (Hirsch 33). “Life is all preparation,” Isaac explains, against “fear, panic, or anger” (SHS, 214). Yet for Duncan these “distractions” are seemingly his only links to the past, and ways of keeping it both memorized and

102  Encaustic Memories memorialized. Focalizing on Duncan, the third-person narrator comments that there are survivors, although “mourning requires that something deep inside the soul of those left grieving must die as well” (SHS, 73). Where Hirsch searches for “the quality of my own relationship to my parents’ daily stories” (4, original emphasis), the narrator of Second Hand Smoke muses about “the quality of that survival” for the second-generation and “what kind of a life [they are] expected to lead?” (SHS, 73). Not immediately Duncan’s thoughts, the narrator, in fact, critically renders Duncan’s clinging and grieving in its contrast to Isaac. As in The Rescue of Memory, where Rachel Wallfish is at first impotently blown about by her past, Duncan, in the face of “the wasteland left behind,” is stereotypically not actively living his present but remains “an unmovable monument to everything that continued to haunt the psyche of survivors” (SHS, 263). Rosenbaum here masterfully transposes his theories about witnessing and moral justice framed in The Myth of Moral Justice, to which I referred in Chapter 2. Ultimately, Duncan has to confront the narrator’s stance that “it’s best if you can forgive oneself” although “Duncan couldn’t do that either” (SHS, 285). Mila has nurtured Duncan, in contrast to Isaac, to be unrelenting and unforgiving, making him torn between the “legacy” he hopes “might charitably skip a generation” (SHS, 165) to spare his daughter, Milan, and the imperative “to carry [Mila’s] actual memories into the next generation” (SHS, 286). Duncan carries on this dichotomy before experiencing in Isaac the possibilities of connectivity (Hirsch 203–250). Duncan testifies to “the damage that could never be undone. The true legacy of the Shoah. Lives that were supposed to start all over but couldn’t. Halting first steps, then the stumbles. The inexhaustible sorrow of the parents.” The narrator comments on the “imminent recognition of the children” (SHS, 2), which hints at the second-generation’s traumatic moorings and highlights the intergenerational work of trauma that connects the generation through the establishment of a cultural trauma. Erin McGlothlin states that trauma “is not only the story of the individual and [their] own traumatic experience, but the ways in which trauma is induced by the repetition of another’s wound, by the existence of another’s traumatic story” (53). Yet it is not the repetition of the parents’ wound, but a new wound caused by knowledge and witnessing of their parents’ unceasing traumatization. This is a trauma completely their own and, in its influence on their lives unique to the second generation. Duncan’s experience of the Holocaust’s post-traumatic emanations is further complicated by Mila, who, through Duncan’s characterizations, identifications, mystifications, and imaginations, is continuously (re)made into a mythical and ambiguous figure. What Duncan really needs and yearns for, however, is that she recognizes his personality and identity, and that she acknowledges his present reality. Even Duncan’s

Encaustic Memories  103 wife and daughter, Shannon and Milan, cannot provide this as long as he is stuck in Mila’s narratives. As I stated in my analysis of The Rescue of Memory, second-generation protagonists like Duncan and Rachel suffer from their specific type of Holocaust trauma that should not be viewed as appropriation of or elevation over survivors’ trauma. Second-generation trauma does not stem directly from events, but from their aftermath; namely witnessing or imagining of and listening to parental trauma narratives. Reinhart Koselleck claims that “one can only remember what one has experienced oneself” (qtd. in Assmann 18), arguing for a referential connectedness of memory and experience and emphasizing a universal human right to one’s own memory. Comparable to common discourses on postmemory, this, in extension, means that everyone also has the right to their own inalienable narrative of the past. This right, Koselleck continues, could not be taken away by any collectivization or homogenization. Second Hand Smoke infuses this struggle in the Duncan–Isaac dichotomy of inherently fragmented narratives imposed upon the identity of those who have no personal memory of the actual events, but who feel the trauma is their own. The Holocaust brutally tore apart the fabric of human sensemaking, violating and alienating this right for a past and memory. Anne Karpf, herself second-generation, identifies this dilemma as an “absence” of “the central experience of my life” (146). As her title The War After underlines, Karpf proposes a view of a part of her identity being independent and composed by an event experienced by others. The “absence” of the event fosters a feeling of alienation that continuously feeds a desire to fill it. Cut off from actual experience, possible and imaginative exploration can be a means to ground the present self on one’s “viable identity” (McGlothlin 1–2) instead of someone else’s trauma.

Encountering the Ghosts: Generational Connections to the Past Isaac is far removed from Mila’s debilitating influence and is able to craft his own narrative within a completely different audience. For Poles, he is a “compass” and “both prophet and savior without the credentials of a lunatic” (SHS, 215). Isaac is the opposite of Duncan and, in time, becomes a compass and instructor also to his half-brother. Duncan, who has always wanted to listen to his parents but never could, and never listened to his emotions out of fear of losing control, finally “learned to listen” although “Isaac spoke in almost a whisper” (SHS, 215). What his brother teaches him is vital for his emotional well-being and future-oriented existence that includes having a normal family life with his wife and daughter and living in the present with a whole, independent identity.

104  Encaustic Memories In a way, reminiscent of Wiesel’s fundamental incorporation of the presence of those who constitute one’s past, Isaac teaches Duncan that “the murdered ones are still with us,” that “their souls did not disappear. You can still feel their presence, but there is no need to worry. They ask nothing of us, only that we be kind to ourselves” (SHS, 215). The first part of Isaac’s message does not appear to be anything new for Duncan, who is continuously haunted by disconnected images of the Holocaust, fear of boarding trains, or bouts of rage against real or imagined instances of anti-Semitism. Duncan’s extreme overidentification, runs contrary to Hirsch’s assertion that the descendants “acknowledge that their received memory is distinct from the recall of contemporary witnesses and participants” (3), foregrounding Second Hand Smoke’s unique role in second-generation trauma narratives and its emphatic mediation of “postmemory’s connection to the past” (Hirsch 5). Indeed, it is the second part that is crucial for the novel’s further development and Duncan’s small steps toward a meaningful integration of the trauma into his life as well as the greater narrative structure of the novel. Duncan has to learn and feel that they ask nothing of him other than being kindly remembered by well-grounded people who continue the present. Isaac’s first introductory remarks to his brother emblematize their different perspectives: ‘We don’t have to speak,’ the older brother began, cautiously. ‘Nothing we say will give meaning to how we became separated from the start. That we will never know. And words are not the way to learn the answers. All we can do is feel, which is maybe even more important than to understand.’ (SHS, 207) Duncan draws his meaning solely from the Holocaust and its traumatic intrusion into his life—he even judges the resemblance of Isaac and Mila as “some sick Mengele experiment” (SHS, 207)—and relates every problem of his life back to the Holocaust. Yet Isaac emphasizes the emotional response that reaches “up out of the grave” and stays “grounded in this world” (SHS, 214). The missing positive parental connection for Duncan causes rage and anxiety and for Isaac turns into relief by viewing the trauma as something with a past meaning that helps him balance his present. Such groundedness underlines Second Hand Smoke’s dual and, in Isaac’s case, integrated stance toward the past: his custodial work at the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw is both a keeping of visible remnants of the dead—gravestones, mausoleums, inscriptions—and living memory of the dead through archival lists and genealogies, which he continuously expands as visitors from all over the world come to find evidence of their family history. Incidentally, this is how Isaac and Duncan’s family

Encaustic Memories  105 connections are discovered, when one of the Jewish mafia’s crooks, Larry Silver, visits the cemetery. The monuments in Isaac’s graveyard are not haunting memories of the past but, as Young shows in his seminal study of Holocaust memorials, they create a connection between the past and the present by bringing into contact respective audiences. Like Young’s “vanishing monument,” Isaac’s graveyard “returned the burden of memory to the visitors.” Even with his passionate work, Isaac seems to fight a losing battle so that soon “the only thing left standing here will be the memory-tourist, forced to rise and to remember for himself” (Young 30). The cemetery, thus, in its power “to suggest its own definition” finally makes “memory of the Holocaust [a] plural” (Young viii) and enables in Isaac a sense of the presence of the past that is not overwhelming, but, instead, allows for a meaningful engagement. Letting go is also a holding on that enables Isaac to admonish Duncan to also make sense of his fears and come to terms with his past and present traumata.

Close Contact: Breaking Down Past and Present Distinctions As Isaac points out correctly, Duncan’s problems are a primary form of trauma. Together, Mila’s forbiddingly uncaring enactment, Duncan’s sense of second-handedness, and the separation from his wife and daughter are traumata in their own right. Seen through a Holocaust lens, his own trauma appears worthless, secondary, and inconsequential. Literally, Duncan must undergo “fantasies of witnessing” (Weissman) before he can “incorporate” his own second-generation position “into an enlarged global arena” (Hirsch 21). At first, he needs these imagined narratives to approach and “encounter” the traumatic realities imaginatively; “to be swallowed up […], to become a prisoner, to actually feel the horror” (Weissman 1) of his parents so that he can mediate the tension between their Holocaust suffering and his post-Holocaust world. Isaac therefore assesses that Duncan’s “rage is all about holding on to something” Duncan does not “need but [is] afraid to let go.” Duncan must, Isaac stresses, use “the life force inside […] for living, and not as a prison” (SHS, 264). For Isaac, Duncan’s abdominal problems “start[] somewhere else” before they manifest the trauma physically. That is why, what Duncan calls “abandonment anxiety,” Isaac diagnoses as a “condition of the mind” because abandonment anxiety, Isaac stresses, reflects that Duncan really has been abandoned. Still, his way of dealing with it is problematic. Your parents died too soon, and then your wife left you and took your child. Your stomach is not wrong; you just don’t know how to live with the grief. […] This isn’t the same thing that happened to

106  Encaustic Memories your mother […]. You can never prepare for such a thing, and you can’t predict how you would react. […] you can’t live a normal life with images of the Holocaust playing in your head. (SHS, 261–262) Duncan’s imaginatively turns into what Alan Berger terms a “secondgeneration witness to the psycho-social dynamics of inheriting traumatic memory” (6), which comments on the discourses around secondgeneration identifications and highlights the need for a meaningful incorporation of the trauma. Duncan revisits Auschwitz-Birkenau with Isaac and, “drift[ing] too close to the ovens, the showers and the gas” (SHS, 263), suffers a breakdown that completely confuses imagination and reality. Duncan imagines the kidnapping, imprisonment, shearing, and imminent gassing of Isaac and himself by neo-Nazis. Afterward, it is clarified that it was a mental breakdown rather than real experience, highlighting that, as Isaac predicts, it “will be the burden of history that kills” Duncan, as well as “the way [he has] responded to it” (SHS, 84). In the structure of the novel, the Auschwitz-Birkenau scene marks both a turning point from a tragic to a more progressive narrative, and a catharsis for Duncan’s psyche. This turn reflects both a change in Duncan’s perception and a transition in the overall (cultural) outlook of the novel as part of a literary tradition. The physical place of the concentration camp becomes the lieu de memoire (Nora) at which Duncan faces his postmemorial nightmares in a state of utter helplessness but in which Isaac’s presence, for the first time, establishes a familial connection. It is, therefore, Duncan’s response that causes both the breakdown and its overcoming. With Isaac’s help, Duncan surmounts the traumatic images and starts a process toward the acceptance and incorporation of the traumatic past in his present. Duncan’s trip to Poland expresses not so much what Dina Wardi calls “the need to find the missing links in the family chain” (237); rather it epitomizes Duncan’s attempt to physically come into touch with the past, to fight it, and prove that it has reality. Duncan has no “idea where the switch is” to turn off his rage and nightmares and, as Shannon astutely suspects, does not “want it to be shut down.” She thinks he likes “what it has done to [him]. And it’s not finished yet, it never will be” (SHS, 83). Up to the climactic moment in Auschwitz-Birkenau when “Duncan was becoming totally undone” (SHS, 263), he lacked the means to redo himself. Now, confronted with the Holocaust’s actual remnants, he finally confronts his issues. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, Duncan phases in and out of the reality he shares with Isaac into an imagined one that is completely removed from Isaac and the fictional world of the novel, but which he invariably shares with the bewildered reader who, at this point, is left to figure out whether this incident is really happening on the novel’s plane of action

Encaustic Memories  107 or in Duncan’s imagination. What happens to Duncan could, quoting Arthur Cohen, be termed an “event that annihilates the past of hope and expectation [and] confronts us as an abyss.” As such, the “tremendum, by definition, an ontological immensity, cuts through and parts our perception of the real and the principles we had inherited for its parsing and description” (78). The imaginary confrontation shows Duncan the self-stylized nature of his traumatic reality and enables the parsing from which meaningful confrontation follows. It hints at the human dyad that will help him integrate the repercussions of Mila’s history. Isaac reminds Duncan that he has choices: a choice to come to Poland, a choice of leaving his daughter behind. Other than the victims of the Holocaust who had only what Langer calls “choiceless choices” that oscillate between the “dreadful” and the “impossible,” (224), Duncan is fundamentally free to decide his future.1 Mila’s “tutoring—and torturing—Duncan” turns him into “an unmovable monument to everything that continued to haunt the psyche of survivors” (SHS, 263). Duncan developed a psychological inflexibility toward the trauma that finally cracks him. ‘HELP ME!’ he yelled at his brother, who he imagined as someone else. ‘MILA, HELP ME! SHARON … DON’T LEAVE …! THERE IS NO WIFE!’ […] ‘GET ME OUT OF HERE!’ He reached his arms out to Isaac. ‘I WON’T SURVIVE! I AM NOT MILA! I AM NOT YOU! I GIVE UP! I AM NOT STRONG! COME GET ME; MEINTHALER! I AM YOURS! SHOW ME THE GAS!’ […] Isaac hugged his younger brother, who was shaking with a frenzy more violent than before. ‘Shshsh … shshsh …’ Isaac embraced the useless muscles of his brother and then tried to calm him with the soothing, but sadly unsung, family song. (SHS, 271–272) Rosenbaum stylistically achieves a complete conflux of the trauma that happened in this locus in the past and the second generation’s postmemorial stance. At this pivotal moment, Duncan’s helplessness and confusion about who is here with him and whom he loves, are mirrored in the syntactical interchangeability of names. All boundaries broken, he substitutes Mila with both imaginary neo-Nazis and real family members for whose closeness Duncan longs. At this moment, when his imagined trauma merges with the signification of the place, Duncan experiences a triggering event that, in first-generation victims, overwrites the present self with memories of past events, but in Duncan’s case, is an instance of the collective narrative of the Holocaust taking on a will of its own, as he becomes “the living embodiment of the unknown memory that has been resting dormant within him,” (McGlothlin 59) and is no longer able to distinguish time, place, or reality. The only thing that counts for him is the reality of the trauma narrative.

108  Encaustic Memories Isaac shows his collapsing half-brother the numbers that Mila, before leaving Isaac and Poland, etches into his arm with the Nazi’s tattoo machine her first husband Keller Borowski had salvaged from liberated Auschwitz. The interchangeability of names and numbers—they are her own numbers—runs riot when Mila sacrifices not only Isaac’s corporeal presence but also his identity and future. “I am not afraid of them,” Isaac says. “You have no numbers, and yet they terrify you. You are hiding from yourself. You are a stranger to yourself. We are locked in this barracks, but you are trapped in yourself even tighter. You buried yourself alive in your own tomb” (SHS, 262). Duncan, “[a]s much as he wanted to escape from them and what they represented in the incalculable math of his family’s history” has “memorized this row of numbers” to the point where they overpower his whole identity in the fateful hope that “through those numbers might he one day be able to understand the legacy that Mila had sealed underneath and invisible in his own skin” (SHS, 243). Duncan’s problems originate in his struggle to live an identity that is not his but is created by the narratives he forms from his parents’ silence and trauma, as well as the seemingly infinite number of Holocaust books that clutter his apartment.

Imposing Trauma: Between Filial Rage and Generational Forgiveness Along with his “inheritance that he would rather have done without, the kind of legacy he’d just as soon give back” (SHS, 1), Duncan tries, in other words, to negotiate Mila’s trauma of the camps and her guilt of abandoning Isaac—“damage that could never be undone” (SHS, 2)—with his sense that children of survivors are “[c]hildren of smoke and skeletons,” so that, inadvertently, the “Holocaust shaped those who were survivors of survivors. Inexorably, cruelly, and unfairly so” (SHS, 2). Comparable to Hirsch’s description of her own autobiographical journey toward The Generation of Postmemory, Second Hand Smoke thematizes the mediation of necessary identification with the past (Duncan) and meaningful acknowledgment of its pastness (Isaac). Mila leaves Isaac, born shortly after liberation, and Keller behind to walk into a future she never really reaches because as Mila, shortly before her death in the hospital, tells her nurses Louise, Judy, and Cynthia, “‘you never leave the camp. I survived, but I am still there’” (SHS, 151). Mila, like Duncan, is caught between “activity and passivity” (Ricoeur 19). As Ricoeur states, to “relegate is also to pass through,” that is, that “the future which it expects, passes through the present, to which it attends, into the past which it remembers” (19). The trauma, for both Mila and Duncan, constitutes the “discordance” that, in Ricoeur’s terms, “rends concordance” and that can be overcome only by an “eminently verbal experience where concordance mends discordance” (31). This

Encaustic Memories  109 verbal mending in narrative—hinted at as a possibility for Mila in her testimonial act—that establishes more clearly delineated personal narratives of the past, present, and future, for Duncan, takes place through Isaac. The numbers used by the Nazis as identification and negation of personhood come to signify a copy of the original trauma in the flesh of the second generation. However, it also changes Isaac’s identity—perceived by others and himself—into that of a miraculous child survivor. Unlike Duncan, Isaac, removed from Mila’s narratives, is able to use the vagueness—the absence of a clearly delineated origin story—to craft his own life story in postwar Poland. What starts as an imposition of Mila’s own suffering and trauma, a deed, according to the narrator, intended to be a means of future recognition, really functions as an attempt to physically transmit the trauma. Second Hand Smoke significantly juxtaposes two modes of secondgeneration engagement. The actual imposition of trauma and inhibition of identity is suffered not by Isaac, who has authority over his narrative, but by Duncan, who is forced into one. Mila’s use of Duncan as a “transferential object” in her “attempts to attain [her] own identification” forces Duncan into his “destructive identification” with her primary trauma (Barocas and Barocas 820). Duncan embodies this in his struggles to rid himself of Mila’s devastating influence over his life. Her expectation that Duncan act out her trauma by fighting and destroying everybody is communicated in many but subtle ways and, thus, fosters “aggressive, explosive behavior” in him (Barocas and Barocas 820). Since Mila has lost neither husband nor son in the Holocaust, this relationship between survivor parent and second generation (in a literal sense of the word) is subtly problematized. Mila’s insurmountable problem—she never wanted more children after her escape from Poland—is that Duncan can never function as a symbol of survival, hope, and new beginnings, but remains a living presence of her postHolocaust contempt for her own behavior and the self-imposed, but not less traumatic, feelings of guilt. When Mila at the end of her life explains her reasons for knowingly refusing Duncan any sign of love, she asks her special care nurses, “why should he have what his brother could not? You can’t love one and not the other. Isaac didn’t have a mother; why should Duncan?” The fundamental difference, Louise reminds her, is that “Duncan had a mother [who] raised him” (SHS, 205); another is that Duncan must endure his parents’ nightmares from the outside. However, Second Hand Smoke seems to be explicitly concerned with the exploration of such separation from the parental trauma. Rosenbaum, whether knowingly or unknowingly, follows in “the tradition of [a] narrative ethics [that] argues [that] the rationality of our actions is determined by the narrative we understand ourselves to be in”

110  Encaustic Memories (Fasching 87). Even more explicitly, Isaac formalizes what Darrell Fasching calls “story dwellers.” According to Fasching, narratives “structure our sense of who we are and what kind of world we dwell in. The choices we make, even the options we think we have, are governed by the kind of story we think we are in and the role we see ourselves playing in it” (123). Isaac’s story, one partly self-fashioned and partly fashioned by his Polish ecology, posits him as a future-oriented Holocaust survivor. He and the Polish people transform Isaac’s tattooed numbers into credentials not of a traumatizing present, but a traumatic past from which reconciliation and a future spring. Since Mila controls every expression of Duncan’s identity, he cannot assume an authorial stance for his own identity. By proxy, Mila thus assumes some precarious power over her own post-Holocaust self. For Isaac, however, the numbers are visible and have already instantiated a narrative that is in sync with his imagined past and his present reality. Although Mila professes not to care for Duncan beyond his ability to hunt and haunt anti-Semites, she increases both her own and his suffering by denying her love for him. She collects a plethora of mementos of her second son’s existence: “boxes of his hair” and “old shoes, football cleats, karate dogies, even his baby teeth” (SHS, 205–206). Mila’s collection of artifacts that connect her to and attest her love for Duncan chillingly mirrors the only physical and graspable remains of Holocaust victims Duncan and Isaac discover at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Individual and Cultural Authorship over Trauma Stories In her final days, Mila feels that “the story must continue,” her “confessions needed witnesses. While Mila’s body surrendered to the ultimate truth, her memory showed no shame in revealing others” (SHS, 206–207). Are there other truths to be revealed, other memories, more shame? Mila’s inability to reveal her story produces a distance between herself and her audience(s), a distance that is unbridgeable if the basic human dyad that underlies the mother–son relationship is not repaired. However, such a connection, for Mila, is impossible for two reasons: first, what Mila confesses to the nurses is the question of how to love Duncan while Isaac is lost. Secondly, a confession would break the distance between them and allow her shame to intrude fully and overwhelmingly into the present, necessitating a search for the lost son and a working through of the trauma. Only in the final days of her life is Mila able to allow outsiders into her secrets: As witnesses to Mila’s testimony, the nurses are “trapped worse than they were before. Who could wake up Mila and free her children? Perhaps there are indeed nightmares from which there is no escape” (SHS, 255). The nurses are even further removed than Duncan, who is part of the second generation, and Isaac, who, though second

Encaustic Memories  111 generation, thinks he is a first-generation child survivor, but is, in terms of his relationship to the trauma narrative, closer to the members of the third-generation protagonists who are the subjects of Chapters 5 and 6. This shows the relative permeability of the concept of “generation” and its usability as a heuristic framework that fosters insights into the continuation and narration of trauma. As greater public, the nurses are pulled into the trauma’s collectivity by Mila’s confessions. With that the trauma ceases to be “some twentieth-century mythology. It was real. It happened. They were caring for its consequences” (SHS, 206–207). For the nurses, coping with the trauma narrative is easier because they have their own identity and are not continuously exposed to the effects and overpowered by parental trauma. Yet Duncan, born after the Holocaust and indoctrinated by Mila to “avenge our deaths” (SHS, 32) does not understand. His parents are “not dead” (SHS, 32), although for Mila and Yankee post-Holocaust life is only existence in death. Duncan’s dilemma to grasp this distinction is emblematic of this crucial challenge to live with parents, who force him to see them as emotionally and psychologically dead. They are really alive only in the fantasies of their past that Duncan cannot revisit.

Damaged Goods: Navigating Parental Trauma and One’s Own Emphasizing the damage and trauma, the narrator attests: it wasn’t so much that as a family they were strange, or that from the very beginning they were estranged—although each in its own way was true. It was that they were damaged. Irreversibly ruined. The Katz family of Miami Beach came assembled that way, without manuals or operating instructions or reassuring warranties. Everything was already broken. Nothing worked right; nothing ever would. The damage is what defined them best. (SHS, 3) This description of the Katz family stresses a preoccupation that LaCapra calls “a past that has not passed away” (8–9), or, in Ricoeur’s terms, passed through. In this case the traumatic silence is a connective feature for both first- and second-generation trauma narratives. Silence, as Wiesel puts it, is the traumatic drive of those who continue to remain to tell the tale of those who were lost. It is the silence about closeness, love, and care that constitutes abandonment anxiety, rage, and preoccupation with damage. Yet it is exactly the possibility of cathartic moments, by linking firstand second-generation narratives, that constitutes the importance of this generation. This catharsis is fraught with difficulty and complication.

112  Encaustic Memories Isaac realizes that Duncan cannot approach the Holocaust as a past event that needs to be worked through with a firm footing in the present. Duncan’s experience—and imagination—of the Holocaust trauma is characterized by a distorted perception in which time is not measured as “passing” but as a continuation of a trauma that emerges out of and overshadows every complication in his own life (Ricoeur 9). Suggestively, for Duncan, Miami would always remain a forbidden place. He was haunted by the memories that awaited him there, the very same memories that had travelled with him the entire time he had been away. The ghosts of a robbed childhood. The clock that sprinted without regard to actual time. Duncan had slipped many steps from birth to manhood, his family life having much in common with basic training during time or war. Adolescence was a luxury the Katzes could ill afford. You had to be ready to move at a moment’s notice. (SHS, 19) This in fact is a repetition of the parents’ trauma but with different spelling. Instead of the first generation’s haunted memories of the places of death and atrocity, Duncan experiences Miami as the locus of his traumatic childhood filled with the ghosts of Mila’s and his own making. However, he only indirectly acknowledges this as a trauma in its own right. As much as he wants to believe it, his actual traumatic rage stems not from memories of cattle cars, assembly places, and gas chambers— no matter how real they feel from his immersion in his parents’ individual trauma narratives and the vast reading in the cultural and historical moorings of the Holocaust—but from the memories of a robbed childhood and Mila’s denial of an unblemished future. As it is, Duncan deludes himself into believing that his own traumatic reality lacks actuality, even when that perspective makes his situation as unbearable as the rage that “comes over” him like “a large wave that smothers” him before he “turn[s] the wave back on the world.” Isaac’s solution is to “exhume” and “unbury” Duncan (SHS, 241), to allow him to come into contact with his abandonment anxiety and his helplessness against the ghosts that haunt him. Duncan’s feelings of rage and loss become even clearer in his audacious eulogy during Mila’s funeral. He confesses that, for him, her death is a moment of “freedom” and, “newly liberated,” of “celebration. […] I don’t want to remember her: all I want is a fresh start” (SHS, 55). Mila’s death, for Duncan, is characterized by his longing for a life of his own to do, remember, fight, and accept whatever he wants. Simultaneously, his refusal to fully and ritually come to terms with his own and his parents’ traumatic past in a temporally clearly delimited and structured way is also a refusal to really get a fresh start. 2

Encaustic Memories  113 The problem is that, whereas he “pitied the life that [Mila] had lived,” he also “selfishly pitied himself for being the son who had to watch, and ignore, and in so many ways contribute to the aftermath” (SHS, 64). Apart from the obvious self-blame and self-accusation, Duncan tries to take over the responsibility for the aftermath, a post-Holocaust world to which he wants to achieve proximity as the survivors die. Duncan does not want to live up—nor can he ever—to Mila’s expectations, at least not until she herself engages with and counteracts some of the active influence of her past trauma over his present identity. This is not to say that I propose the possibility of full closure. Trauma is an intricate, deep-set, and very personal intrusion into an individual’s psyche and it is acutely present even after years of engagement with it. What I am trying to emphasize in respect to intergenerational trauma narratives are the crucial aftereffects that happen in and through narrative. It would be preposterous to suggest that Mila, or any survivor, should just put the past behind and move on with life. As McNally shows, repression and forgetting a traumatic past is probably an unhealthy myth. However, new approaches to trauma as highlighted in Stef Craps’s “Beyond Eurocentricism: Trauma Theory in the Global Age” (45–61) necessitate a rethinking of narratives of/about trauma and their role in the formation of contemporary identity. What I am focusing on here, thus, is not a recommendation to put the past behind, but ways to meaningfully integrate it into present narratives. When Mila tries to do so in the intensive care unit, it is already too late and Duncan, as during his life, hears only “red hot hallucinations, mumbling from another world, gibberish […] the howling vernacular of the Holocaust” (SHS, 65). Rosenbaum’s brilliant use of language reflects the broken and intelligible fragmented narratives with which Duncan grew up and which eventually turn into a repeated but presently empty “vernacular” that is repeated without contextualization.

Exclusion from and Inclusion into Parental Narratives Second Hand Smoke foregrounds the special nature of second-generation trauma. Duncan’s sense of “contributing to the aftermath” by “watching” and “ignoring” (SHS, 64)—by simply living with and after his parents and their trauma—speaks of a new quality added to the original trauma. These events, which he has neither lived nor has really talked about with his parents, hover in his imagination as a faint cry from persons unknown. At home, Mila’s and Yankee’s silence speaks of so much more for the young boy because “so little was said to” him. Yankee, talked only to that old machine. Confessions meant for no one to read, as though the ribbon discharged only invisible ink. The typewriter as most trusted confidant; the godless, mechanized priest for

114  Encaustic Memories the burdened Jew. It was yet another in the infinite, deafening codes that Duncan spent a childhood hoping to one day decipher. (SHS, 31) Yankee’s typewriter, formerly used to keep impersonal and depersonalizing accounts of abominations, now functions as impersonal confidant for Yankee’s attempts to rid himself of both trauma and memories. It is almost as if his compulsive typing were a conversation with those whose death had been recorded on the very same machine. It is a communication with ghosts instead of a conversation with the living. Duncan wished to break through this and the other “deafening codes” in order to be a part of the story. Yankee’s loquaciousness with the typed word on paper puts his reticence as to spoken words—especially those spoken to his son—in even starker relief. This is, at least for the reader, even more pronounced by the fact that the tomes of typed sheets vanish altogether from the novel the moment they are mentioned. Yankee was going through the “motions of an existence that was no longer his own” (SHS, 30); ephemeral engravings in limbo between past and present. Keller’s tattoo machine, like Yankee’s typewriter, is a relic of the Holocaust world that connects the half-brothers by memory while they are connected through their mother by blood. Both typewriter and tattoo machine affix a specific type of memory—one, ephemeral letters on paper, the other, numbers inked into flesh—both indelible in their respective importance. In the naming of Milan after her grandmother, like the choice of Duncan as the protagonist’s name, the novel indicates the ongoing dialogue between generational connection and division. The “boy’s name isn’t a mistake,” a character assumes, but rather an intentional and meaningful act by “people [who] are trying to tell us something” (SHS, 4). The narrator offers a cover-story reason for the unusual naming: it is because Yankee (himself a renamed and revamped refugee who changes, at least by designation, into a prototypical American denomination) and Mila “were trying to have it both ways,” to hold up “their end of the sacred covenant with God—laughably, the same god [viz.] who was now even harder to trust than before” while, at the same time, “they were also not taking any chances, either.” This kind of camouflage is necessary for them because with their experiences during the Holocaust—the trauma of which shapes the family’s life forever—they do not feel safe in any place without a certain amount of blending in and adapting to the “larger ghettos of the outside world” (SHS, 5). Initially, the narrator suggests names as “ploys to protect the innocent,” but immediately qualifies it as the question arises whether it might also be “to conceal the guilty?” (SHS, 6). The reader is drawn into different, intricately connected and interdependent narratives and subplots pertaining to different characters. The revelation of Mila’s

Encaustic Memories  115 secret for the characters, for instance, mirrors the moment in which it is lifted for the reader. Additionally, Duncan loses his picture of Milan on the border entering Poland just as Mila had lost her photo of Isaac when she left Poland. The form of the novel enacts a double bind between characters as well as between characters and readers similar to Laub’s theory of the reestablishment of the human dyad in the testimonial process. Through this confluence, the reader functions as an active witness to the events of the narrative; in the whirl of second-hand smoke the reader becomes a secondary witness to both second- as well as first-generation trauma. In contrast to the characters who never know about certain links between their narratives, the reader is made aware of them. The Katzes’ secret code word “keller” for instances when “a member of the family had, in his speech, strayed too far and revealed too much” (SHS, 7) and the name of Mila’s first husband. An almost moment of recognition at Mila’s graveside is quickly passed over. The double meaning is heightened by the fact that the etymological origin of the name stems from Middle High German keller, meaning “store, storage room, basement” (Guggenheimer and Guggenheimer 397). That the Katzes use this code word as a reference for taking refuge in an imagined basement becomes an even more telling fact with its double meaning as metaphorical storeroom and secret hiding place for Mila’s past that no one else must know. Moreover, like Duncan and the numbers on Mila’s and Isaac’s arms, keller functions as a constant, probably self-imposed, reminder of Mila’s guilt. In the novel, it assumes the status of a password continuously repeated to an audience that does not, cannot understand its meaning, but whom Mila might secretly have willed to unveil her secret.

Remembering, Letting Go, and Incorporating the Past into the Present Whereas Duncan was raised “to be alone, to do without” (SHS, 262) and to disconnect himself from everyone, Isaac spent his child- and adulthood “in a psychic search of a mother” by “filling in the blanks” (SHS, 201). Both brothers need to fill in their respective blanks and approach the past imaginatively in their search for a caring and present mother as well as knowledge and meaningful incorporation of the past. Between Duncan’s overidentification and Isaac’s “imaginative investment, projection, and creation” (Hirsch 5), “the brothers each tried to imagine what Mila’s journey must have been like, but it was useless. She gave neither of her sons a chance to carry her actual memories into the next generation. Imagination and fantasy—poor substitutes for the lived experience—were all that they ever had” (SHS, 286–287). Respectively, imagination and fantasy result in a wholesome narrative of integration and a gruesome story of fragmentation, as the novel attempts “to

116  Encaustic Memories represent [and mediate] the long-term effects of living in close proximity to the pain, depression, and dissociation of persons who have witnessed and survived massive historical trauma” (Hirsch 34). There is no lived experience of the Holocaust for either son, making it impossible for them to actually know what Mila lived through. However, the “poor substitutes” imagination and fantasy, provide the fundament for meaningful narratives. Since the facts can never be fully established, because neither can completely live the experience of another, the gaps can and must be filled by imagination. Duncan is “paralyzed by the fear of being abandoned” (SHS, 262), while Isaac is rooted in the Jewish past of the cemetery’s “kingdom of the dead, this haunted archeological dig, the irrefutable acreage of lives forever lost—the only proof that they had ever existed” (SHS, 99). The grounding in the past allows for a sense of closure while continuing to remember. Instead of continuously nurturing past trauma, Isaac mourns in order to give remembrance to the past that integrates it into present and future. Isaac’s ability to cry and give in to the full emotional response of sadness shows his future-oriented response to the loss. Duncan generally is excruciatingly aware of the difference between then and now. Thus, his discovery of Isaac produces a feeling, in Duncan’s own words, as if he were caught in a “dress rehearsal,” a “time warp,” and in “what happened during the war” (SHS, 263). He feels acutely what Hirsch describes as the intrusion of the “intersecting histories” that must not “occlude or erase each other” (20). In fact, it is especially this awareness of a seemingly unbridgeable temporal gap that makes Duncan’s posterity so unbearable. Contrary to critical voices highlighting the second-generation’s preponderance of and overemphasis on first-generation trauma, Duncan clearly perceives a difference between his life and his parents’ past. In an everlasting process of melancholia, he violates the very principles of ritualized mourning since for him “to mourn is to forget” (SHS, 264). The Kaddish Yatom, however, does imply the ritual incorporation of mourning, continuation, and moving forwards. Duncan’s mission is diametric to Leon Wieseltier’s conception that, following Kaddish, one “speaks up against darkness, against nothingness” (165). Duncan is convinced that there is no light or meaningfulness, and his mission is to hold on. Duncan, the enraged Nazi hunter, fierce bodybuilder, and deadly martial artist is incapable of this because of the fantasies of being selected, incarcerated, and tortured by the Nazis that surface from his (post-) memories. For Duncan, the past is a demand he cannot (ful)fill. His persecution of Nazis and pummeling of everyone and everything that might have a relation to the Holocaust cannot be future-oriented, since it has as its premise an all-consuming trauma. These memories are really fantasies born from countless testimonial accounts in the “pillars of books” that seem to constitute “the very foundation of [Duncan’s New

Encaustic Memories  117 York] brownstone.” This “geologic formation” (SHS, 75), unlike Isaac’s uneven but (literally) rooted graveyard kingdom, cannot provide Duncan with a basis and firm foothold. Tellingly, the pillars of books provide a foundation where Duncan and Shannon’s crooked house—bought as an experiment of how long it could last—is volatile. Moreover, Duncan does not barricade himself in against the trauma; rather, he barricades himself in with it to be inwardly consumed by its psychological effects (the Holocaust books) instead of embracing the shaken present (the Washington house) that he could secure. Thus, Duncan himself embodies what he fears and criticizes—the transformation of “the people of the book” into “the people of Holocaust books,” so that the “canon of the Shoah was now a loaded cannon, the fuse eternally counting down with the firepower of memory and accusation” (SHS, 75–76). That is why Duncan needs the on-site experience of Poland with his half-brother to get closer to the questions reverberating in his mind: “How many more books would it take? When will the world learn that the mystery of madness and atrocity can never be found in books—or even museums […]?” (SHS, 76). Isaac shows Duncan how to personally relate to the past with a future outlook. For Isaac, being post is decidedly not a forgetting, a denial, or an abandonment, but a means to more fully embrace the legacy and continue a functioning life instead of a drawn-out trauma. Isaac highlights the intricate communications between past trauma and the present causes and symptoms of grief, which Duncan needs to separate if he wants to establish a contemporaneity that anticipates the future and remembers the past (Ricoeur). At first, “everything,” for Duncan, “is about loss. It feels like there is no difference between [his] life and what happened to [his] family during the war.” Summarily, these thoughts transform his “life is like one big atonement. Everything is Kaddish. Kristallnacht all over again, but this time the glass is not from broken storefronts, but families” (SHS, 262–263). While for Isaac life is living and preparing, an individual engagement and assumption of agency, for Duncan it is only the continuation of death in Duncan’s insecurity about what to prepare for in the present. Like the Benjaminian angel, Duncan is unable to really envisage or better to individually craft a future from his present. Second Hand Smoke explicitly approaches the difficulty of generational transmission of trauma and the sense that despite everything that had gone wrong for them in the past, the Katzes had not yet given up. Yankee and Mila were dead, and their son was insufficiently alive, yet there was going to be a grandchild. Hopefully, she would learn how to breathe without the gas and smoke entourage. (SHS, 81)

118  Encaustic Memories Especially in his hope for a possibly untainted generation, Duncan perceives the burden to be his alone. While the question is whether Milan could “inherit what was best about him and the world of the Katzes without the nasty, toxic stuff being passed on as well” (SHS, 82), it indeed remains a possibility for Duncan to come to terms with his own present in order to not commit Mila’s mistake and overwrite Milan’s present with his trauma. Duncan needs to learn from Isaac that even in his “most private and desperate moments” (SHS, 82) he does not need to completely re-enact his parents’ trauma as a second-hand Muselmann with “eyes […] vacant, […] head[] shaven, […] skin reduced to mere bone wrappings, […] cavities suddenly unfilled and goldless” because by proxy he “breathed in the rarefied, choking vapors of an atmosphere known only to [his] parents” (SHS, 82–83). Significantly, the narrator’s comments on these issues that result in the unbearable situation of Duncan’s marital life and eventual separation, highlight that this second-hand nature leads to a usurpation of the first-generation trauma narrative. Of course, they cannot really become such figures of trauma, but in Duncan’s attempt to approach his parents’ experiences the trauma “somehow become[s] oxygen” for him (SHS, 82–83). Therein lies the conflict between acting out and working through. What impedes actual closure—what Arlene Stein defines as “a sense of self that is separate from [his] parents, while living up to [his] responsibilities” (12)—through incorporation of the past into the present is also Duncan’s sense of being removed from everyone else.

Progressive and Tragic Narrative Outlook in Overcoming Trauma In Poland, Duncan changes his whole lifestyle. Formerly he had shed himself of everything. And some things—primarily people— distanced themselves from him. […] he stripped himself bare, ensuring that no matter what might lie in store for him, he would never be forced to part with anything because there was nothing left to part with. He was a man naked to himself, living neither in the Garden of Eden nor the camp of Auschwitz, but still without knowledge, and with much in the way of shame. (SHS, 74) Mila’s training of Duncan attempts to protect him from possible future atrocities. Did she intend the traumatization by proxy to be an antidote for the real trauma? Did her belief in the tragic narrative and unending continuation of the Holocaust dictate how she perceives of her son’s future? Mila is aware of the crime not only of branding and leaving Isaac, but also of repeatedly maltreating Duncan. The protection, in case there should be

Encaustic Memories  119 another Holocaust, would be that he is already prepared for the trauma enabling him to cope in a better way, but, as Isaac correctly admonishes, nothing can prepare one for the atrocities and horrors of genocide. With his psychological makeup unchanged and his perception of his life as tragic narrative, Duncan’s dab at marriage remains unresolved. Although he might well have married Shannon for love, he had also “joined with her in the hope of defeating the dire omens of his parents, of restoring a lost world, and in the process, rebuilding one for himself” (SHS, 142). Shannon, “a convert to Judaism,” has not married Duncan without knowledge of this traumatic past. Indeed, she “had hit the Jewish jackpot” in marrying Duncan because his “family had survived the most lofty [sic] of Jewish tragedies” (SHS, 141). The narrator clarifies that Shannon’s fascination that drew her in before the traumatic past seemed too much. After reading The Diary of Anne Frank as a child, she had “tried to imagine herself surviving in an attic.” However, her “Holocaust ghost inside” is still not strong enough to confront Duncan’s nightmares—a mirror image of his parents’ nightly “thrashing away at low-flying ghosts” (SHS, 141–142). Shannon, like Duncan, is concerned that the trauma will maim Milan. While Duncan “was always ambivalent about letting [Milan] in on the family tragedy,” hoping that she would not be influenced by the trauma as he had been, he also thinks that he has to tell her so that she could bear the generational burden of continuing the trauma. After all, Duncan reasons, “[s]he would know anyway, just like he did, despite the barricading codes, the clouded smoke signals, and the toxic silences” (SHS, 165). What he forgets is that this is exactly the difference that enabled Isaac to develop a healthy self and consciousness to distinguish between the past and the present. Duncan unwittingly does exactly what he tries to prevent, creating a hazy trauma narrative that could maim his daughter. Second Hand Smoke, in another intriguing mirroring twist, uses this to confront how the generations can be enmeshed and influenced by trauma narratives. The “difference between Milan’s” and Duncan’s childhood is “that he sang to her. Softly and tenderly, […] the chorus of ‘Someone to Watch over Me’” (SHS, 166). Unwittingly, he sings to his daughter the Gershwin song that Mila had sung to Isaac. Because Shannon is so afraid of having all the same things that went wrong for Duncan also go wrong with Milan, she retreated, convincing herself that what she had been dealing with all along was a congenital, viral, and hopelessly incurable condition of the Katz family. A legacy that must continually mutate and rejuvenate itself through the generations until—eventually, hopefully—it ran its course and cancelled itself out. […] Quarantine the father; insulate the daughter. (SHS, 83)

120  Encaustic Memories Her retreat, in turn, fits into Duncan’s perceptions of the world and is, for him, just another instance that the Holocaust trauma is continuously undoing his life. The understandable reaction of a helpless wife with an admitted Holocaust fascination, but also with a natural helplessness to stem the flood of Duncan’s enraged coping is, for Duncan, an emphatic reminder of the unpredictable loss of people and the justification of avoiding any meaningful dyadic connection to others. It shows him that he should continue to “shed himself of everything” (SHS, 74) and perhaps even give up on the “illusion of being connected to something other than the vise grip of his legacy” (SHS, 37). For Shannon, Duncan is “a black hole” of trauma that “will eat away at anything that gets near it. […] I don’t want Milan to get swallowed up in there” (SHS, 84). Shannon foresees that just as Mila’s story drew in Duncan, Judy, Cynthia, and Louise, the trauma might one day drown her daughter’s life as well. Shannon dreads Duncan’s inability to draw the line between these two temporal modes. According to her, Duncan’s trauma especially torments those “who love [Duncan] the most.” More importantly, she claims that Duncan cannot, does not even like to “shut [the influence of his parents’ trauma] down” (SHS, 84). Because he has “so much grief inside” him that it is “all impacted, buried and knotted” inside him, Duncan has, Shannon admonishes, to get underneath it all—inside the place where it hurts the most. But to do so, you have to also get out from under the waves of anger and pain that you have been swimming in all your life. It’s the only world you seem to know. It’s familiar and safe for you, but it’s also poisonous. I’ve been fighting for your soul for years, and I’m losing, and I’m sick about it. (SHS, 85) Shannon, in other words, tells Duncan that he must fight not alongside the shadows of the past, thereby destroying his present life and possible future, but that he must start fighting for himself and the future. Like Isaac, she emphasizes that Duncan must stop being the extension of Mila’s ravenous revenge and start mourning. Only then can he become one of the “less directly affected participants [who] become engaged in the generation of postmemory that can persist even after all participants and even their familial descendants are gone” (Hirsch 33). As Arthur Cohen argues, it is not only the leaving behind of the Holocaust trauma—transcending it—but the engagement with its deepest depths—a subscension, so to speak, into the darkest recesses—that is needed in working through a trauma on a genocidal scale (30). Duncan needs to find his own voice to narratively both subscend and transcend the void left by Mila’s indoctrinations. Shannon’s acknowledgment as an interested outsider that the Holocaust trauma comes in many shades

Encaustic Memories  121 and—with many breaks and silences—holds a chance to bear witness while not continuing the full traumatic spectrum. Subscendence into the gap of silence after trauma and admission that only the witnesses themselves can attempt to speak through and of their experiences—no matter how inadequate the individuals feel their speech to be—frees the collectivity to establish connections and “reveal the meaning that lay buried” in the ashes of trauma (Osborne 1). Shannon, to put it differently, does not discourage all forms of remembering. Rather, she tries to implement a more wholesome version of engaging with the trauma narrative in Duncan’s life. What happens to Duncan throughout his childhood and what turns Cynthia, Louise, and Judy into witnesses of the witness, can be termed, in analogy to Paul Connerton’s concepts, “acts of transfer” (40). These acts, achieved through narrative means, “transform history into memory, but enable memories to be shared across individuals and generations” (31). Second Hand Smoke enables these “acts of transfer” to take place between the generation within the novel and exemplifies them on a larger level for the book’s interaction with its audiences. Mila’s memories are shared not only with Duncan as representative of the second generation but also with the nurses, symbolizing a larger, more distant and (initially) unaffected audience. For them, as the narrative unfolds, the Holocaust becomes real, has happened, is an instance for whose consequences they care because they themselves become memory bearers. On a meta level, the very readers themselves become witnesses to the events. Simultaneously, Hirsch holds that such versions of remembrance do not make “postmemory […] identical to memory: it is ‘post’; but, at the same time […] it approximates memory in its affective force and psychic effect” (31). The divide between feeling the horror and being maimed by it because one imagines what happens from the parents’ inability to lead a normal, integrated life causes Duncan’s later inability to differentiate in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where temporality and reality converge. Second Hand Smoke here goes so far as to conflate not only the realities and storylines within the novel itself, but enmeshes the readers and their reality into it as well.

Notes 1 Langer’s concept of the choiceless choice stands in contrast to Frankl’s point of view that “there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to decide, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to the powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; […] renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate” (65–66). However, with Frankl’s emphasis on human agency that relies heavily on philosophy, especially the last phrase sounds harrowingly like a confirmation of Langer’s stance: within the camp there were only choiceless choices.

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Works Cited Alexander, Jeffrey C. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Assmann, Aleida. Das Neue Unbehagen an der Erinnerungskultur: Eine Intervention. C. H. Beck, 2013. Barocas, Harvey A. and Carol B. Barocas. “Manifestations of Concentration Camp Effects on the Second Generation.” American Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 130, 1973, pp. 820–821. Berger, Alan L. “Mourning, Rage and Redemption: Representing the Holocaust, the Work of Thane Rosenbaum.” Studies in American Jewish Literature, vol. 19, no. 1, January 2000, pp. 6–15. Cohen, Arthur A. The Tremendum: A Theological Interpretation of the Holocaust. Crossroad, 1981. Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Cambridge UP, 1989. Crabs, Stef. “Beyond Eurocentrism: Trauma Theory in the Global Age,” The Future of Trauma Theory. Edited by Gert Buelens et al., Routledge, 2014, pp. 45–61. Fasching, Darell J. The Ethical Challenge of Auschwitz and Hiroshima: Apocalypse or Utopia. State U of New York P, 1993. Frankl, Victor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Translated by Ilse Lasch, Beacon Press, 1959. Guggenheimer, Heinrich W. and Eva H. Guggenheimer. Jewish Family Names and Their Origins: An Etymological Dictionary. Ktav, 1997.

Encaustic Memories  123 Hirsch, Marianne. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. Columbia UP, 2012. Karpf, Anne. The War After: Living with the Holocaust. Heinemann, 1996. LaCapra, Dominick. History and Memory after Auschwitz. Cornell UP, 1998. Langer, Lawrence L. Versions of Survival: The Holocaust and the Human Spirit. State U of New York P, 1982. McGlothlin, Erin H. Second-Generation Holocaust Literature: Legacies of Survival and Perpetuation. Camden House, 2006. Niederland, William G. “The Psychiatric Evaluation of Emotional Disorders in Survivors of Nazi Persecution.” Massive Psychic Trauma. Edited by Henry Krystal, International UP, 1968. Nora, Pierre. Les Lieux de Mémoire. Gallimard, 1984. Osborne, Monica. The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma. Lexington Books, 2018. Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative. Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, The U of Chicago P, 1983. Rosenbaum, Thane. The Myth of Moral Justice: Why Our Legal System Fails to do What Is Right. HarperCollins, 2004. Stein, Arlene. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, Their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014. Wardi, Dina. Memorial Candles: Children of the Holocaust. Translated by Naomi Goldblum, Routledge, 1992. Weissman, Gary. Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Cornell UP, 2004. Wieseltier, Leon. Kaddish. Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Wirth-Nesher, Hanna. Call It English: The Languages of Jewish American Literature. Princeton UP, 2006. Young, James E. The Texture of Memory. Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. Yale UP, 1993.


Connecting Worlds Narrative Networks in Horn’s The World to Come

There used to be families like the Ziskinds, families where each person always knew that his life was more than his alone. […] there are so few of them, they have become insular, isolated, their sentiment that the family is the center of the universe broadened to imply that nothing outside the family is worth anything. If you are one of these families, you believe this, and always will. (TWC, 9) From its very beginning, The World to Come underlines its dialogical mediation between past and present. It starts with Ben Ziskind musing on the increasing rarity of individuals and families with a deep connection to the past generations. When Ben visits a Chagall exhibition the worlds in the paintings merge with his family history and he perceives the other patrons as “little more than walking ghosts: his mother, his father, preserved in other people’s skins” (TWC, 11). As Ben’s narrative stretches beyond his individual biography and the loss of his parents and their lives’ interconnections, Ben, the remaining generation, turns to his memories to re-present his deceased parents’ meanings, identities, and narratives a part of the living. Yet “memory,” LaCapra stresses, “is not identical with history” nor is it “the opposite of history.” Even disregarding “falsifications, repressions, displacements, and denials,” the theorist LaCapra still accepts memory as “informative […] in terms of that object’s often anxiety-ridden reception and assimilation by both participants and those born later” (19). Loss of people and the danger of losing memory of them, as well as the omnipresence of those who have passed are a major topic of The World to Come. The novel struggles with the meaning of loss and how to cope with it. After he has lost both parents, Ben’s world is dead and he perceives himself as “a citizen in a necropolis.” His parents are constant apparitions who he sees “always from behind or turning a corner, […] his mother [was] dead six months now, though it felt like one long night [viz.]” (TWC, 9). Ben is haunted by an oppressive sense of missed opportunities, unsaid words, and undone deeds of affection in the form of ghosts who do not return to but drift away from him. Memory’s presence

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  125 is painful through the void their absence creates. Ben cannot approach nor catch up with them. A lesson in loss, it teaches that everything in this world is dated, limited, has an expiration date from the moment of its creation; that “you can only have something you like for a short time, and after that you just have to be happy to have had it when you did, and enjoy the memory of it” (TWC, 120). The World to Come moves in a (postmodern) tradition “of narrative highly questioning towards the forms and contents of history” that are according to Jenni Adams problematized “through a double movement in which the authority of these contexts is both established and undermined” (21–22). Constituting a form of what Linda Hutcheon designates “historiographical metafiction,” Horn’s fiction “reinstalls historical contexts as significant and even determining,” while simultaneously stating “that there can be no single, essentialized, transcendent concept of ‘genuine historicity’” (89). The text, rather “offers a mixture of consolation and confrontation in its portrayal both of mortality in a general sense, and of specific historical horror.” Since the reader is able to “identify the consolation as supernatural,” Adams states, “these redemptive possibilities are troubling rather than complacent in their offer of a form of satisfaction that cannot be accepted” (156). There has to be, in other words, a continued consciousness of the traumatic past and an active, present engagement with it. To emphasize this, Horn connects the lives and deaths of her characters in many incidents reminiscent of Wilhelm Dilthey’s “relationships to their environment, to other people, and to things” so that each individual and new generation assumes “a point where relationships intersect” and meanings appear to “reach beyond” characters’ lives (25–36). Some of these are independent, while others appear only through an active connection to or working out of them. Individuals are empowered to create their own purposes from and within the respective narrative strands.

Generational Temporal Connections The intersecting relationships between generations can be seen in seemingly random connections that interweave the characters’ genealogies into cohesive networks. This novel about loss and retrieval spans generational connections between prewar Russia, Yiddish culture and literature (using Pinkhas Kahanovich, better known under the pseudonym Der Nister, as character), and the United States during the Vietnam era and today. The World to Come also contrasts this world, olam ha-zeh, with the fantastical world to come, olam ha-bah, a nexus in which the oftenunknown interrelationships converge. The World to Come explores the past(s) of one’s ancestors who shape the newborns in a fantastical other world. The novel deals with the implications to “name children after the dead in the dim hope that they will resemble them, pretending to blunt the loss of the person we knew while struggling to make the person we

126  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks don’t know into less than a stranger” (TWC, 283). Already a functional part discussed in Chapters 3 and 4, Horn’s third-generation writing follows this ancient practice into the pre-Holocaust world. A person’s real name, Boris Kulbak learns, ensures one’s (re)admittance into the world to come; a nexus where the new generations are endowed with all that the previous generations were, and from there, to create completely unique identities. Boris’s real “Jewish name” is “Benjamin, son of Jacob” (TWC, 32). Der Nister, on learning this, explains the relationship between father and son according to Torah: “What happens to him, happens to you” (TWC, 32). Horn cleverly works along this traditional relationship. Boris is Rosalie’s father, Ben and Sara’s grandfather, and great-grandfather to not-yet Daniel.1 Hence, Benjamin Ziskind is named after his maternal grandfather Boris (Benjamin) Kulbak. Not-yet Daniel receives his name from his maternal grandfather, Daniel Ziskind. Both Boris and Daniel are later already-weres teaching not-yet Daniel in the world to come. Within impersonal and personal histories, the lessons in the world to come emphasize the feelings, thoughts, dreams, realizations, memories, traumata, and joys of one’s ancestors, encapsulated and encrypted in the very make-up of one’s existence. The interplay between individual and collective memory in Maurice Halbwachs’s theories and Alexander’s concepts hints that in each generation lies a process of selecting—what each individual holds important for their present reality—followed by coding, weighting, and narrating it to form respective versions of identity. Similar processes, as Zerubavel states, apply to collectivities in “constructed images [and stories that] provide the group with an account of [their] origin and development and thus allow to recognize [themselves] through time” (4). In Horn’s novels, A Guide for the Perplexed (2013), In the Image (2002) as well as The World to Come, the characters attempt to retain the links to what happened to previous generations. In the latter novel, characters hold a more narratological worldview to connect the literary and artistic artefacts transmitted into the present. The characters Ben and Sara seek to connect to the culture, language, and past of their ancestors and to actively create a narrative in which they can inhabit a present infused with and informed by the meanings of the past. The correlation between loss and recovery oscillates between Horn’s two worlds: this world and the world to come. Charles Taylor emphasizes the human need for “our lives to have meaning, or weight, or substance, or to grow towards some fullness,” which is intertwined with a future that “redeem[s] the past” and “make[s] it part of a live story which has sense or purpose, to take it up in a meaningful unity” (50–51). In The World to Come, on the one hand, the characters are continuously searching for meaning and completion in their writing and painting of stories. On the other, the narrative presents a set of seemingly isolated events in the characters’ lives, which adumbrate or revisit important

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  127 events in others’ lives. Irrespective of the medium in which they are told, stories in The World to Come (and the novel as story itself) “are always somebody’s stories” and are, following Molly Hite, dependent on “the coherence of one line of narration” in favor of a “suppression of any number of ‘other sides,’ alternative versions that might give the same sequence of events an entirely different set of emphases and values” (4, original emphasis). Admittedly, other than in the case of Der Nister, whose works are censored and censured by the Russian secret police, the characters’ narratives are not suppressed. They are possible options, open to the characters’ choices to favor one over another. While Taylor can stress in respect to In Search of Lost Time that Proust’s narrator “recovers the full meaning of the past and thus restores the time which was ‘lost’” (51), neither characters nor readers of The World to Come can ever restore lost time or recover full meanings, it remains crucially a means of creation by and for each individual. While in rabbinic tradition “no human has ever seen what awaits us” in the world to come because it “is a world and time completely apart” (Hayes 69), Horn upends this expectation by removing the clear delineations between olam ha-zeh and olam ha-bah. Technically, there are even two worlds to come in Horn’s novel: one to come (from) after birth, where the not-yets are trained, one to come (into) after death to become an already-were. However, these two worlds constitute one entity perceived and experienced from different perspectives. It also remains uncertain whether the already-weres remain timelessly for their educational engagements with the future generations. Might it be possible that versions of one’s pasts, presents, and futures—both actual and possible— are present there like Der Nister’s fragments of stories as beginnings and endings? In this case, The World to Come would propose an attempt to approach and narrativize alternate versions of the self. In a dream, the protagonist in Horn’s In the Image enters a submarine Atlantis where all lost opportunities, the not-taken chances and choices exist alongside each other. Both texts underline Horn’s use of magic realism to explore the meaning of life and how individuals narrate themselves as part of a larger (trauma) narrative that connects generations. Jordan Rosenblum conceives the world to come as “world of reversals” (108) in which the traditional conception of history “advance[es] toward a purpose that will take humanity into a different and better direction” (Bronner 164). Horn synthesizes a world providing infinite choices and options to create meaning, as she pursues this teleological process of progression and inherent inclusion that gives the characters freedom to further explore the meaning of their lives and identities. Is Horn’s depiction of these lessons a sign of a fundamental change in the perception of history and memory? Not-yet Daniel does not learn about the Holocaust at all; he does not learn about the world-historical events that orbit around l’universe concentrationnaire; he is not admonished

128  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks to remember and heal the world. “Instead, the not-yets study the people who really create the history of the world: mothers, teachers, brothers, sisters, fathers, aunts, uncles, friends—because […] ‘[t]ime itself is created through deeds of true kindness’” (TWC, 284). These lessons in history and memory are infused with trauma. After all, they came to Daniel Ziskind “through his own private family crisis.” Daniel had to learn that “days and hours and years are not time, but merely vessels for it, and too often they are empty” (TWC, 139). Where in Second Hand Smoke “Martin Luther King Jr. was preaching passive nonviolent resistance” to which “Mila wasn’t listening” (SHS, 29), the world in The World to Come remains “timeless and empty, until an act of generosity changes it in an instant” (TWC, 139). The actual world to come appears only at the end of the novel, when “Daniel, son of Leonid and Sara,” the new not-yet, with whom and for whom the novel ends, comes into existence. Echoing Moses’ hineni, not-yet Daniel’s “Here I am” (TWC, 284) affirms presence. He is ready to connect the past of his ancestors with his own to-be-created future, but with his birth will forget everything to receive his full potential of change and his own presence. Horn’s perspective suggests a generation of postmemory that seeks to actively reconnect to the past—both traumatic and not. While Rachel and Duncan had to learn how to turn the page and start their own chapters, Ben and Sara Ziskind as well as notyet Daniel Ziskind Shcharanski already possess this freedom and ability to author their present. Duncan’s and Rachel’s acting in a dress rehearsal of their parents’ making turns into a supposition of choice in The World to Come. Not-yet “Daniel found these lessons particularly difficult; he had trouble sorting out the important from the unimportant, and it was hard to tell what mattered out of all the things the teacher brought up in class” (TWC, 284–285). In contrast to Raphael’s lessons in The Rescue of Memory, these lessons are inherently enabling and liberating. The stress lies not on an enforced and unexperienced trauma, but on the freedom to create meaning of one’s own: to be able, following Alexander, to code, weight, and narrate (“Social Construction” 35) one’s own story that takes in all the possible aspects of the past. The lessons do not turn the following generations into what Wardi seminally coined “memory candles” (1992) but represent a plethora of opportunities, because, analogous to Frankl, a self in its options, “represent[s] the quintessence of the possibilities of the I” (169). Like Avishai Margalit who criticizes Wardi’s concept and emphasizes, in quoting his parents, that “the remaining Jews, are people, not candles,” (viii), The World to Come projects a fundamental change in comparison with the second-generation examples considered in Chapters 3 and 4. According to Margalit, it “is a horrible prospect to anyone to live just for the sake of retaining the memory of the dead” (viii). Thus, trauma, sorrow, and the loss of people

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  129 must offer the foundation of the actualization of one’s possibilities, one’s own narrative identity. The enmeshment of text and audience that has been crucial in my analysis of first- and second-generation narratives produces, in my analyses of the following two chapters, what Rothberg calls “elements of alterity” that fundamentally explore “who we are in the present, but never straightforwardly and directly, and never without unexpected or even unwanted consequences that bind us to those we consider other” (4–5). This shift necessitates a change in trauma theory’s approach to previous and future works from the absolutely destructive to the meaningfully productive work of trauma narratives. In the novel’s narration, the generational connection hinges on the re-narration of “specific possibilities that may conceivably be reactivated, reconfigured, and transformed in the present or future” (LaCapra 49). Such a process is vital in a text that depicts a historical past of trauma and loss, in which pregnant women are cut open and fetuses smashed through the window while the older child is watching, in which young Jewish girls are raped by a horde of gentiles while the father struggles to get to his daughter, and in which hunger, poverty, and political repression, as well as the horrors of fighting and dying in the jungle of Vietnam are reoccurring constants. The characters are acutely aware of these debilitating traumata. Like Duncan, who learns that the dead do not require anything from the living, Boris Kulbak “had once been afraid of the dead,” before he comes to view them as “benign” and more “familiar” (TWC, 20) than living people. Boris’ childhood is situated in the pre-Holocaust world of Russia’s long history and traditions of Jewish life. No mention is made of the Holocaust or its reverberations through history. Monica Osborne holds this to be a new phase in “post-Holocaust fiction.” For her, a great number of works produced in the aftermath of the Holocaust have attempted to tackle the trauma through an approach that tried “to depict the horrors as they really were,” while this new phase represents “a more self-aware and ethically responsible kind of fiction” (119). Horn’s characters are crucially aware of their nonexperience of Holocaust traumata and they do not attempt to inscribe themselves as nearly as possible into these traumata. They rather approach them from their own perspectives, with their own troubles, and they do so with a wider scope of what traumata happened to their ancestors and how that relates to their own present realities. The pogrom against his family leaves Boris an orphan. His existence and identity are altered by the trauma and define his later existence. After the pogrom, Boris feels deadened to such a degree that he finally runs to the cemetery where “he found an empty grave. Boris lay down inside it, covered his arms and legs with dirt until he managed to stop shivering, and closed his eyes against the falling snow” (TWC, 20). More than the physical act of a freezing child, the narrative infuses this self-burial

130  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks with significance. The storylines of the novel return to this event twice, connecting it to other events in the characters’ lives; thus, tracing memorial gossamer threads of meaning and trauma between them. The symbolism of a new life, a new beginning with the experiences and memories fading and the trauma to be overcome, does not hold true for Boris. He is unearthed and sent to the Jewish orphanage Malakhovka near Moscow. There, Boris meets Pinkhas Kahanovoch alias Der Nister, who teaches writing in the orphanage, and Marc Chagall, the art teacher at the time. Chagall teaches Boris how to perceive realities—although the only things Boris discerns and reproduces are his past traumata and present despairs—and, in this teaching, enables The World to Come’s further plotlines of the Ziskinds.

Choosing Narrative, Choosing Life In The World to Come’s intertextual memory (Lachmann 15), Yiddish stories—transmitted through time—offer options of parabolic explanation and interpretation. Sara Ziskind remembers a story her father, Daniel, read to her during childhood and that Rosalie adapted and plagiarized from I. L. Peretz’s “Di toyte shtot,” (162–171). In the version that Sara remembers, the first-person narrator is told by a citizen of the uncharted and unknown town that everyone “has choices” and that those who do not use them “just keep[] living in [their] own imaginary world, like [they] did before” (TWC, 109). The analogy to this lesson is, as Dereck Daschke emphasizes in respect to Judaic tradition, that it has reward only for the “righteous.” The “judgment” happens “through the unfolding of history” (4). In The World to Come, too, the “test” that everyone has to pass “at the end” (TWC, 284), already-was Rosalie explains to her daughter Sara, “comes later” (TWC, 309), that is, in the reality of the human, historical world created by a person’s actions. One’s choices in the present determine whether one lives or merely continues with one’s imaginary existence. Rosalie’s explanation shows that The World to Come propagates an active creation of a present that simultaneously creates the past(s) of future generations. The real test is to choose life. It is ambivalent in not-yet Daniel’s case whether the test is that he chooses to renounce the fruit of life that would grant him mere continuation in limbo between olam ha-bah and olam ha-zeh or that he symbolically chooses the fruit of life by going into the life that is yet to be created by him, or, as a third possibility, whether the test will be altogether different, namely living that future live. However, not-yet Daniel’s ancestors did live, and that is why there is a world to come for him to come from and one for him to come into. Discussing life after death and reincarnation, Rosalie tells Sara about “that story that no one seems to notice” (TWC, 123). In this story, Adam and Eve are not banished from Paradise for eating from the

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  131 Tree of Knowledge. Rather, Rosalie interprets, their choice to eat from that tree determines another choice: to eat also from the Tree of Life. Yet “no one can live forever,” Rosalie stresses adamantly, “not even in someone else’s body. […] There are no second chances […]. Everything counts. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are just rehearsing for your life” (TWC, 123). Thus, Rosalie impresses on her daughter what Duncan and Rachel had to learn painfully: life is the real performance and every choice predisposes the present and the future. Secondhandedness becomes traumatic for its very negation of the present. In its emphasis on the meaningful integration of past traumata into present narratives, third-generation writing à la The World to Come engages in and offers new approaches in dealing with them. After all, “it’s up to the new ones, once they’re born, what they’ll use and what they won’t,” Rosalie stresses. But in order to do this, the following generations receive instruction from their ancestors who “decide what kind of people the new ones might be able to become” (TWC, 124). The previous generations do so by showing the not-yets what their lives have been and in this manifest that “the past can trespass this world as well as the next.” The image of a past intruding into the past through generational connections is “a metaphor for the role which both family history and general history of a nation play in the creation of one’s identity” (Koren-Kuik 167). Whether one continues or expands this framework comes down to the creation of an individually interrelated but not blindly dependent reality. Vadim Putzu stresses that “one midrashic tradition attributes Adam and Eve’s ‘original sin’ to wine,” claiming that the forbidden “tree from which Adam ate was a vine, for nothing else but wine brings woe to man” (155). Indeed, not-yet Daniel experiences the troubles of his excessive indulgence of literature—both sacred and profane—that, in The World to Come, is consumed as drink. Drunk from the wines of literature that the “biblioholic” (TWC, 299) consumes in one of the bars of the world to come—served by already-was Rosalie—he seeks the cool baths of solitude and loneliness. Unlike Duncan’s “people of Holocaust books” (SHS, 75), these literary wines encompass all of literature and they threaten to completely overwrite not-yet Daniel’s not-yet-come existence. He explicitly questions the need for and purpose of existence, coming close to the abyss of renouncing both. He needs to be rescued by the counterbalances of emotions and art. What ultimately draws him away from his biblio-addiction is the tree of life. To reach this connector between the two worlds, not-yet Daniel travels along the road that is made out of the mistakes and regrets of humanity. The latter, according to his maternal grandfather’s estimate, make the best and most durable construction material. It is, in other words, the affirmation of a life without second choices that rescues not-yet Daniel and enables him to start life in continuing the past.

132  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks Following Augustine of Hippo in his meditations on Time and Narrative, Paul Ricoeur emphasizes the importance “that real action makes appear between the temporal dimensions.” For Ricoeur, time and its perception become tripartite: “a present of future things, a present of past things and a present of present things” (60). Flouting this tripartition to underline the personal connections that span time and space, The World to Come has Der Nister hiding in his stories and Chagall’s pictures in order to reappear in Rosalie’s plagiarized versions of both stories and pictures. Ben’s understanding of the presence–absence confluence, too, shows the instability between temporal categories in the novel. The past permeates the present but cannot be fully recreated due to the gaps, missing links, and personal re-narrations. It needs to be created each time. Sara, in this respect wonders what these moments meant or how they might come to be […] the timescape wasn’t pre-existent, but was brought into being by her presence, that each step that she took determined the next, that perhaps the route that led up the side of a cliff was her own fault, that she might have taken a different path into a different kind of time, that, frighteningly, it was all up to her […]. The time was hers alone. (TWC, 246) Sara emphasizes personal action in which a permeation of past, present, and future happens. What she calls timescape is not a fixed given, but exists because of her choices and actions. Time, for Sara, is interdependent. Like her maternal grandfather Boris/Benjamin—who like his teacher Der Nister falls victim to the persecutions in Russia—Sara conceives “a vast landscape of time spread out all around her, the months and years and days assembling and crowding her vision with colors” (TWC, 244). As an artist, Sara is familiar with colors and uses them to express emotions, events, experiences, memories, time, herself, and the world. Like her grandfather and her mother, she translates reality into color and creates reality through it. Her concept of a timescape underlines that “her own identity in particular and Jewish identity in general” emerge “as a void in flux: temporally existing in the past, present and future simultaneously, and spatially never belonging to just one place” (Koren-Kuik 151). Ben gravitates more toward the conception of his mother’s stories and pictures as access to the past; in Ben’s mind, they are another chance for the ghost of a person to leave a trace.

Linguistic Connections to Translated Pasts Language, particularly Yiddish, factors connectively in approaching the past and representing the lost world of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe, in what Taylor calls life’s “fundamentally dialogical character” (32, my

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  133 emphasis). Vitally, Yiddish represents both a language and a remnant of a world that is not fully accessible anymore to the younger generations in The World to Come. While Rosalie and Daniel still spoke Yiddish and read the stories of the great Yiddish writers, Ben feels like “a freak, a relic, a generational error, a leftover shard from a broken world” when Erica Frank is stymied because she “didn’t know anybody knew Yiddish anymore” (TWC, 12, original emphasis). For Erica, Yiddish is an interesting oddity that is superficially connected to her work as museum curator. For Ben, on the other hand, it is the painful recognition that Yiddish has a world of the dead built into it, a true fear of heaven, an automatic need to invoke the presence of God whenever saying anything good or bad about anyone or anything, an absolute truth that the other world, if one could call it that, is not separate from this one, that eternity is always breathing over your shoulder, waiting to see if you will notice. (TWC, 13) Knowing, learning, and speaking Yiddish becomes—functionally similar to Isaac’s yoga practice in Second Hand Smoke—a simultaneous conjuration of absence and loss in the post-Holocaust world. It carries the knowledge of the dead and the weight of remembering them eternally. Ben knows about trauma and loss; however, unlike the first- and secondgeneration characters, he acknowledges both in his reconnection to what happened to his ancestors. The younger generations are infused with a new urge to learn the language and gain access to the culture, histories, absences, losses, and traumata of which Yiddish is a structural part. Language, following Taylor, covers “not only the words we speak, but also other modes of expression whereby we define ourselves, including the ‘languages’ of art, of gesture, of love” (32), that is, also through the “deeds of kindness” that Daniel Ziskind perceives as world-creating (TWC, 139) and through Rosalie’s artistic plagiarisms. With learning and knowing the language comes a sense of its history, the stories and memories made and expressed in them, the experiences and traumata of a people. In The World to Come’s narrative-dialogical schema, people “do not acquire the languages needed for self-definition on their own” but “through interaction with others” (Taylor 32). Through the Yiddish stories of Der Nister and his fellow forgotten writers—hidden, lost, recovered, translated—and through Chagall’s artworks, Ben, Sara, and (from an outsider position) Erica Frank delve into their own and others’ pasts. Even more emblematically we see this dialogical nature in the instruction of the not-yets in the world to come. The endeavor to know about the past and to recover and uncover its stories employs Yiddish and its cultural manifestations in order to

134  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks “provide surrogate antecedents who function as intermediaries in the quest to recover or reconstruct a European Jewish past” (Adams 178). While the protagonist in Everything Is Illuminated actually travels back to Ukraine—both as character in the story and through the narrative dealing with the history of his ancestors—Ben is connected to his past through the remnant Chagall painting and the Yiddish stories. He has probably learned a good deal more in olam ha-bah that makes him identify so deeply, but he is also familiar with it through the narratives of his parents in olam ha-zeh. As linguistic manifestation of the past, Yiddish is also literally inscribed into the paintings of the Chagall exhibition. Horn, who is a trained literary scholar, skillfully connects plotlines at various points: Der Nister’s manuscripts are stuffed into the frames of the pictures that secretly carry his name, stories are discovered and translated, or remain cryptic, to those who do not know the past. There were other paintings that had papers in them, too,” [Erica] said, suddenly excited to be telling [Ben]. “Like those giant murals from the Moscow State Jewish Theater. There were hundreds of pages stuffed into the backs of those, under the wooden struts the same way, in the same handwriting as this story. It’s like someone tried to jam a whole novel under there. We have them down here in the files somewhere. No one’s had a chance to translate them yet. (TWC, 217–218) Der Nister intentionally hides his manuscripts to keep them from his persecutors. Their memories, histories, and stories of past individuals are lost and remain untranslated into the present as long as nobody cares for them. Ben does care for them, as does Rosalie. Rosalie’s attempts of revivification, in another significant repetitive doubling, accompanies them with Chagall plagiarisms. Thus, Chagall’s paintings, which translate his experiences into artworks—and some of which are created to accompany Der Nister’s stories in their collaborative work—again accompany narratives that translate others’ experiences into writing. By chance and, to some extent conscious act, these messages of experiences can be retrieved. Some parts of the full story will, however, remain unknown, while others receive different meanings in translation. Third-generation writing is not afraid of this; retrieval through translation is acceptable as it fosters a deeper understanding in the present. As dialogical processes, understanding and translation are multidirectional. Der Nister—the hidden one—of course, misleads nobody. He leaves Russia, but returns; then he hides in Uzbekistan, but returns again. He hides parts of his identity in his writings, leaving hints and symbols, signs and traces, he even develops a code that can symbolically stand in for his identity. Tellingly enough, this code is not unique and has already

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  135 been used by Chagall to organize his paintings with Der Nister’s numerological name. Filling the pages of his novel Family Crisis with his life, imagination, memory, and thought before hiding them for favorable generations, Der Nister literally hides in his texts: “he hid behind the numerical equivalents of the letters of his name—50 for the nun, 60 for the somekh, 400 for the tof, and 200 for the reysh—written like his name from left to right” (TWC, 226, original emphasis)—NiSTeR. 200-400-60-50 becomes the authentication of a true Chagall, Erica explains to Ben. Yet when Ben asks about the meaning of those numbers, Erica translates them incorrectly as a “bar code” that “doesn’t mean anything” (TWC, 217). Incidentally, during the first introduction between Chagall, Der Nister, and Boris Kulback—that fateful day when the latter earned Study for Over Vitebsk (the painting Ben steals from the museum to inaugurate the plot of The World to Come) in exchange for Boris’ first painting—Der Nister crams his story into the back of the painting. On another occasion, Chagall praises Der Nister, “I love your work, […]. You’ve inspired me. You know, I have secretly put your name into every painting” (TWC, 86). To order his paintings, Chagall has used the same “bar code” numerology as Der Nister. Horn connects the pictures and writings further in Rosalie’s plagiarized stories accompanied by her plagiarized pictures. The batch of paintings Boris sees at Malakhovka all bear NiSTeR inscribed upon them, whose identity literally frames the pictures. Der Nister influences Chagall as both influence each other in Rosalie’s appropriations. Der Nister, on the verge of real madness and sure of imminent persecution and execution, has finally found a hiding place for his writings and, by extension, himself. Magically drawn to the pictures that bear his name, he returns to the Moscow State Jewish Theater every night to deposit more of his manuscript and, through this message for the future, to enter the world to come. “He sat through one melodrama after another, rotating his seat until he had deposited all the papers […]. It was like mailing a letter to the next world” (TWC, 229). His writings, surviving the raid and execution of their author, can be retrieved. For the time being they are discovered and kept at museums in New York and Moscow. In a second sense, the story hidden away in Study for Over Vitebsk is mailed to Rosalie, who plagiarizes it and hence makes it accessible to a larger public that is removed from Der Nister by two generations.

Storied Bridges: Connecting Present, Past, and Future Worlds It is not just any story that Der Nister crams into Chagall’s study that passes to the Ziskind’s from Boris onward, but that of the “All-Bridge.” According to Der Nister, this bridge was created as “the very last thing

136  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks God created before he completed the world” (TWC, 34) with the purpose to connect “the deepest depths of the abyss to the highest heights of heaven” (TWC, 33). Yet, enthralled by Satan and fearing neglect, the All-bridge eventually rips itself apart. Rid of the “muck and slime” (TWC, 35) at its feet, it also loses the brightness and glow of its head. Between the other stories attesting to Horn’s Yiddish scholarship, this intertextuality is important for the novel. She even provides an epilogue that references the Yiddish stories to which she refers. When Der Nister meets his idol I. L. Peretz, Peretz explains another bridge(ing) story. The story tells of two bridges, one of iron, one of paper, that connect olam ha-zeh and olam ha-bah. “The wicked,” Peretz emphasizes, “will run to the iron bridge, but it will collapse under their weight. The righteous will cross the paper bridge, and it will support them all. Paper is the only eternal bridge. Your purpose as writer is to achieve […] one task only: to build a paper bridge to the world to come” (TWC, 84). Der Nister faithfully devotes his life to the erection and manifestation of this paper bridge on which he can cross into the world to come. He is also influenced by a story about a room in the world to come that is filled with the books one should have written. In “Tashkent, Uzbekistan—[…] he had assembled all of the paper bridges of the book he still needed to finish” (TWC, 195). Der Nister frantically transcribes his reality into a room full of unfinished writings and, “in 1942, Der Nister began to live in such a room” (TWC, 194). Although Der Nister “was acutely aware that he was losing his mind,” (TWC, 195) finishing his book, along with other texts, “had become his obsession,” producing “sheaves of paper scribbled with beginnings and endings, nailing ideas to the walls and stretching long strips of sentences from the window to the door. Tall stacks of scenes and chapters sprouted from the floor, as if the papers had reincarnated themselves back into trees” (TWC, 196). The physical seclusion from the world is mirrored by the mental insulation against the traumatic reality. In the fictional world of Der Nister, as in the larger fictional world of the novel, beginnings and endings become alternatives to be chosen or discarded. Der Nister builds this imaginary world as antidote to the uprootedness, loss, and persecution he experiences, the trauma invades even this sanctuary. The “family in crisis” (TWC, 196) of Der Nister’s text stands for a person, a people, a world in crisis, for the full knowledge of the events of the war and cruelties committed against the Jewish people. Writing becomes a means to testify to and preserve this people’s past and present, its culture, language, stories. On very different levels the members of the Oyneg Shabes (e.g. Kassow) in the Warsaw Ghetto or the yizker bikher (e.g. Kugelmass and Boyarin) commemorating a long history of atrocities and destruction, and the vast corpus of Holocaust literature by survivors and their successive generations pose efforts to build generational paper bridges.

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Meaningful Narratives: Paper Bridges between (Past) Trauma and (Present) Meanings Der Nister disagrees with Peretz’s view that a “painting doesn’t have to mean anything, but a story does,” wondering whether “everything need[s] some sort of meaning, some purpose? Or did meanings emerge from what stories had and paintings lacked—a beginning and end?” (TWC, 85, original emphasis). Through their narrative dependence on beginnings and endings, a text’s ideas, sentences, and words interact with and take on reality in stories. Toward the end of The World to Come, already-was Boris corroborates this in a lesson for not-yet Daniel: After birth, he says, newborns are “hungry for those things, those people and places,” which they encountered and will be predisposed to “find them and put [themselves] into them” (TWC, 301). The artwork becomes the means “to make the plot yourself” (TWC, 301). Yet trauma intrudes and assails like the “brilliant yellow dust” (TWC, 195) of Tashkent. It cannot be kept out nor driven away. In the “summer of 1942, Der Nister received a letter, and the paper bridge tore. He […] stopped writing” (TWC, 197). The devastating news—neither of cruelties, pogroms, persecutions, nor death camps— relate the death of his beloved daughter Hodele in Leningrad. While the collective narratives of suffering have shaped his identity and creation of meaning, the personal connection of trauma unhinges Der Nister. He disorientedly walks through the city until he enters the old synagogue “where the Jews didn’t even speak Yiddish, but […] another Jewish language of their own. He could only communicate with them in [a] Hebrew […] full of gutturals that he could barely understand” (TWC, 197). The trauma forces Der Nister out of his paper forest, as his narrative sanctuary tumbles into meaninglessness and turns into a place that torments him with memory and loss. Consequently, he “tied himself up in long ropes of memory, caged himself in with iron bars of memory, drew the curtains and hid himself in the dark tomb which he filled with an entire world of memory—until all that was missing was color and light” (TWC, 200). Memory and his imaginary worlds become more real than the actual world similarly to what Isaac tells his half-brother Duncan in Second Hand Smoke, the worst prisons are those we erect in our minds for ourselves (SHS, 263). Der Nister flees from his “secret library paradise” (TWC, 195) into another sanctuary. Strikingly, it is the old synagogue that leads Der Nister further back in time and into yet another culture and language. Yiddish, the language in which he builds his paper bridge is not spoken there. Horn mirrors this linguistic belonging in the experiences of Erica Frank and Ben Ziskind, who live in a world where Yiddish is a barely intelligible relic. Now breathing a history of trauma, Yiddish as a language is fraught with meanings not easily accessible. The paper

138  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks bridges of Yiddish are open to Ben, but they are untraversable for Erica. Through Horn’s and others’ efforts to reconnect to and relearn the language (mirrored by Rosalie’s attempts to rescue the meaning of the Yiddish stories into the present), the paper bridges are reopened. Thus, the pre-Holocaust world enters the world to come post-Holocaust. In scholarship and literary production, the Holocaust assumes pivotal status for whose engagement third-generation involvement draws on both scholarly examination and imaginative explanation to offer choices that lead to further understanding. Chagall criticizes that the issue with Der Nister’s narratives lay in “writing them with one little moment” as origin and then “adding more and more pieces to it until it really stops making sense” (TWC, 31). He devotes his life and writing to the creation of sense and deeper meanings “to identify or create a bridge […] from this world to the ideal world, certainly in death, but perhaps also in moments of transcendence that elevate one out of this life” (Hayes 71). Inherent in Chagall’s criticism, however, is that at some point all the stories made sense before the heaped-on fragments—symbols of a reality translated into the similes of fiction—distorted them to such an extent that the outsider cannot decode them. Echoing Benjamin’s angel, Der Nister perceives the towering wreckage and responds that the stories only make sense after all the fragments are added. He creates the possibility for future readers, their attempts to understand and decipher the messages.

Connecting Worlds: People as Stories For the characters, as for the readers of The World to Come, the overall narrative enables both the discovery of real interconnections between people removed in time and space and the choice to imaginatively endow events with relevance. Literary works as well as artworks are Horn’s key carriers of metaphorical meaning in this commitment. Der Nister poses the important metaphor of people as stories. What does a child resemble while it waits in its mother’s womb? […] a folded writing tablet. Its hands rest on its temples, its elbows rest on its legs, its heels rest on its backside, and a lit candle shines above its head. And from behind eyelids folded closed like blank paper, it can see from one end of the world to the other. (TWC, 81) In Horn’s world to come, the not-yets are endowed with the writings, paintings, and feelings of their ancestors. They actually imbibe artworks as food, literature as drink, and emotions as baths. The not-yets immerse themselves with all that is, has been, and will be possible in their future. To complete their education—the German term Bildung resounding of

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  139 both education and construction seems highly appropriate—the not-yets also get schooling in the possibilities of their future lives. Thus, not-yet Daniel’s teacher, “an ancient already-was who had lived centuries ago, though Daniel, knowing nothing, didn’t recognize his name,” can open the “enormous book” that “had a single name written at the top, and nothing else” (TWC, 284). White pages created at one’s conception, remain blank until, the final lines of The World to Come show, one fills them with one’s deeds and choices. It often seems that the not-yets have every choice to do—or not do— anything. The final chapter exclusively addresses not-yet Daniel’s experiences in olam ha-bah. From the moment of not-yet Daniel “trembl[ing] with the others” (TWC, 284) in anticipation of what awaits him to the moment he consciously chooses life, not-yet Daniel receives more than one lesson from more than one already-was to whom he is tied “in a knot of eternal life” (TWC, 283). It is vital that he does not have to impersonate anyone and that there is no meant-to-be that oppresses the present of Sucher’s and Rosenbaum’s protagonists. One’s page is empty (apart from the name that connects to one’s forebears), to be filled by real-life deeds. The lessons are represented as fragmentary in character as not-yet Daniel memorizes them: “Not to betray himself;” “No rehearsals in life;” “Trust—dangerous, but makes life worth living;” and “Imagination: beautiful, but trap” (TWC, 285, original emphasis). Notyet Daniel’s lessons originate from the traumatic and blissful memories of his ancestors. Posteriority—although undoubtedly traumatic—offers a chance for creative engagement. Without lessons about the impersonal, horrendous events that, through their monstrosity, shape the collective narrative of a whole people, not-yet Daniel is encouraged to learn about his ancestors’ obscure experiences and life events, the personal histories lost millionfold. He is not a descendent of Holocaust survivors, but still his family history is riddled with trauma: pogroms in Russia, family problems, the War in Vietnam. Not explicitly mentioned, the post-Holocaust generations’ search for meaning is a palpable presence. The focus of the lessons does not lie on the trauma and its destructive characteristics, but on their life-affirming qualities for the future. Life-affirming is also not-yet Daniel’s first—or last—choice in his desire to connect and matter and not feel trauma, sorrow, loss, and absence. LaCapra states correctly that “in an obvious and restricted sense losses may entail absences, but the converse need not be the case” (48–49). In other words, every loss is an absence, but not every absence is a loss; consequently, absence situates “on a transhistorical level, whereas “loss [figures] on a historical level” (LaCapra 48–49). Not-yet Daniel’s lessons and experiences in the world to come underline this distinction. Although his instruction derives from his ancestors’ traumatic losses, they are not lessons in loss but in absence. Not-yet Daniel does not—cannot—feel loss, despite their acutely perceived absence.

140  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks Loss, following LaCapra, is locatable in a historical context that is confined to the experience of the individual. Ben feels the loss of his mother and father; Der Nister is harrowed by losing Hodele; Rosalie is traumatized by the loss of her father Boris, just as the latter’s younger self is driven to a near self-burial after his parents’ murder. Not-yet Daniel will never know these people personally during his lifetime, yet they will form his identity. Through the lessons, consciously absent from his life, he will recover their meanings. Whereas in olam ha-bah, they form a present part of his identity, in olam ha-zeh they are an absent part. Although he will never lose them personally, he will be marked by their absence. In acknowledging this, while still connecting to those who are absent, future generations actualize possibilities. Instead of painfully re-presenting the trauma, it assimilates fluidly into the present narrative. It is still there and infuses who one is and what choices one makes. It is no longer imposing on the possibility of choosing a personal future, as Duncan, in Second Hand Smoke, or Rachel, in The Rescue of Memory, had to face.

Creating a Future from the Past On the verge of his birth, not-yet Daniel chooses a living future and, holding the fruit of immortality, decides to build his own world instead of continuing in the stories of his past. Horn’s vocabulary subtly underlines this in her switch of designations for not-yet and already-was Daniel. The significant switch in the attributive adjectives turns them into “mortal Daniel” and “natal Daniel” (TWC, 307). Natal Daniel can still become immortal Daniel, while the other is irrevocably tied to mortality. Importantly, Horn cannot reveal whether eating the fruit would transform natal into immortal in olam ha-bah or olam ha-zeh, though the narrative suggests the former. Would there never be a Daniel Ziskind Shcharanski then? Would Sara miscarry and not-yet Daniel be stuck in limbo between this world and the other like the inhabitants of the Dead Town in Peretz’s/ Rosalie’s eponymous story? Already-was Rosalie, suggesting the latter, reached under her wing and brought out […] the roll call book from his first day of school. […] A long blank page stretched below his name. “Now either eat that fruit,” she said, “or go down and fill this page with your deeds.” Daniel looked at the book, at the wide blank page stretching before him, and then down at the fruit. (TWC, 310) Not-yet Daniel’s circle from first to last moment in paradise is complete. He is here confronted with the choice of affirming this signification with life. Eating the fruit, it seems, is optional; for the price that his page remains empty forever. The shriveled fruit in his hand is “glowing now,

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  141 pulsing blue beneath the surface” (TWC, 310), reverberating with that past instance when Chagall teaches Boris to see reality beyond its surface. Not to imagine, but to see that blood is not red, but blue. People, already-was Rosalie emphasizes before sending not-yet Daniel down, need to fill their page of the story by their actions and choices. The generations create this world and the world to come together and each for themselves. This is what “gives ordinary events and objects a symbolic/metaphoric dimension and enables a reevaluation of consensus reality in a different light” (Koren-Kuik 151) each time the characters explore their own and others’ stories. The World to Come creates two levels of meaning. One, the mortal, living-and-dying reality in which blood is read, people are born, suffer trauma, and die. The other, the reality from which to come and into which to leave again, where blood is blue life pulsing beneath the surface. Already-was Daniel tells not-yet Daniel, who is clearly disappointed by the pitiful sight the tree of life presents, that “we’re in an autumn of belief in eternal life” (TWC, 306), indicating that, since everything in the world to come appears to exist alongside each other, with a different existence for each not-yet. This particular tree bears one fruit for this particular not-yet, no more are needed. Tree and fruit are there for not-yet Daniel to choose. Forgetting aside, the lessons of the world to come clearly instigate subconscious options to develop an individual personality. “As he fell off the bridge, [not-yet Daniel] looked back and saw two strangers watching him fall, a man and a woman, their faces contorted with tears” (TWC, 310). He will have to re-learn who they were on earth, but if he is able to not just look, “or even to imagine,” but really “to see,” (TWC, 24) he will be able to reconnect to their aspects of his past in the mortal world. He will be able to take the past and learn while moving into the future. In this perspective, the narrative of not-yet Daniel’s experience is different from Der Nister’s imagination of the world to come. The latter’s view is a kind of thrownness, holding that on their final day in the world to come, the not-yets are shown every single instance of their future before they are made to forget everything, as “the child [is reminded] that against his will he was created, and against his will he will be born, and against his will he will live, and against his will he will die, and against his will he will one day have to give a full and complete accounting of everything he has done with all that was given to him against his will” (TWC, 131). Der Nister’s account poses a dichotomy between an inevitably unfree will and an active creation with what one forcibly receives and projects his traumatic present. Not-yet Daniel because he chooses, however, will be born into a (historically) different age. While Der Nister experiences the world as a traumatic inheritance against his will, not-yet Daniel can receive the past and its traumata as lessons to create the future. Being bound together gives the generations a responsibility and a need to find each other out and form connections.

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Stories as Narrative Intersections between Generations One such significant moment of generational connection is Daniel Ziskind’s near-death experience in a cave in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It is also a paradigmatic example of Horn’s connections to narrative traditions of Judaism and her U.S. American background. Fatally wounded in spirit (by the self-sacrificial death of his comrade Tim) and body (by the spike of a tiger trap), Daniel muses about the meaning of life and human perception of reality. He remembers Socrates’ parable of the cave, but in his present situation “the fake world was the one outside” and the “real world was the cave, a dark place of little light” (TWC, 169). Intermixing the meaning of reality, past, present, and future, his musings are interrupted by traumatizing delirium about his dead comrade screaming for his child, which changes into a tiger devouring Tim’s mangled torso, before turning into a fantastical premonition of a past future or future past. This interconnected story links Daniel to his (yet) unborn children Ben and Sara, to Boris Kulback (his fiancé Rosalie’s father, then dead), and his present traumatic experience, as well as to Yiddish stories and folklore. This vision highlights the omnipresent connection between this world and the world to come, the living and the dead, past, present, and future. Daniel enters another cave loaded with symbolism in its reminiscence of Boris’ first painting of an unborn child engulfed by books in a womb and Der Nister’s story of the unborn child as writing tablet. Daniel’s vision (re)establishes a reality that comes into existence only through the story, existing as remembering, retelling, and reimagining. Books are perched on the backs of turtles that constitute the floor. Two vaguely familiar (unborn) babies—boy and girl—eventually show Daniel an ancient Yiddish book, admonishing him to read. “It wasn’t just a[ny] Yiddish book, but one that he had read before, many years ago” (TWC, 171). It is one of the Yiddish books and stories that formed his and Rosalie’s shared adolescence. Through these stories, they connected not only to each other in their imaginative travels into the world that they created from the readings, but also to the worlds that were already there in the creation of the stories as the culture of the Jewish/Yiddish past. This particular story is Nachman of Bratslav’s unfinished tale “The Seven Beggars” (251–281). Daniel starts to read the story and the “dark patches of ink slowly resolved themselves into letters before his eyes, like paint taking form on canvas” (TWC, 172). Reality, for a moment, turns into that which Daniel imagines, that which he interprets from the story, and with which he creates a reality of sense and purpose through his reading and filling in the gaps. Meaning creation becomes an active engagement that—as in the Allegory of the Cave—involves the active seeing not of the shadows, but of the real world. As Plato tells of his teacher Socrates’ allegory, Nachman’s disciples transmit their teacher’s stories from memory into the written word.

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  143 There is a double bind in this perception of the illegible patches of ink resolving themselves into legible letters and the fixation of ephemeral words (told by the master) onto the pages of his disciples’ books. Such active formation of meaning by listening to and telling/reading of the stories in the Jewish tradition is fundamentally called Kabbala. While the conceptualization as “received tradition” that I used in Chapter 1 is part of the definition here, Buber explicates it with a significant addition in his compendium The Tales of Rabbi Nachman: “‘Kabbala,’ that is, as transmission of the teaching […] in such a way that each generation receives it, yet each with a broader and richer interpretation” (3). The transmission of stories is, essentially, not just an exact copying, but an active rendition of and addition to the original story. Of course, this is what I earlier conceptualized in terms of Osborne’s Midrashic Impulse and what constitutes the overall generational and dialogic vantage of this book. Within the novel, it is Rosalie, who provides a good example of this impulse. She takes the Yiddish stories and translates them into updated, English children’s tales. They are not—as Erica remarks—literal translations, but unique interpretations and transpositions into the actuality of Rosalie’s times and circumstances. She, like Buber “noted that the purity [of the tales] did not allow itself to be preserved in translation, much less enhanced” but had to be “taken into myself from out of myself, as a true painter takes into himself the lines of the models and achieves the genuine images out of memory formed of them.” It is vital that the stories, their meanings and, most importantly “the spirit of those who created” them are “bor[n]e in my spirit” to “become new” from “my own blood and spirit” and can turn into “autonomous fiction” (61–63) as Rosalie carries them into the present and future. Erica’s understandable accusation of plagiarism does not apply for this midrashic connection to the Jewish past. Daniel, in the cave, similarly reads the book with its missing pages midrashically. Reading, he fills the gaps to create his version of the tale as he experiences it. Buber, incidentally, distinguishes between mere retelling (nacherzählen) and the preferred reliving (nacherleben) (Mendes-Flohr and Gries xiv). The book’s state reflects both human memory and their recording “in a garbled and fragmentary manner” (Buber 45). “The Tale of the Seven Beggars” in the version of the book within the novel takes on significance for the whole narrative of The World to Come, as it stretches back into the past—the world that needs to be remembered and retold in order for it to be preserved—and into the future—the following generations who receive them and continue them in their own versions. Daniel re-creates what he is reading and through his experience connects it to the Yiddish past of the story and the future of his children, even mirroring his teaching of his grandson in the world to come. The story is one of “stories within stories within stories. [Daniel] and Rosalie

144  Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks had struggled with it, gathering the pieces together into a story that made sense. […] Daniel read what he could make out and tried to remember what he couldn’t, reciting the story from the bottom of the abyss” (TWC, 172). Just as the stories and memories of the past, this particular version of the story is incomplete, fragmented. “The Tale of the Seven Beggars,” indeed, is the narrative of two children separated from their parents by war and trauma. They stick together and beg their way through the forest and into the world. On the way, they get help from seven beggars, each of whom appears to suffer some bodily impairment. Upon adulthood, it is decided that the boy and girl should marry. They hold their wedding celebrations in a cave and one after another wish for and meet the seven beggars who initially helped and blessed them. It transpires that none of the beggars is actually impaired, but that each deformation is really divine gift. Each beggar passes on their gift to the married couple. Comparable to the trauma narratives of the first generation, Daniel’s tale has voids, missing links, blanks, and gaps in its textual memory, it becomes coherent only through Daniel’s intergenerational engagement of bearing witness and completing them. As discussed in Chapters 1 and 2, telling a story becomes a (mythologically, epistemologically) creative act that connects writer/teller with reader/listener. Like Wiesel’s posing mystical-meaningful storytelling, like Begley’s translating of experience into a narrative bond, Horn gathers generations-worth of stories into her present narrative. Every link discovers the gaps surrounding it and poses a chance for and necessity of midrashic extension to relive the original meaning in the present interpretation. The story unfolds as Daniel creates it in his reading and “nothing was what it seemed” and seeming defects become “talents for finding the true world behind the imaginary one and for picking up the pieces of a broken world” (TWC, 174). The boy and girl thus become a later generation that combines their blessings. Few things in The World to Come are what they appear to be. Throughout, the characters are concerned with an endless negotiation between the present and the broken world of the past. These versions need to be continuously re-considered and re-interpreted as new connections are formed and new links are discovered. Some of these will turn out to be Piltdown versions (Horn 158; Russell), but even those will further knowledge of the past. The story suddenly stops. Although Daniel—incorrectly—remembers an end, the final gift of the one-legged beggar to be revealed, he cannot adequately pinpoint the end. However, there is no end to the original story. While most versions of the tale stop after the sixth beggar, Buber includes a short paragraph in the voice of Nachman’s disciple Nathan of Nemirov. This briefly states that “we” disciples did not hear the tale of the seventh beggar and the conclusion of the tale. Rabbi Nachman refused to “tell it further,” and the tale will only be finished when “the

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  145 Messiah comes” (176). Daniel, however, already remembers an end that is not part of the tale’s tradition and, prophetically, renders the seventh beggar as missing a leg, thus already tracing his story into the tale. He will lose his leg that at this very moment fetters him to the tiger trap, he will give (his future) children in front of him his blessing, but he does not yet know what it is. Ultimately, the boy hands Daniel a scroll with what Daniel assumes to be the end of the story. Yet it presents only “three spare words, in English this time: GO FIND OUT” (TWC, 175). The end is not yet written, not yet fixed. Just as the endings and beginnings float around in Der Nister’s room and the empty page in the book of names that starts not-yet Daniel’s journey, the ending of this particular story remains open for Daniel to live it in order for it to be written down. Daniel still has time allotted to him in this world before he reenters the world to come as an already-was. The scene of Daniel’s vision is linked to a conversation between notyet Daniel and already-was Boris. They discuss how the past already exists as narrative framework in which to live and to create one’s own story. Not-yet Daniel complains—like his mother, Sara, complains to her mother Rosalie—that after having consumed “all those books, all the landscapes and portraits and photographs” actual living “seem[s] like—nothing” (TWC, 300). Already-was Boris explains to not-yet Daniel the intricacies of past, present, and future that Daniel Ziskind had seen in his vision in the cave: “That’s the whole point: you are what’s going to happen in them” (TWC, 301). Already-was Boris emphasizes the intergenerational connectedness of and responsibility for the past. That “there is nothing new under the sun” is a conscious acknowledgment that trauma, even such tremendous inhumanities as the Shoah, can repeat itself, 2 but can be counterbalanced by a deeper understanding of the past and can, to some extent, be worked against by re-connecting to the culture and narratives the Nazis wanted to destroy. Not-yet Daniel’s complaint emphasizes the weight of the responsibility for the past that the following generations experience. In the face of all that happened, how can one make a difference? In Chapter 4, this was Duncan’s foundational feeling of being crushed by the trauma of his parents. Not-yet Daniel feels this pressure, but he has teachers who show him a way to acknowledge the responsibility and use it to live a life that is informed but not overwritten by the past. Remembering and forgetting, seeing and imagining will ensure that not-yet Daniel will always “pay attention to the world, and to everything that happens in it, to try to remember all the things he’s forgotten” (TWC, 26). That means that each individual is responsible for “the way we remember the past” because this is precisely “what matters in the present” (Horn 254). Forgetting is thus not a means to banish the past from the present or to disconnect from the trauma of the forebears. Rather, it enables the ever-new negotiation of identity and meaning.

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Notes 1 The World to Come distinguishes between not-yets and already-weres. The not-yets are the children that are to be born from the world to come into the world of the living. There they are instructed by those generations who have already died, the already-weres. In an attempt to make distinctions clearer, I will stick to Horn’s classification. I use not-yet as the descriptor for the unborn generations, no descriptor for the characters acting in the world of the living, and already-weres for those who have passed from the world of the living into the world to come to be instructors for the future generations. 2 See Yehuda Bauer’s assessment that there is “no unique event in history” and that “[o]nce an event has happened, it can happen again, not in precisely the same form, but in one of an infinite number of variations. Events happen because they are possible” (105).

Works Cited Adams, Jenni. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real. Palgrave, 2011. Bauer, Yehuda. “Against Mystification: The Holocaust as a Historical Phenomenon.” The Nazi Holocaust: Historical Articles on the Destruction of European Jews, Vol. 1, Perspectives on the Holocaust. Edited by Michael R. Marrus, Mechler, 1989, pp. 98–117. Bronner, Leila L. Journey to Heaven: Exploring Jewish Views of the Afterlife. Urim, 2011. Buber, Martin. Hasidism and Modern Man. Edited and Translated by Maurice Friedman, Harper and Row, 1966. ———. The Tales of Rabbi Nachman. Translated by Maurice Friedman, Humanities P International, 1991. Daschke, Dereck. “‘The End of the World and the World to Come:’ What Apocalyptic Literature Says about the Time after the End-Time.” Olam ha-zeh v’olam ha-ba: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice. Edited by Leonard J. Greenspoon, Purdue UP, 2017, pp. 1–15. Dilthey, Wilhelm. “The Human Studies.” Culture and Society: Contemporary Debates. Edited by Jeffrey C. Alexander and Steven Seidman, Cambridge UP, 1990, pp. 25–36. Frankl, Victor E. Der leidende Mensch. Hans Huber, 2005. Hayes, Christine. “Heaven on Earth: The World to come and Its (Dis)locations.” Olam ha-zeh v’olam ha-ba: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice. Edited by Leonard J. Greenspoon, Purdue UP, 2017, pp. 69–90. Hite, Molly. The Other Side of the Story: Structures and Strategies of Contemporary Feminist Narrative. Cornell UP, 1989. Horn, Dara. A Guide for the Perplexed: A Novel. W.W. Norton, 2013. ———. In the Image: A Novel. W.W. Norton, 2003. Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. Routledge, 1988. Kassow, Samuel D. Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive. Indiana UP, 2007. Koren-Kuik, Meyrav. “Displacement and Jewish Identity: Magical Realism in the Novels of Dara Horn.” Symbolism, vol. 12–13, 2013, pp. 150–169.

Connecting Worlds: Narrative Networks  147 Kugelmass, Jack and Jonathan Boyarin. From a Ruined Garden: The Memorial Books of Polish Jewry. Schocken, 1983. LaCapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Lachmann, Renate. Memory and Literature: Intertextuality in Russian Modernism. U of Minnesota P, 1997. Margalit, Avishai. The Ethics of Memory. Harvard UP, 2002. Mendes-Flohr, Paul and Ze’ev Gries. “Introduction.” Martin Buber: The Tales of Rabbi Nachman. Translated by Maurice Friedman, Humanities P International, 1991. Nahman of Bratslav. “The Seven Beggars.” Nahman of Bratslav: The Tales. Translated by Arnold J. Band, Paulist P, 1978, pp. 251–281. Osborne, Monica. The Midrashic Impulse and the Contemporary Literary Response to Trauma. Lexington Books, 2018. Peretz, Isaac L. “The Dead Town.” The I. L. Peretz Reader. Edited by Ruth R. Wisse, Yale UP, 2002, pp. 162–171. Putzu, Vadim. “Tasting Heaven: Wine in the World to Come from the Talmud to Safed.” Olam ha-zeh v’olam ha-ba: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice. Edited by Leonard J. Greenspoon, Purdue UP, 2017, pp. 151–170. Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative. Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, The U of Chicago P, 1983. Rosenblum, Jordan D. “Dining In(to) the World to Come.” Olam ha-zeh v’olam ha-ba: This World and the World to Come in Jewish Belief and Practice. Edited by Leonard J. Greenspoon, Purdue UP, 2017, pp. 105–114. Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford UP, 2009. Russell, Miles. Piltdown Man: The Secret Life of Charles Dawson and the World’s Greatest Archeological Hoax. Tempus, 2003. Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge UP, 1989. ———. “The Politics of Recognition.” Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition.” An Essay by Charles Taylor. Edited by Amy Gutmann, Princeton UP, 1992. Wardi, Dina. Memorial Candles: Children of the Holocaust. Translated by Naomi Goldblum, Routledge, 1992. Zerubavel, Yael. Recovered Roots: Collective Memory and the Making of Israeli National Tradition. The U of Chicago P, 1995.


When Memory Fails Fiction as History in Everything Is Illuminated

Where the protagonists of The World to Come enmesh themselves in stories and traditions of a Yiddish past to find meaning in an interconnected present, Everything Is Illuminated portrays third-generation narrator–protagonist Jonathan’s search for his grandfather’s past in Ukraine. Equipped with fabulous fantasies about a photo (of his grandfather and a woman) with the cryptic inscription “This is me with Augustine, February 21, 1943,” (EII, 62) he tries to retrieve the lost past of the shtetl Trachimbrod. Jonathan undertakes his quest with the other narrator–protagonist Alex Perchov and his grandfather. Alex is also a member of the third generation, yet from the other end of the Holocaust spectrum—Grandfather actually lived in Kolki (the same shtetl from which Jonathan’s grandmother escaped)—and comments on the progress of the shtetl narrative, gives metafictional comments on the novelistic endeavor of Everything Is Illuminated, and reveals, peu à peu, his own intricate personal struggles. Alex’s letters to Jonathan about the latter’s fictional narrative of the shtetl’s history—which is the history from his great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Brod to his grandfather Safran—break up, interpret, and comment on the other storylines. The three narrative strands —Alex’s letters, the quest story, and the Trachimbrod plot—form a narrative conglomerate commenting on and fictionally recreating the past after trauma. The Holocaust eradicated (almost) all of Trachimbrod and its history. The novel attempts to retrieve and recreate this lost past on multiple levels. It is a temporal journey into the remembered and imagined pasts of the shtetl and its inhabitants; a personal journey into Jonathan’s and Alex’s psychological moorings; and a negotiation of identity after trauma. The Trachimbrod narrative is written from the perspective of an omniscient narrator (Jonathan) who, in all his attempts to stay aloof, frequently asserts his connection in expressions such as “my great-greatgreat-great-great-grandmother” or “my grandfather.” Doro Wiese, thus, perceives the narrative of Everything Is Illuminated as born from oppositional points in the characters’ “family history” and “the narrative form of their epistolary exchange of letters drives them even further apart” (2012). However, the narrative also binds them together. The

When Memory Fails  149 writing samples Jonathan sends to Alex “coincide with textual parts of Everything Is Illuminated” and Alex’s references to changes according to Jonathan’s suggestions hint “that the novel itself, by way of metalepsis, is the fictional outcome of this shared book project” (Wiese). Alex’s narrative makes apparent that the (omniscient) narrator becomes an almost omnipotent creator. Almost, only because of limitations to what one can (re)imagine, (re)create, or (re)narrate.

Narrative Trajectories: Limitations of Fictional Meaning Creation The relationships between the different strands become more intricate as Jonathan Safran Foer functions as designation for the author, narrator, and protagonist respectively.1 These roles must be conceived as ontologically distinct. While the author “inheres an historical author who creates texts,” the narrator Foer and the protagonist Jonathan respectively exist “within texts which, in turn, create their putative author” (Miller 48). In this interpretation, Everything Is Illuminated follows in the tradition of the “postmodern novels of the 1960s and 1970s” and its critical formulations to provide the book with “the ideal venue for Foer’s coming to terms with the Holocaust, from which his grandfather had narrowly escaped” (Kohn 245). However, I propose that rather than postmodernism being a venue for the trauma narratives, it is the traumascape of the tradition of Holocaust narratives (and the past(s) that spring(s) from them) that offer means to introduce postmodernist critical and literary modes in an attempt to add meaning and illumine, if not everything then at least, some fragments for a new generation involved in sensemaking. The Holocaust as a meaning-destroying event also spawns new chances for meaning creation. Adams highlights magic realism’s dual function to both subvert common and, in postmodern critical understandings, overcome representations of realist narrative neutrality, as well as to “foreground the possibility of alternative forms of experience, knowledge and truth” (12). Through this duality, novels like Everything Is Illuminated showcase that in the continuous intergenerational establishment and negotiation of a collective trauma narrative, the following generations with their new literary means probe those meanings formerly considered unethical or impossible. The novel is constructed—one could almost say erects itself—around precisely this dialogue, as it interrelates the Trachimbrod narrative with the search narrative, and Alex’s letters that relate to both. At a decisive point, when Alex’s letters contend the breakdown of the dialogue into Jonathan’s one-sided fictionalization resulting in nothing less than unresolvable argument, he asks: “Could you write in this manner if [your grandfather] was alive? And if not, what does that signify?” (EII, 179, original emphasis). Although Alex emphasizes that he “would never

150  When Memory Fails command [Jonathan] to write a story that is as it occurred in the actual,” he requests that the story should be “faithful” (EII, 240). Alex’s issue is not with fictionalizations—of Begley’s individual, psychological truth— but with the stark opposition of the narrative to his own expectations of how the present should inform the past and vice versa. Alex’s narration of the trip to what is left of Trachimbrod in itself uses stylizations and repeatedly refers to changes made according to Jonathan’s comments. Alex admonishes and Jonathan follows an agenda that Anthony Kerby calls “narrative truth” that is “more a question of a certain adequacy to an implicit meaning of the past than of a historically correct representation or verisimilitude” (7). Alex desires “the story more premium than life” to counteract his complicated, traumatic reality. For him, “faithful” connotes a rescue from the “inferior” (EII, 179, original emphasis). Significantly, the book on which they collaborate is for the most part, but not definitely, Everything Is Illuminated. What Alex emphasizes as “nomad[ism] with truth” highlights the narrative’s contrapuntal relationship to unalterable, real events that can only be put into different contexts of story. He asks whether “this is acceptable when we write about things that occurred?” (EII, 179). With such re-imaginations surrounding and influencing the perception of history present and past come into contact. Over twenty years after Alvin Rosenfeld’s analyses of Holocaust literature within a “history of earlier and perhaps anticipatory events,” (66–67) Everything Is Illuminated fulfills Rosenfeld’s prediction. Both Jonathan and Alex embark on their very own journeys to antecedents and beginnings: Jonathan into the pre-Holocaust past of his grandfather; Alex into a realization of himself through what he learned of his own grandfather’s past.

Generational Positions: Midrashic Engagements and Circular Historicity As grandson of survivors, Jonathan’s implications in the tradition of trauma narratives stem from an urge to know and reconnect to his ancestors’ past and bridge the void of not knowing in fiction. Alex’s grandfather, on the other hand, was born and lived in Kolki, where he was friends with Herschel, a member of the Jewish population. It is never fully discovered whether Grandfather, whom Herschel addresses as Eli, might not have some genealogical connection to those he renounces. When the Nazis come, Grandfather turns collaborator to save his family and himself by denouncing Hershel. Because “memory is capable,” according to Mircea Eliade, “of revealing the irreversibility of events,” Grandfather needs “to free himself from the recollection of sin, i.e., of a succession of personal events that, taken together, constitute

When Memory Fails  151 history” (75). Alex’s plea for a story that is “more premium” reflects his attempts to rescue him and his past: to change what happened so that happiness is attainable in the present. Alex and Jonathan do not merely represent the story but extend it midrashically. Such extension through imagination turns the tables on previous works in that they do not only progress from the Holocaust into the present and future but reenvisage a pre-Holocaust world. Murray Baumgarten succinctly terms this “the charting of a communal and religious geography in psychic space-time” (349). For Everything Is Illuminated, this means that third-generation narratives concern the understanding of the Holocaust not as an isolated, unapproachable event, but as one that integrates present consciousness and (fictional) context. Memory might be a sixth sense “no less primary than the prick of a pin” (EII, 198), but this “what does it remember like?” (EII, 199, original emphasis) is inherently different for each individual. Hence, the versions that form respective realities, in novels like Everything Is Illuminated and The World to Come, posit the characters, and by extension, the readers, in “stochastic” rather than “linear” time (Baumgarten 349). If it “is only by tracing the pinprick back to other pinpricks […] that the Jew is able to know why it hurts” (EII, 198–199), Everything Is Illuminated uses narrative pinpricks to reconnect to past pinpricks. The pinpricks become, analogous to Barthes’s punctum, a “starting-point for the interest, the intersum of a singular observer—its invisible source” (Wiese). The pinpricks of the inferior narrative help trace “back to other pinpricks” and make sense of the pain. This stochasticity is paradigmatically expressed in Trachim B’s death that coincides with Brod’s birth in the first chapter of the Trachimbrod narrative. If “the beginning of the world often comes” (EII, 8), as the chapter heading purports, will it be a repetition of the same versions or will the beginnings, and thus the stories, deviate? The World to Come seems to suggest that each individual must integrate past, present, and future through their life choices. In Everything Is Illuminated, stochastic time invades linear time on “March 18, 1791, “when Trachim B’s double-axle wagon either did or did not pin him against the bottom of the Brod River” (EII, 8). The plethora of different possibilities randomizes the versions that will follow and allows the narrative to comment on its own fictionality by explicitly enabling these different versions. Experiencing the world, through this variability, in Everything Is Illuminated, also becomes “causally connected with past events and objects,” which then determine how the characters are “experiencing the present” (Connerton 2) and recreate their past narratives. Paul Connerton vitally asserts a clear interdependence between the “present factors” that “influence” or even “distort” the “past” and vice versa: the past’s

152  When Memory Fails influence or distortion on the present (2). Foer, like his character Yankel, invents a past “so fantastic that [he] had to believe” (EII, 77), clarifying that he is inventing his past reality with the notion that his inventions are dependent on the choices or different motives that start different realities. If all this is only fiction without truth value, then of course the beginning of the world comes with every new fiction about it. While The World to Come grounds in a significantly interconnected perspective, Everything Is Illuminated purports a view of circularity and repetition, in which the lost past assumes fictional reality and, through this specific meaning in the present, loses part of its fictionality. That Brod “repeats things until they are true, or until she can’t tell whether they are true or not,” (EII, 87, original emphasis) comments metafictionally on the narrators’ entanglement in their own narrations. As incidents are put into relation or made up to accommodate meaning, truth, and untruth, history and fiction are so densely interwoven that they lose their separability and establish new meanings for the inventor.

(Re)constructing the Past: Interrelations between the Place and Its Stories In the urge to inflict reality on the past through the invention of memory, Foer relates not what has happened, but “what may happen” and “expresses the universal not the particular, the permanent possibilities of human nature” (Aristotle 153–154). The actual incidents are of paramount importance only as far as they invest the past with meaning that establishes a “line of continuity” into the present (Grant 156). Within the book’s historical circularity and universality, it is of no great consequence when Trachim B was killed as long as the narrative truth that follows from it enables the intended story. The event, in one sense, begets the narrative, just as the narrative is responsible that the event happens as it does. Although the date is suggestive of historical veracity—it is a date within linear time and specifically linked to the end of the Trachimbrod narrative on the same date over a century later—the different possibilities offer ambiguity to historical reality in their random quality of stochastic time. The novel puns on the flaws of perception that afflict every witness as it critiques not only the process of relating one’s experiences as the definite version but also the collective construction of a meaningful narrative for a whole community that derives its identity from this creation. “I have seen everything that happened,” Sofiowka, the “mad squire,” attests: I witnessed it all. The wagon was moving too fast for this dirt road […] and it suddenly flipped itself, and if that’s not exactly the truth, then the wagon didn’t flip itself, but was flipped by a wind from Kiev or Odessa or wherever, and if that doesn’t seem quite correct, then

When Memory Fails  153 what happened was […] an angel with gravestone-feathered wings descended from heaven to take Trachim back with him, […]. (EII, 9, original emphasis) As fiction spins off Sofiowka’s fragmented testimony, it characterizes his attempts to join facts and explanations as vacuous. Increasingly, the explanations mythologize the events to endow the beginnings with signification. Even more problematic, “almost all of the shtetl’s three hundred-odd citizens” start explaining the events “about which they knew nothing” (EII, 12) in their personal attempt at sensemaking, constituting their collective narrative from their individual imaginations. The latter result in one authoritative account of a shtetl proclamation and the ritualized reenactment in an annual festival. A multitude of experiences and (possible) historical events have been formed into one official, connective memory. Sofiowka’s intentionally unreliable account relativizes the history Foer is going to evoke. The inexplicable and fantastical nature of events within the Trachimbrod narrative, what Adams calls its “inconsistency with the ontology of its surrounding frame” (65–66) forms, Brian McHale states, the “anarchic landscape of worlds in the plural” (37). Generations later, Jonathan returns to the scene of this accident which, of course, was— or was not—the birth of his great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Brod to find traces of a past not merely lost over time but forcefully destroyed by the Nazis. Jonathan is a “memory tourist” in the hope that the actual, physical place of the shtetl will work a “reanimation” (Assmann 21) of that past of his ancestors and thereby form personal connections to it. Aleida Assmann stresses that doing so is characterized by a significant duality: “the place reactivates memory in the same way as memory reactivates the place. Where memory is completely lost, memorial places (Gedächtnisorte) come into existence. They underlie the free play of imagination or the return of the repressed” (Assmann 21). Foer plays with this by creating, on the one hand, an imaginary shtetl, and, on the other, having Alex retell the story of the void of nothingness left of Trachimbrod. The geographical location is gone, and memory is retained only in the failing form of Lista—the woman Jonathan, Alex, and Grandfather find at/near Trachimbrod—and her immense archive that will soon succumb to forgetfulness. Jonathan’s and Foer’s “search for a usable past” (Roskies) is fundamentally an individual one. What can be found of Trachimbrod is only what those who, generations later, driven by the trauma, reanimate the place in their imagination. Roskies describes an anecdote similar to Jonathan’s search: There was no overlap between Tishevitz and Tyszowice. Even the map that the mayor produced from the parish archives bore not the slightest resemblance to the one I had drawn on the basis of Jewish

154  When Memory Fails memories. […] The discrepancy between “our” town and “theirs” was simply too great. […] All I could do with my books and interviews was conjure up a vicarious and precarious mini-Jewish state called the “shtetl.” (x) Foer does not have the ability to factually bridge the gap but finds the means to do so fictionally. Jonathan, too, brings maps he has established from other materials. Tellingly, they are worthless and, in a sarcastic twist, immediately “masticated” (EII, 34) by Grandfather’s seeing-eye dog. In a novel in which a farewell note continuously reappears in spite of all attempts to lose it, the mastication of the maps purposefully plays on the perceived nature of memory and trauma. Reappearance and disappearance cannot be willfully influenced. With personal connections lost, imagination has to reestablish some connection. The Trachimbrod narrative attempts to fill the cartographic white patches after the Holocaust. Even when it was still existent and locatable on maps, Trachimbrod was camouflaged in different versions: first having no name at all, then bearing Sofiowka’s, quite by accident, for official and Trachimbrod for internal use. Alex’s account of the journey to find Trachimbrod now proves its complete physical eradication. The place does not remember, though it is still remembered: factually by Lista, fictionally by Jonathan. The interplay of the two plotlines underlines Assmann’s theory that “without supporting measures” one cannot speak of a remembrance of places, but “should rather call it the forgetfulness of the places” as “the wounds of the places close. New life and new usage quickly cover the scars” (Assmann 74). The nothingness of Trachimbrod shocks everyone because it seems “as if we were in the wrong country, or the wrong century, or as if Trachimbrod had disappeared, and so had the memory of it” (EII, 115). Only by actively imagining it into stochastic time does it gain existence again and adds a layer of meaning to Jonathan’s understanding of his past and present identity. This process is also achieved, Adams reminds us, by the magic realist elements that appear only in the Trachimbrod narrative. As a “white patch” in Assmann’s terms (74) and a “dark area” in McHale’s words (87), Trachimbrod “occupies a gap in the historical record” and can, thus, not be known from factual sources (Adams 30–31). The interplay between non-magical realism in Alex’s account and the magical realism of the Trachimbrod narrative produces a commentary on the importance of factual evidence for history and the need to create a narrative from the fragments of trauma. Significantly, Alex does not understand literary conventions such as magic realism and is incapable of meaningfully creating an account à la Foer. The latter, a graduate of the Program Era’s writers’ workshops, however, skillfully combines literary theory and personal creativity.

When Memory Fails  155

Language and Silence: Connective Phantasmagorias of Meaning Having found Lista, the only remaining eyewitness of Trachimbrod, the past does not offer revelation on its own. Alex yearns “to be on the other side of the door, the side on which such momentous truths were being uttered” between Lista and Grandfather, the two members of the first generation. Partly, Alex “hated this” exclusion, while another part of him “was grateful, because once you hear something, you can never return to the time before you heard it” (EII, 156). The dyadic moment of the testimonial act between witness and listener, Alex perceives as moment of exposure to the trauma and loss of all that was before. At the moment the trauma passes on in linguistic terms, the imagined past becomes impossible. In conceptualizations of trauma, language and silence are inseparably intertwined. With the third-generation reconnections to the Eastern European Jewish world before the Holocaust, silence stems from blatant destruction, on the one hand, and a loss of tradition and knowledge of the Yiddish language, on the other. The murder of European Jewry was also a murder of its language. At first, as in Wiesel’s case, memoirs were written in Yiddish right after the war. The almost eradicated language functioned as a linguistic bond that connected the survivors to each other and the lost homeland. Yet testimonial writing quickly switched into other languages with more and more interest from audiences—both Jewish and gentile—not fluent in Yiddish. In 1970, Cynthia Ozick even advocated English as new Yiddish (151–177). However, Horn and others reconnect to the Yiddish past in both language and culture. Jonathan neither speaks nor understands Yiddish. He tells Alex that he used to stay with his grandmother—with whom he cannot share in his quest nor talk about the lost world. Their favorite pastime was “to scream words off their back porch at night” (EII, 159). Jonathan and his grandmother’s alternating shouts, their secretly shared logophilia, epitomizes the need for transmission and translation. The Yiddish words Jonathan does not understand are elusive fragments from the world he is trying to retrieve. They are just as ephemeral as the note on his grandfather’s picture or the shtetl’s geographical location. Neither Jonathan nor the reader knows what the signs are that his grandmother manifested into the reality she shared with her grandson. Yet the different connotations of Jonathan’s word choices, “phantasmagoria” and “antediluvian” (EII, 159), add symbolic meaning. Phantasmagoria connotes “optical illusions” and “preternatural phenomena” that “are represented using artificial light”; or “a rapidly transforming collection or series of imaginary (and usually fantastic) forms” as, for instance, “evoked by literary description”; finally, the now obsolete use for a “conjuration by preternatural means of a vision” or “ghost” (“phantasmagoria”). In relation

156  When Memory Fails to antediluvian, that is, recalling something of a now extinct world, the linguistic signs establish connections of which both Jonathan and Alex are unaware (“antediluvian”). This generational word game represents what the novel does on a larger scale. The whole narrative, in a sense, is a phantasmagoria of the extinct world of European Jewry in general and Trachimbrod in particular. By literary and linguistic means, the younger and older Jonathan associate images and imaginations into a narrative that recreates a past, whose fantastic forms are as quickly successive and ephemeral as the word game. Indeed, the absence of the past is felt more deeply by the presence of the person; the Yiddish words are there for, yet still lost to, Jonathan. English and Yiddish terms form a dialogue that eludes Jonathan. For him, the lives, memories, and histories inscribed in his grandmother’s Yiddish are as transient as his great-great-great-greatgreat-grandmother’s peek into the future through “a powerful telescope to find herself” (EII, 87), as Foer uses the phantasmagorial apparatus of narrative to retrieve the past that could have made him. Brod’s vision through generations into the future, in its description and pertinence, is similar to Daniel Ziskind’s cave vision of his future children. Again, pictures are Foer’s means to break through linear time as the past enters the present and the future intrudes into the past. Brod sees a broad bureau cluttered with books, papers, and pictures—pictures of a man and woman, of children and the children’s children. In these, she beholds the genealogical line through the deep green eyes of the woman in the photograph. It is in this moment of deep immersion that her vision becomes boundless and Brod is no longer perceiving the scene through her telescope but “leaning her chin against the windowsill.” Due to an absence between her present and future she perceives, “the room remains a puzzle to her,” as she “tries to piece it together” the meaning of the “scrap of paper on the desk, with handwriting that looks like hers: This is me with Augustine, February 21, 1943.” The narrative closes the circle as it imagines Brod imagining her future and in this phantasmagoria to perceive her great-great-great-great-great-grandson, the “scribe” (EII, 88) who is writing her. Yet in all this Brod is only a possibility depending on the choices made by “the scribe” that provide a plethora of different narrative choices and beginnings. The passage evokes a certain kind of “buried memory that through genetic evolution connects us to the distant past of our race” (Dubos 25). This, however, does not entail some form of biologistic determination, but enables opportunities for each generation to produce their own narratives from what is handed down—and held

When Memory Fails  157 back—through the generations. When Brod sees the two children read The Book of Antecedents, that record of all aspects of shtetl life that grows ever more encompassing the closer the Holocaust approaches, she perceives that “everyone [is] reading to her, everyone who ever lived.” She sees them read the passage of “THE FIRST RAPE OF BROD” (EII, 89, original emphasis) that will happen in her future. Yet just as Daniel Ziskind is not allowed to read the final page of the story, Brod cannot read what will happen in “her paper-thin future” which, at this moment, “is infinitely heavy” (EII, 89) and cannot be lifted. The Book of Antecedents is destroyed, and Everything Is Illuminated succeeds it as record of the past, taking over its task to narrativize incidents into meaning. This recording, then, develops into an evolving narrative of life itself, as the record keeping becomes life-affirming—an act creating life by writing it, at least in narrative form. At first “updated yearly” the need to retain the past in writing necessitates real-time updating that, “to keep the book moving, expanding, becoming more like life,” turns into “reporting its reporting” (EII, 196). Strikingly enough, even these instances of inflationary recordkeeping are only incomplete teleological records of peoples’ lives. On a more abstract level, they represent life in its fragmentation and arbitrariness as they provide mere snippets of events, thoughts, dreams, nonsense. Only through readers’ active engagement is sense made and meaning created. Representing possible versions, The Book of Antecedents becomes a prototype version mirroring Everything Is Illuminated itself in the process of approaching and relating the past. The shtetl inhabitants perceive The Book of Antecedents as not only life-like but a key to the past, present, and future. Everyone reads it “without skipping a word” in the firm belief that as the record progresses, people’s lives will progress, too. The mantra “we are writing” (EII, 212–213) that fills one-and-a-half pages—a visually overpowering affirmation of life still (in) writing, of life still being written—, affirms a future and ensures the persistence of life and meaning. This hope, however, is flouted through the Trachimbroders’ entanglement in these past records that incapacitates them to make future-oriented choices. Reading about, and altering, future mistakes would alter the narrative and counteract the already-existent records. The accounts that would have been factual chronicles lose their facticity and transform into fictions of unrealized possibilities. Troping, as Adams calls it, the past into the present as the ghosts of previous generations as the versions of Jonathan’s ancestors from his great-great-great-great-great-grandmother to his grandfather happens progressively in the telescope scene in which Brod sees her future, and retrogressively in dream 525 of volume 4 of the Book of Recurrent Dreams titled “The dream that we are our fathers:” There a Trachimbroder sees in the river’s water “my father’s face, and that face saw the

158  When Memory Fails face of its father, and so on, and so on, reflecting backward to the beginning of time, to the face of God, in whose image we were created” (EII, 40–41). As Brod sees her future, the dreamer sees the past as generational succession. The past is also continuously redone by future generations in the form of the statue of the Kolker—Brod’s husband and Jonathan’s primal male ancestor. The past—the Kolker’s face—is palimpsestically overwritten and remade with each new coating of bronze not as the past actually was but according to the Kolker’s present-day progeny. James Young’s statement in relation to the Warsaw Ghetto Monument, namely that it “is necessarily recast in the minds of each new generation,” that “every tourist, every government ceremony adds one more patina of meaning to the bronze and stone in this square—and, by extension, to the events commemorated,” (175) is literally true for the Kolker’s statue. The pilgrims who come to visit the Kolker’s statute wear out the monument as they literally rub off its past meanings with their present sorrows.

Workable Terminologies: Integrating Past-Tensed Facts The Book of Antecedents references entries about art, ifice, ifact, artifice, artifact, and ifactifice. These terms deal with the complicated relationship between fact and fiction. The entries promote art as an inherently purposeless creation, so that it has not yet ever been achieved. Art’s complimentary opposite is ifice as something whose creation follows a purpose. From these two, the essential step is to ifact: “a past-tensed fact” (EII, 202). The linguistic pairing of time and matter is of the utmost importance here since ifact signifies the persistence of the past into the present and future. Consequently, the neologism ifactifice, in Adams’ terms, suggests “the possibility and necessity of making pragmatic attempts (“ifice”) to mark or express a past reality (“ifact”) that resists inscription in conventional linguistic signs” (47). A conventional—read factual— account is impossible for Jonathan to achieve; too many ifacts are lost. New, meaningful re-creations of past-tensed facts have to be ifactificed into the present. Such terminology—the description of ifactifice clarifies—specifies the quest for a “new way of speaking” in a “nonapproximate vocabulary” (EII, 203). A vocabulary like this has been part of Jewish life “since the beginning of time” but is of vital importance after trauma. The entry poses Yiddish as “the most onomatopoeic of all languages” on a par with music—a form of communication that would rid it of misunderstandings “because there is nothing in music to understand” (EII, 203)—as a milestone in this quest. The consequences this entails for Jonathan and Alex’s endeavors are far reaching. If “words never mean what we want them to mean” (EII, 203), it is only natural that Jonathan does not understand his grandmother, and that the characters struggle so fruitlessly to understand each other. It also suggests that,

When Memory Fails  159 very radically, all words are—differently to Saussure’s understanding of the contrastive quality of inherently arbitrary signs— interchangeable and relative. Still, Foer does not prophesy the end of meaningful language. Rather, he has to be seen in the critical tradition conscious of the inherent complications coming with every form of linguistic expression. Specifically using Alex’s “logorrhea,” (Kohn 245) whose English is “not first rate,” although “in Russian [his] ideas are asserted abnormally well,” Foer comments on the continual need to search for and mediate meaning. Words, in Alex’s case especially, never only mean what they were meant to mean. In his effort to make a “premium” narrative, he “fatigue[s] the thesaurus […] when [his] words appeared too petite, or not befitting” (EII, 23, original emphasis). Thus, the problem of expressing not only oneself, but also the experiences and traumata of others, is pronounced even more. As with the plethora of explanations about Trachim B’s fate, Alex’s use of different signifiers for what he wants to signify underlines the novel’s struggle to establish a truthful narrative of the past when the only thing to draw on really is “the lack of any exact referential relation between word and world” (Adams 38). The referential gap is also enacted in the characters’ palpable struggle to know themselves and create an identity. Inventing a meaningful past depends on certain artifacts— or should I use The Book of Antecedents’ terminology of “artifice” or “artifact” (EII, 202)—which are unearthed. Memory—disregarding whether fact or fiction—becomes a metaphor for the different strands of history that are or were possible. “I could imagine in my brain how the days connected the girl in the photograph to the woman who was in the room with us. Each day was like another photograph. Her life was a book of photographs. One was with the hero’s grandfather, and now one was with us” (EII, 148). Alex imagines a historical-generational line that manifests history and its incidents as a pictorial chain. Through active remembrance, past and present merge. Even more significant is the scene of the literally unearthed wedding ring. Lista “wants to know why her friend saved her wedding ring when she thought she would be killed.” “So there would be proof that she existed,” the hero said. “What?” “Evidence. Documentation. Testimony.” I told this to Augustine [i.e. Lista]. “But a ring is not needed for this. People can remember without the ring. And when these people forget, or die, then no one will know about the ring.” I told this to the hero. “But the ring could be a reminder,” he said. “Every time you see it, you think of her.” I told Augustine what the hero has said. “I think it was in case of this. In case someone should come searching one day.” (EII, 192)

160  When Memory Fails Great emphasis lies on the fact that memory is often linked to artifacts or places. Memory is much more reliable with such a prop because the artifact tethers the past to the present as long as it exists. Lista claims, however, that such graspable anchorage is not feasible as the artifact alone is not enough. She underlines the absolute necessity of human remembrance; only then can the past—along with its artifacts—be endowed with meaning. Without personal memory, the artifact’s story is lost, and history must be made up as possible narratives. This dilemma in Everything Is Illuminated, makes history precarious because witnesses may not be able or willing to testify and the sparse ifacts need to be reinstated with meaning about the lost past in the present. Lista herself had to be persuaded to tell her story. But, more importantly, the ring allows for a reversal of historical, temporal progression. The premises are (re)told, (re)presented, (re) interpreted with the ring as artifact giving further testimony of a past.2 The ring, as literary and metaphorical token, enables Jonathan/Foer to create an imagination of (his)story that is not fully known nor is its meaning completely comprehended. Meaning reverberates through it and Jonathan/Foer’s musing about them make past and present become interdependent; as within the narrative, they turn into revelatory “contingencies of a given moment” (Momaday 236). In this sense, the ring is what Hirsch calls a “testimonial object” (78). Along with the other objects in Lista’s house the ring represents lost memories into the present. Such representation highlights “the very process of transmission” that, as Hirsch writes, “testif[ies] to the historized contexts and the daily qualities of the past moments in which they were produced and, also, to the ways in which material objects carry memory traces from one generation to the next” (Hirsch 78). The label of the box, “IN CASE,” (EII, 192) becomes a case in point. Through the transmission of the ring, Rivka tries to convey her memories, hopes, fears, and expectations that go with it at the moment she buries it. For her, it constitutes a transmission of her present to future generations, who, she hopes, will unearth the ring and all that comes with it. Yet only fragmented traces can reappear for the following generations because the ring can represent only what it brings to the present generation’s narrative. It makes the past reappear, but not as it could for Rivka. Still, together with Lista’s testimony, the ring allows them to form a narrative that integrates (actual and imagined) past and present. The individual does not go through time—“the ring is not in case of you”—but time enters through the individual—“you are in case of the ring” (EII, 192). It is not, in Sara Ziskind’s words, a mere rehearsal and not just the same beginning of the same world, but it is a conscious or unconscious inscription and narration of the past in light of the present. Lista again attempted to put the ring on the hero’s little finger, and she applied very rigidly, and I could perceive that this made the hero with many kinds of pain, although he did not exhibit even one of

When Memory Fails  161 them. “It will not harmonize,” she said, and when she removed the ring I could see that the ring had made a cut around the hero’s most petite finger. (EII, 193) Alex’s stylistically used vocabulary error that the ring would not “harmonize” embellishes the message that the past leaves its traces in/on people. The past will not harmonize in the present as well as the present cannot be completely harmonized with the past. There are too many dependencies that need to be considered. It is unclear, however, whether this correlation functions as a metafictional comment that the story does not harmonize past and present by being a true account of history and hence leaves a scar on Jonathan/Foer, or whether it is a comment on the need for a past even if its recovery means that he is scarred by it and the collective memory of others that are conveyed through memory to him. Through connection with the past, Jonathan is scarred by the trauma of his ancestors. This incident also focuses on the present self as an “inarticulate [spirit which is] not a voice, but a chorus of many voices each singing rather a different tune” (Wald 55). The individual must harmonize these voices of the past to constitute significance in the present. Foer tries to do this with a new interpretation and invention of a past, which, for him, has become incomprehensible. This knowable fiction combines Lista’s testimonial narratives, and, as an aside, that of Grandfather, with the “material traces” of the photo of Safran and Augustine, Rivka’s wedding ring, and eventually Lista’s archive. Their combination creates for Adams “the possibility of gaining knowledge about the past through its material traces, demonstrating a realist attitude towards the possibility of recovering Holocaust history” (“The Dream” 61) even when the personal history is factually as extinct as the site of Trachimbrod. Lista’s archive is filled with similar material and immaterial artifacts/ artifices. Apart from the stereotypical “piles of more clothes and hundreds of shoes of different sizes and fashions” as well as “photographs” in such numbers that Alex was unable to “see the wall through” them, her collection comprises boxes “marked WEDDINGS AND OTHER CELEBRATIONS.” Another is labeled as “PRIVATES: JOURNALS/DIARIES/SKETCHBOOKS/UNDERWEAR” and “was so overfilled that it appeared prepared to rupture.” More boxes with “SILVER/PERFUME/ PINWHEELS, […] WATCHES/WINTER, […] HYGIENE/SPOOLS/ CANDLES, […] FIGURINES/SPECTACLES, […] DARKNESS, […] DEATH OF THE FIRSTBORN,” as well as “DUST” (EII, 147) fill the space. Adams suggests the similarities of the mass of photographs to Yaffa Eliach’s “Tower of Faces” in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. For Adams, both collections function “within their respective contexts as instances of recovered plenitude, assertions of the availability of Holocaust and pre-Holocaust history to present-day

162  When Memory Fails knowledge and memory” (Magic 32). To Alex, the photographs and other contents create the feeling as if there were “at least one hundred people in that room” and that the whole space was “very populous” (EII, 147). This, Adams correctly reasons, “implies a making present of the past in its evocation of the absent community” (Magic 32). However, the similarities to Eliach’s endeavor are far more pronounced. As The New York Times obituary states, Eliach saw her mission in the documentation of “the victims’ lives, not just their deaths, to give them back their grace and humanity” (Berger A21). Everything Is Illuminated, is, after all, not a narrative of death and a depiction of the Holocaust, but imaginative description of Trachimbrod. In all the pogroms, traumata, and at times squalor, it is ultimately a rendition of life. The factual and the fictional merge; the storylines of the present search for Augustine, and the absent history of Trachimbrod meet in the moment of witnessing and instantiate Everything Is Illuminated as a whole. As with Rivka’s wedding ring, each is interdependent of the others because each creates the other.

Fictional Records: Tracking Meanings between the Past and the Present What one individual or collective codes and weights as insignificant and meaningless, consequently narrating it as such, appears to another collectivity or individual as carrying weight and is, afterward, coded with narrative importance. Yet none of the writing and recording that is done within the Trachimbrod narrative is of a lasting nature. “Brod keeps her own life a secret from herself” (EII, 87) and the private journal—another Book of Antecendents—she keeps “with her at all times,” so she would be ready when “one day [she would] stumble upon that thing which was finally worth writing about and remembering” (EII, 80). Nothing in her life so far, to her, is worthwhile and Brod is thus only recording unimportant and irrelevant events. The recording becomes another record of its own recording when there are no events to record. Only as a narrative reappropriation within the novel does it take on significance as it endows the fragments of her life with meaning. Yankel, too, “fearing his frequent deficiencies of memory” scribbles the “fragments of his life story on his bedroom ceiling” so they would “be the first thing he would see when he awoke each morning, and the last thing before going to sleep” (EII, 83). Unfortunately, Yankel’s scribblings—executed in lipstick—peel off the wall at the moment of his death, Brod’s journal is never found after she dies, and The Book of Antecedents and Trachimbrod itself are burned by the Nazis; the place and its narratives destroyed forever. It seems almost impossible that any lasting record continues beyond the person. The loss of these written materials is recorded in the Trachimbrod narrative in dialogue with Alex’s letters. While the Trachimbrod

When Memory Fails  163 narrative seems to be almost identical to what Alex critiques, his comments emphasize that he is revising his story of the search for Augustine according to Jonathan’s comments—which are never given. Toward the end, Alex’s revisions are visually rendered by crossings out or bracketed remarks, whereas the earlier part is produced without the changes that are later mentioned in the letters. The closer the narrative approaches the one significant trauma in the novel—the Holocaust—the more tenacious do the writings resurface that the characters—and the narrators for that matter—want to avoid, forget, delete. Yankel significantly has lost “millions of ideas he intended to write down (some of them wholly original, some of them deeply meaningful).” Yet he is incapable of shedding himself of his wife’s final note before she eloped with another man. “I had to do it for myself,” the note reads cryptically, and continues to resurface. However hard he tries to lose it, “it was always there” and “kept returning to him” (EII, 46). The note is a repetition, a continuous reminder, of the traumatic loss of his wife, which will not be repressed. It has an existence independent of Yankel, yet only meaningful to him and his life. Yankel, formerly Safran, really is the post-traumatic existence of his former self. With the loss of his wife, the shtetl convicts him of fraud and evicts him in disgrace. When he becomes (adoptive) father to Brod, he creates a new identity for himself as much as for Brod, who, he thinks, must never know of her real origins. Safran/Yankel tries to counter the narrative of “those seven scribbled words” of the note “wanting to inflict reality” (EII, 49) with repeated fictions of his own. He creates a fictional past wife, mother to Brod, who died painlessly in childbed. His fictions and their repetition, for Safran/Yankel, blur the boundaries between reality and imagination. He not only “felt that he had lost her” but acutely “had lost her” (EII, 49, original emphasis). Foer shows an astute aptitude for the creation of these mirroring fault lines spanning generations through his narratives. What Yankel—Brod’s adopted father—does via this fiction of a second reality, the narrator has already given to describe the fate of the corpse of Trachim B—Brod’s supposed father—who was discovered by a widow who “took him in,” forgetting or ignoring the fact of his death as she creates a fiction of living with him, thinking “of only him as she died, always knew that he was a fiction but believed in him anyway” (EII, 15). To please Brod, Yankel “create[s] more stories—wild stories, with undomesticated imagery and flamboyant characters. He invented stories so fantastic that” both he himself and Brod “had to believe” in them (EII, 77). Brod, growing up with these stories, “become[s] an expert in confusing what is with what was with what should be with what could be” (EII, 87, original emphasis). Jonathan, like Yankel and Brod, has an unknown trauma, a past that is lost but needs to be known. He, too, fabulizes a narrative past he can or needs to believe in.

164  When Memory Fails When they finally arrive in Trachimbrod, the cracks open and reality and fiction merge for Jonathan, Alex, and Grandfather. Grandfather remains outside of the others’ narrative until, triggered by an anecdote Lista knows only from hearsay, he provides his own testimony. Even the incident of Lista telling what she heard and believes shows the discrepancies between the individual experiences of trauma. While the traumatic nature of the general story is present in both, the slight variances between the stories reveal idiosyncratic experience and belong to the individual who lived them. Traumatized by her experiences, Lista tells her own story in the third person. She distances herself from her story and adds additional information. Since the moment of the trauma, her identity has changed, her narrative is altered, and her perception of time has been distorted. She continues to exist at the site of the atrocities where nothing else is left. She amasses an archive of fragmented physical and spiritual objects that constitute the only physical link to the vanished past. Prepared to record his journey and write a book about it, Jonathan attempts to take notes. Yet, as with all the other instances in the novel, testimonial facts refuse to be recorded on paper. While “a part of him wanted to write everything, every word of what occurred” there is a resistant part that “refused to write even one word. He opened the diary and closed it, opened it and closed it, and it looked as if it wanted to fly away from his hands” (EII, 154). Thus, Lista’s account is rendered as a factual survivor’s testimony in Alex’s account but remains repeatedly linked to the Trachimbrod plot through Alex’s letters. Eventually, Jonathan—mirroring the Trachimbroders’ conjectures about Trachim’s fate—starts “filling his diary” when the “less we saw, the more he writes” (EII, 115). The less facts he has, the stronger the claim on his fictional account. Still with all assumed factuality and (magical) realism, all accounts are always delimited as fictional to a greater or lesser degree throughout the novel. These fictionalizations heighten readers’ engagement with their own trauma narratives, as they distance the narrative from first-generation writing. Alex unwittingly phrases this lucidly: “You cannot know how it felt to have to hear these things and then repeat them, because when I repeated them, I felt like I was making them new again” (EII, 185). Re-narration cannot be a factual one, not only because there are too many missing variables, but also because the present has to find its own means to engage with the trauma. Repeating the trauma means being traumatized again. Through fictionalization, Foer attempts to approach trauma without being drawn into its debilitating effects. Not doing this, Alex says, allows the trauma to roll on rapidly and engulf the listeners/ readers. Scariest, for Alex, “was how rapid[ly] it was moving. I do not mean what happened in the story, but how the story was told. I felt that it could not be stopped” (EII, 186). Alex then stops interpreting

When Memory Fails  165 and Jonathan wants to opt out of the witnessing he has initiated. Yet, comparable to Yankel’s ex-wife’s note, witnessing of the story cannot be stopped. It resurfaces to “inflict reality” (EII, 49), whether Jonathan does want to hear more or not. Lista’s narrative returns to him via Alex’s narrative. He significantly adds in his account, “Jonathan, if you still do not want to know the rest, do not read this. But if you do persevere, do not do so for curiosity. That is not a good enough reason” (EII, 186). The indomitability is even more pronounced now that the story is written. It is recorded and has found its way (back) into the narrative. Foer, who does not want to hear at the moment of listening, cannot keep it out (now). The trauma is real although its rendition in this case is fictional. It is consequential that curiosity does not suffice. What then does? As Kohn argues, it is ultimately inconsequential whether “the novel’s history is real or not.” The real truth value lies in the fact that “six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis, many more brutally than the few that Foer portrays” (Kohn 247). Fictionalization and its nomadisms do not deny the trauma or lessen the suffering experienced by the victims. Rather, it becomes a means for those who have not been there to participate in the trauma that still forms their present. Foer’s fiction even though “fantastic or apocryphal or anachronistic” comes not, as McHale holds, into competition “with the official record as a vehicle of historical truth,” (69) but forms a dialogue with it through which the trauma can be acknowledged and engaged with. The trauma’s personal nature connects the generations and draws them closer together in ways similar to Rivka’s wedding ring.

Narrative Realities: Permeating Events and Stories Alex repeatedly references other worlds of his imagination and aspiration. These are realities in which his present is redeemed: A good life in the United States together with his brother, the absence of a father who drinks and abuses his sons, a reality in which Grandfather does not have to suffer from the loss of his wife, and a life in which Alex is a socially well-adjusted and sexually active person. As long as none of these is crafted into a narrative of the past, there is a chance to fulfill part of these realities; or create new ones. Likewise, Jenni Adams reminds us, as long as the lives of Jonathan’s ancestors remain “unplotted historical experience” (“The Dream” 65–66) they can be approximated and nonapproximated by the narrator. Foer, in this respect, transcends Hayden White’s dictum that “events are made into a story by the suppression or subordination of some of them and the highlighting of others,” (194, original emphasis). In Everything Is Illuminated, the events and story form a circle: the events make the story, but the story also must make the events.

166  When Memory Fails This history of fictional ancestors pervades actual history in its account of an alternate sequence of events. In a post-Holocaust world, in which meaning has become inherently precarious, Foer’s narrative offers an overload of symbols, meanings, and alternatives that subtly criticizes mythologizing by creating its own myths. Identity is contingent, obviously constructed, and multiple. The inventiveness and inventedness of Everything Is Illuminated as well as its willingness to imagine family mythologies emphasize the limitations in the writing of identity vis-à-vis a past so completely destroyed as in the Holocaust, and, more broadly, to any attempt to know that past (Grauer 281–282). Everything Is Illuminated plays on the irony of remembering and forgetting, in the ambivalence between the truth value and the meaning value of what is remembered. In this view, memory is not accurate, sometimes false, and partially made up, since “the what […] is not so important, but that we should remember.” What counts “is the act of remembering, the process of remembrance, the recognition of our past” (EII, 36, original emphasis). The novel concerns the processes of remembrance and forgetting on multiple layers. For instance, Sofiowka swaddles himself in the omnipresent white string of memory to remember his body but remembers only the string. The string first appears as part of the “curious flotsam rising to the surface” (EII, 8) after Trachim’s accident that initiates the story. It reappears as decoration at the Trachimday Festival, connecting houses and other objects throughout the shtetl in “canopies of thin white string [that] spanned the narrow dirt arteries of Trachimbrod that afternoon, spring, 1804, as they had every Trachimday for thirteen years” (EII, 92). And, finally, it is conspicuously present in its absence on the box markers in Lista’s archive, where we find only the empty “spools” (EII, 147). The string’s absence signifies that the threads of memory have not yet been spun to connect them to this particular past, or, in reverse, that the memory is threaded somewhere or sometime else and, thus, eludes their connecting to it. Like Rivka’s wedding ring, the item is “in case” of the immaterial world of experiences, emotions, thoughts, hopes behind the material object. The signified is missing from the sign and has to be (re)established through a plethora of eventualities represented in the fantastical narrative. The powerful nature of narrative possibility can be seen when Lista, the Holocaust survivor, remembers with excruciating accuracy that night when the Nazis came. When she retells the events of the last night of Trachimbrod, she says, “I remember the sound of when [her four-year old sister] hit the ground. I hear that sound when things hit the ground still” (EII, 186). The trauma is linked to everything—the “PLOMP” (EII, 149) of a dropped potato, for instance—and asserts itself relentlessly in otherwise harmless day-to-day events. This is not perceived by Alex or the others. They take her reaction of hiding her face in her hands as shame rather than trauma, and, thus, show that often narratives and interpretations—dependent on present contexts—run parallel.

When Memory Fails  167 Lista has experienced the past and cannot forget it. For her, the present and, partly, her identity have ended at the moment of traumatization. She cannot acknowledge her own story in the first person but tells it from a third person’s perspective. She also cannot move into the present and does not know that the war has been over for more than half a century. Yet this is also why Jonathan’s definition of the ring and his assumed reasons for hiding it are irrelevant for her because, in her case, memory is possible without objects. As with the white thread, she makes clear by her wonder about the reasons why Rivka would have found it necessary to bury the ring “just in case,” the material object has no intrinsic memory of its own. The box Lista gives Jonathan as a literal souvenir is labeled “IN CASE” (EII, 192). This constitutes it as a new box, newly marked. The ring, significantly is not, at first, part of the box. She produces it from her pocket. It, along with other items in the “IN CASE” box, is a new collection of items from the “REMAINS” box (EII, 151) that she has shown her visitors earlier. Giving Jonathan this new box is giving him an assorted set of items that in their collection and selection resemble the selection and deletion of the narrative process. The box itself is a narration that Lista instantiates and from which, in their perceiving and coding of and connecting to the items, Jonathan and Alex create new narratives. Literally, the items’ past is encased to become part of the case of retrieving the past. Everything Is Illuminated creates a certain version of the past, which makes the past “real, tangible, made of the stuff of a life lived in place and in history” but also implying that “we must live with a version that attaches us to our limitations, to the inheritable subjectivity of our points of view. We must acquiesce to our experience and our gift to transform experience into meaning and value” (Hampl 208). The accounts and events in Everything Is Illuminated represent only one possible version among many. Not the absolute truth, but the relative connections and meanings are what count. This meaningful present, paradoxically, is dependent on the past that is constituted, however, by the present only.

Imaginative Representation: Memory’s Narrative Dependencies Memory of trauma as connected to the ring, the photographs, the string, and Lista’s other collected items follow a similar pattern to Jeffrey Alexander’s statement that events are not “inherently traumatic” (Trauma 13). To Lista, they are meaningful and traumatic, since they clearly represent the past for which they are placeholders. While she, of course, does not need the ring to remember, this cannot hold true for outsiders such as Jonathan and Alex. Like the photograph of Augustine and

168  When Memory Fails Safran that started the quest, the ring opens a variety of (fictional) narrative possibilities. Both Jonathan and Alex spin stories around the photo and the identity of the people depicted in it. For them, the picture can hardly function as an accurate representation of the moment at which it was taken because they have no idea about it. Alex and Jonathan want Augustine to have been in love with Safran, although a part of Jonathan “hates” this idea. For him “it’s nice to think of some things as irreplaceable” (EII, 61). The wish for such an irreplaceability is emphasized and negated by the different narratives that are possible from the picture as well as from the overall construction of Everything Is Illuminated itself. “Imagination,” Alexander emphasizes, “is intrinsic to the very processes of representation” as it structures “through association, condensation, and aesthetic creation” the “trauma construction just as much when the reference is something that has actually occurred as to something that has not. It is only through the imaginative process of representation that actors have the sense of experience.” (Trauma 14). Imagination is the only means of approaching the possibilities of the material object in the absence of a connected narrative. That is how Jonathan becomes “in case of the ring” (EII, 192). His imagination uses the ring as a sign for the void of lost memory and becomes the present of the ring to constitute its past in this moment. Rivka, burying her ring with probably completely different thoughts and memories, was imagining a future moment when somebody would come looking for remains of the/her past. The ring, for Rivka, preserves both her present moment and its history, whereas for the following generations it can only project narrative possibilities into the future. Rivka’s and Jonathan’s narratives might not overlap at all, but in the fictional narrative they establish a meaningful connection throughout time. Everything Is Illuminated would be a different narrative if Brod were not part of the story, but there would also not be the same novel if it were not for Lista. As a matter of fact, the two women form a strange link that holds the novel together in this form. Lista’s story gives rise to Jonathan’s imagination of Brod’s and Safran’s past that within the novel’s causality leads to the finding of Lista. Alex summarizes the effect Lista has on them “as if the whole world and its future were because of her” (EII, 148). Finding Lista means that there is a past that can be found or invented, and that means that there is a future to be found and imagined, as well. It becomes apparent that Lista has not physically saved anyone, indeed has barely survived herself and is traumatized so extensively that her personal narrative even lacks a sense of an “I.” Yet Lista’s memory and archive preserve fragments and stories of Trachimbrod and its inhabitants. In this sense, she rescued all of them into the present and makes a future possible.

When Memory Fails  169

Generational Catharsis in Dyadic, Generational Encounters Grandfather denies all connections to the past and the narratives that are presented in Everything Is Illuminated and pretends that both Trachimbrod and Kolki are meaningless to him. He purports their nonexistence until the truth about him is discovered through Lista and her photographs. Grandfather initially sees his way of repressing the past to be the way to live and wants to “save [Lista] from all this” (EII, 150). When Lista tells her story, he tells her to “Shut up,” before he declares, “We will go” (EII, 152). The forcefulness of Grandfather’s outburst reaches its climax in his unacceptable exclamation that Lista “should have died with the others.” Here, Alex mirrors Grandfather’s active repression of the truth in his resolve that he “will never allow that to remain in the story” (EII, 153). The photo that Lista holds up to the light of the window, however, is not yet illuminated; the others do not recognize Grandfather in Herschel’s best friend Eli. Consequently, he does not enter the narrative as that yet. Grandfather wishes that Lista should “not know anything,” should be “a fool” and “a liar” (EII, 155), since this would protect his identity by keeping the truth hidden. This attitude changes only after Lista and Grandfather have their first of two private conversations. At this moment the repressed trauma breaks forth into Grandfather’s present. Alex, for the first time, feels that generational urge to know about the past. Jonathan and Alex, through generational invention, can become part of that “book of photographs” (EII, 148) connecting the past and present. Grandfather’s personal interview with Lista induces some form of catharsis for him. In this, he embodies Laub’s psychoanalytical process of dialogically representing trauma. Grandfather needs Lista to initiate a process that, ultimately, includes relating his story to Alex and Jonathan. When Lista is on the verge of discontinuing her story about the Nazis’ cruel murder of those who do not step or spit on the defiled Torah of Trachimbrod, Grandfather turns prompter. Throughout this catharsis, Grandfather seems to reconnect to Alex and, implicitly, to ask for forgiveness. “Can you forgive them?” (EII, 187) he asks Lista and, when Alex intervenes with the admonition for helping the injured, he explains that, at least for him, the life of his family was more important. More important, as becomes apparent later in the novel, than the life of his best friend Herschel. Alex, imagining his brother, feels that he understands that sentiment. Foer endeavors to “search for beginnings and endings” that form a “chain of events in a cause-effect relationship” (Stein 144). The quest, as Alex refers to in relation to his father’s travel agency “is for Jewish

170  When Memory Fails people, like the hero, who have cravings to […] visit humble towns in Poland and Ukraine” in order “to unearth places where their families once existed” (EII, 3). Everything Is Illuminated, to put it differently, argues against Lista’s comment that after her experiences “there can be no imagining” (EII, 188) that there must be imagination to create a narrative from the material objects, the memory fragments transmitted by survivors like her, or the absence of all of them. Imagination, Alex emphasizes, is needed and valid only when there is no connection to that past because it establishes another one. If there are instances of actual events to which one can connect, then they should be incorporated into the story without veridic nomadism. Jonathan knows that his grandparents have only barely escaped the Holocaust but has no connection to their personal history. Alex has never known of the events of the Holocaust and has not known that his family has a dark connection to it. While Jonathan’s has been a trauma of the past, Alex’s has been a trauma of the present. Consequently, Alex wants the narrative to redeem the present. Alex and his family could be good and special, rid of the taint of trauma and murder.

Notes 1 For clarity’s sake, I refer to the real-world author Jonathan Safran Foer using the last name, Foer, while using the first name, Jonathan, to talk about the character/narrator within the story. 2 The somewhat clumsy use of brackets here visually breaks the morphemes into two parallel realities, underlining the several movements possible but not necessary or exclusive. The obvious “re” movement presents a movement from the present into the past that was already established and is knowingly taken as such. However, it is just as possible that the movement is one from a present into a past that is completely unknown and not intended to be known in the form it existed before. The premises that are meaningful in the present, that is to say, are instantiated as the past. They are interpreted, presented, and told as if they were. The original meaning of the past might thereby be overwritten and forgotten but it might also add new layers of meaning through the explicit or implicit contrast that they purport.

Works Cited Adams, Jenni. Magic Realism in Holocaust Literature: Troping the Traumatic Real. Palgrave, 2011. ———. “The Dream of the End of the World: Magic Realism and Holocaust History in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated.” Clio, vol.39, no. 1, 2009, pp. 53–77. Alexander, Jeffrey C. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. “Antediluvian” OED Online, Oxford UP, June 2018. Aristotle. “The Poetics.” Aristotle’s Theory of Poetry and Fine Art. Edited by Samuel H. Butcher, MacMillan, 1895.

When Memory Fails  171 Assmann, Aleida. “Das Gedächtnis der Orte.” Orte der Erinnerung: Denkmal, Gedächtnisstätte, Museum. Edited by Ulrich Borsdorf and Heinrich T. Grütter, Campus, 1999. ———. Erinnerungsräume: Formen und Wandlungen des kollektiven Gedächtnisses. C.H. Beck, 2009. Baumgarten, Murray. “American Midrash: Urban Jewish Writing and the Reclaiming of Judaism.” The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism. Edited by Dana E. Kaplan, Cambridge UP, 2005. Berger, Joseph. “Yaffa Eliach, 79: Captured Faces of the Holocaust.” The New York Times, Nov. 10, 2016, A21. Dubos, René. “So Human an Animal.” The Anatomy of Memory: An Anthology. Edited by James McConkey, Oxford UP, 1996, pp. 25–33. Eliade, Mircea. The Myth of the Eternal Return: Cosmos and History. Princeton UP, 2005. Grant, Linda. Remind Me Who I Am, Again. Granta, 1998. Grauer, Tresu. “Identity Matters: Contemporary Jewish American Writing.” The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism. Edited by Dana Evan Kaplan, Cambridge UP, 2003, pp. 269–282. Hirsch, Marianne. The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. Columbia UP, 2012. Kerby, Anthony P. Narrative and the Self. Indiana UP, 1991. Kohn, Robert E. “Foer’s “Everything Is Illuminated.” Explicator, vol. 65, no. 4, 2007, pp. 245–247. McConkey, James. editor. The Anatomy of Memory: An Anthology. Oxford UP, 1996. McHale, Brian. Postmodernist Fiction. Routledge, 1987. Miller, David N. “History as Fiction: Issac Bashevis Singer’s Pseudonymous Personas.” Colloquia Germania, vol. 1, no. 1, 1983, pp. 45–55. Momaday, N. Scott. “The Names.” The Anatomy of Memory: An Anthology. Edited by James McConkey, Oxford UP, 1996, pp. 236–242. Ozick, Cynthia. “Toward a New Yiddish.” Art and Ardor: Essays by Cynthia Ozick. Knopf, 1983, pp. 151–177. “Palimpsest” OED Online, Oxford UP, June 2018. Rosenfeld, Alvin H. A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature. Indiana UP, 1980. Roskies, David G. The Jewish Search for a Usable Past. Indiana UP, 1999. Stein, Arlene. Reluctant Witnesses: Survivors, their Children, and the Rise of Holocaust Consciousness. Oxford UP, 2014. Wald, Priscilla. “Of Crucibles and Grandfathers: The East European Immigrants.” The Cambridge Companion to American Judaism. Edited by Dana Evan Kaplan, Cambridge UP, 2003, pp. 50–69. White, Hayden. “The Historical Text as Literary Artifact.” Narrative Dynamics: Essays in Time, Plot, Closure, and Frames. Edited by Brian Richardson, Ohio State UP, 2002. Wiese, Doro. “Evoking a Memory of the Future in Foer’s Everything is Illuminated.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture, vol. 14, no. 4, 2012, pp. 1–8. Young, James E. The Texture of Memory. Holocaust Memorials and Meaning. Yale UP, 1993.

Conclusion The Future of Trauma

What remains? What comes after the third generation? Do we know more or less of the trauma that has spawned such diverse responses in such varied forms? The initial quotes from Levi and Deutscher suggest that the further we proceed from the Holocaust, the less we will understand, the less we feel connected to it. Much anxiety is associated with the need to continue the memory into the future. The fourth generation has already arrived. Each generation faces their own involvements with the trauma. Although the Holocaust is the primal well for the traumatization, each generation has to contend with different symptoms of this trauma. Each generation necessarily experiences and approaches the trauma differently. It might therefore be wrong to try to attest to a better or worse understanding of the events and the trauma. Rather, the intergenerational perspective shows that we understand things differently every time we engage with the trauma. Wiesel and Levi among others approach their trauma from more than one perspective in their works. Writers like Bellow and Ozick, on the other hand, imaginatively grappled with the trauma that, so they felt, determined some parts of their identity from their removed perspective. The second- and third-generation authors related some of their experiences in different fictional narratives that added to the meanings that evolved from a contemporary engagement with the past. What to do if words fail us? What to do if, as Alex Perchov in Everything Is Illuminated puts it, our ideas are “asserted abnormally well” but the medium of language fails? The first generation grapples with the silence and the inadequacy of the words to express their traumatic experiences. The second generation lacks a vocabulary that could describe a trauma that palpably intrudes into their worlds without real experience. The third generation experiments with language that, from afar, retraces the voids of language and experience. When the traditional linguistic means are exhausted and the thesaurus fatigued, new patterns, new linguistic structures need to approach what was deemed inexpressible. In these new structures, generations grapple with trauma and engage with them according to their respective need for a contemporarily coded, weighted, and narrated account that stands its ground against those of the past.

Conclusion: The Future of Trauma  173 What changed over three generations of narrative involvement with Holocaust trauma? From the necessarily different generational perspectives, are there new insights gained after this time and by this outstanding engagement? In analyzing the dialogic nature of Holocaust narratives, I argued that each generation builds on and incorporates the former generations’ conceptions about the trauma into new narratives. Narrativization, in other words, was established as a means to acknowledge the traumatic past in a present that becomes tainted by this connection. The goal is to understand the processes of narrativization and transmission of the trauma from one generation to the next. The individual narratives constitute a means for the individuals to approach and work through the trauma that intruded into their lives in one form or another. These narratives are interconnected and form a sense of identity for whole collectivities. This can be primary trauma of the survivors, or secondary trauma of their contemporaries, their children and grandchildren, or everyone living in the aftermath. In these terms of collective trauma narratives, it is exactly not the case that with “each ‘generation’” the narrative “becomes less authoritative,” as Christopher Bigsby repeats the fears of Wiesel, Levi, and others (23). Rather, with the progression of time from the original event, each generation, writing about the Holocaust trauma from their very own personal and idiosyncratic viewpoints, adds layers of meaning to events that seem to preclude any ultimate meaningfulness. It is through particularly this stylistic form and narrativization of an inherently incomprehensible trauma that seems to foster deeper and increasingly creative engagement; rather than imposing barriers on it. In both the presence and absence of personal experience, the drive to find out more about the events and imaginatively approach them helps individuals and groups search for and find contemporary meanings. Of course, this means that perspectives and mechanisms of Jeffrey Alexander’s triangle, “coding, weighting, and narrating” (Trauma 35) change as the “chain of witnesses results in subjecting the eye-witness of the individual who was there to the opinion or re-representation of those who were not.” In this process, Bigsby wonders in Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust, “does the truth lie only at the beginning, in that compacted atom from which this dark universe was born, or are there other truths generated as the story echoes down the corridor of time, a story changing with the telling?” (23). As I have shown in the previous chapters, both options are interdependent instances. The original event, Caruth correctly asserts, is one so acutely traumatizing that the traumatized individual continues in attempts to make sense of the trauma well beyond the original event. Even with those engagements, the trauma might never be completely understood by anyone. Both survivors and following generations have to generate their own truths in the present and for the future from the events that

174  Conclusion: The Future of Trauma “echo down the corridor of time” (Bigsby 23). There is no one absolute truth, no single final meaning. No one could experience the Holocaust in its entirety; everyone gives a personal account of one’s own relation to the trauma. The individual narratives, however, attested to a “communal suffering” (Alexander 61). This can be seen in the first generation’s attempts to bear witness to those who perished, but also by later generations’ preoccupation with the suffering of their forebears, which then translates into their own suffering. I have already argued that a generational conception is inherently problematic. Even for a seemingly clear-cut delineation as the first generation—already a succinctly blatant label—one runs into classificatory problems: Should one use it only for concentration camp survivors? Do we include survivors in hiding as I did with Begley? What about Suleiman’s 1.5 generation of child survivors? The classifications and distinctions become even more problematic as the Holocaust recedes in time. Patt argues, in relation to the third generation, for an awareness of the recondite nature of such broad classification: How do we define survival? Did one grandparent, two grandparents, four grandparents survive? Did they share their stories? When? How much? What is the difference between the grandchild of survivors and a Jewish writer whose grandparents did not survive but who has taken an active interest in the history of the Holocaust? (54) These issues are translatable to the generation(s) of postmemory and will constitute a point of contention in the future. What I consolidate as second and third generation are two generations with familial ties to the Holocaust trauma. These particular instantiations of what could also be conceptualized as a much more encompassing generation of postmemory—those with or without familial ties living in the aftermath and being affected by the trauma—are by no means exclusive. Rather, I hope that these particularizations shed light on the dialogical processes of the transmission of trauma between what Alexander terms “carrier groups” (Trauma 4). In my particular case, carrier groups that define themselves and their connection to the Holocaust trauma through their familial ties to survivors. The result of their connection to and engagement with their own or their ancestors’ trauma is the instantiation of a cultural trauma that connects individuals and collectivities in their endeavor to (re)narrate the trauma and its respective meanings, and to create meaning from the events. The trauma narratives turn listeners and readers into secondary witnesses and bearers of trauma. In the exchange between primary and secondary witnesses the Holocaust has received factual and fictional

Conclusion: The Future of Trauma  175 treatment on a scale that surpasses many other instances of mass murder. The Holocaust against the Jews was directed against a people in its entirety; it traumatized a collectivity and thus has repercussions into the existence and identity of those who live in its shadow: Even those who have no familial ties to the events. The texts—testimony, memoir, novel, or scholarly study—attempt, therefore, to mediate an event that was/ is intermediate. As Langer writes in Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory, “writing about Holocaust literature, […] challenges the imagination through the mediation of a text, raising issues of style and form and tone and figurative language” (xii). Through the “multilayered” generational engagement the collective trauma narrative becomes, Rothberg states, “highly mediated,” giving individuals and groups […] an active role” in the “rearticulations” of their respectively “different historical experiences” (16). The texts analyzed in the chapters of this book do this on various levels. Even for the first generation, the texts are mediations that attempt, in textual form, to connect to the immediate event through a narrative that does not “deflect our attention from the ‘dreadful familiarity’ of the event” (Langer xii). Indeed, we see variations of this in examples like Mauriac’s and Kazin’s in relation to Wiesel’s power of creating exactly that image that mediates unexperienced trauma into textual closeness, Rachel Wallfisch’s artistic reformulations of her father’s trauma in a film, or Jonathan and Alex’s epistolary encounters that mediate their realities into a novel. I perceive this quality of mediation, and perhaps even deflection, to create a group identity that allows those who have not experienced the Holocaust to be drawn into the community of memory. Alexander does not follow through fully in his analysis of this productive quality of trauma and Joas—in his initially quoted criticism—does not include it into his argument. The first-generation narratives recapitulate experiences in a structured and more or less coherent narrative in order to come to terms with memories of experiences fundamentally fragmented and traumatizing. First-generation writing, therefore, is preoccupied with bearing witness to one’s own trauma and that of others who cannot testify. The first generation had to overcome the silence of an audience unwilling to bear witness to the horrendous events that intrinsically negated the belief in progress, humanity, and goodness. In this respect, from a literary point of view, the trauma had to be (re)defined by those who were most affected by it. First-generation authors like Wiesel, Levi, Lengyel, and others defined their trauma, in an effort to take charge of their own life stories and to achieve agency for their narratives—an agency that was denied everyone in the concentrationary universe and the absence of which is an essential part of the trauma. Alexander’s definition of the Holocaust trauma as “moral universal,” (“Social Contrsuction” 7) was continued by the second generation

176  Conclusion: The Future of Trauma and is part of the overbearing nature of the trauma for the protagonists in Rosenbaum’s Second Hand Smoke and Sucher’s The Rescue of Memory. In both novels, we see that the “dreadful familiarity,” (xii) described by Langer, is even more dreadful as it is so familiar to the second-generation protagonists to even become indistinguishable from their own experiences and overwriting their present identities with versions of collective responsibility. My analyses tried to show that through the narratives (or their stark absence) of survivors and the overwriting qualities of their mediation for the second-generation protagonists results in a trauma of its own that has not, so far, been fully acknowledged. Both The Rescue of Memory and Second Hand Smoke portray protagonists that do not create their own stories of their lives— are not allowed to do so by parents who are still overpowered by the past—until they can wrench themselves free from the influence of the past by actively creating their own present identity that meaningfully builds upon their traumatic heritage. Both Horn’s The World to Come and Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated move back in time into the pre-Holocaust world of Eastern Europe. The fictional search for meaning in these narratives starts before the events of the Holocaust. A decided shift in focus in third-generation writing concerns itself not only with the lives of survivors during and after the Holocaust, but uncovers fictionally the roots of their pasts and the events that lead to the traumatization of their families. Strikingly, they do so creatively and self-assertively, transposing the past into narratives that are sometimes fantastical, but mostly connected and meaningful, and that are interdependent with their authors’ conception of history and their contemporary needs and wishes for a past. On a meta level, Foer’s narrator–protagonist takes over an active role in the creation of the story not in the Rankean sense of how it actually was, but in the sense of how it could have been if it did not happen otherwise. One sees this paradigmatically in the initial incident of Trachim’s accident that highlights that “the beginning of the world often comes” (EII, 8). For the characters in The World to Come, on the other hand, it is their present choices in connecting to the past which make them into active bearers of meaning and contemporary interpreters of trauma. In each of the analyzed works, narrativization as fictionalization draws the reader into the trauma. In contrast to Langer’s statement that nothing “distracts us from the immediacy and the intimacy of conducting interviews with former victims,” (xiii) it seems to be exactly the narrativization and stylization that draws in a larger public. In terms of first-generation writing, it is the careful construction of the story and the subtle use of metaphor, simile, and metonymy of Night that contributed to its success. The later generations then use fictional narratives to negotiate the traumatic past with the traumatic present; to come

Conclusion: The Future of Trauma  177 imaginatively closer to the trauma. Rosenbaum emphasizes this in a short preface to The Golems of Gotham: The effort here is to recruit the imagination into the service of answering the unanswerable, to find some logic in numbers that simply don’t add up, to find an acceptable way to respond to so much collective longing, to seek hope and reconciliation in a world that provides so little reason to do so—but yet we must try. […] We stand before their suffering with respect and humility, and contemplate the way their loss has compounded our own. (xi) With a series of seemingly mutually exclusive pairs, Rosenbaum stands in a long tradition of engagement with the Holocaust in testimony, fiction, and scholarship. His fictional contention follows the purpose to answer the unanswerable; that is, to approach meanings where mere facts are lost or fail to “add up.” The endeavor, as Geoffrey Hartman emphasizes, is one to gain hope and reconciliation in the face of an ongoing trauma. While in both Second Hand Smoke and The Golems of Gotham the protagonists at the outset are not keen on reconciliation and do not have the slightest hope, they still feel this “collective longing” that urges them toward emerging peace and reconciliation with their parents’ and their own past, which abnegates some of the rage at their parents inability to contain the trauma. Rosenbaum’s formulation also concerns the significance of the past trauma as a touchstone for judging the present, when he speaks of a merging of a past and present that “compounded our own.” The firstgeneration losses during the Holocaust are, as engagement with LaCapra’s theories showed in Chapter 5, for the following generations, deeply felt absences (48–49). Yet there is a deeper meaning: the first-generation losses become role models in postmemorial life narrations against which all present losses are compared. Rachel Wallfish in The Rescue of Memory loses her mother. Duncan Katz in Second Hand Smoke feels acutely the cruel distance his mother creates and sees this distance as his Holocaust predicament to be bereaved of everyone when his wife leaves him. Oliver Levin in The Golems of Gotham lost his survivor parents due to their joint suicide and feels acutely the absence of his wife, who left him when she knew she would die of cancer. Ben Ziskind living in what seems to be a “necropolis” (TWC, 9) struggles with the loss of his parents. Jonathan Safran Foer creates a narrative camera lucida to project a past that, through its loss, bridges the gap of its absence. Yet in each novel, the second-generation protagonists in the end assert their own right over their own present narratives, which results in a more positive, hopeful outlook into the future. In the future, different individuals from various generations and with manifold experiences will continue to relate to the trauma. They will

178  Conclusion: The Future of Trauma continue to do so because they feel the need to position themselves to an event that through the narratives about it bears meaning for their present identity. This already, and probably even more so in the future, results in wider conceptions. Increasingly, Jewish authors from all parts of the world—authors with only tangential or no familial connection to the Holocaust—will feel the identity-forming force of the Holocaust trauma. This, of course, is one constructed by an audience, a collectivity that can also recode, reweight, and renarrate its meanings. It is one to which these authors will connect to in their idiosyncratic and contemporaneous narratives; thereby continuing the dialogue between individual and collectivity, between work and reader, and between various generations. One powerful example is Nathan Englander, who was born into an orthodox household in West Hampstead, Long Island. In his short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Englander uses the example of what has become a cultural icon—The Diary of Anne Frank—to mediate his relationship to the Holocaust. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is not a book on the Holocaust per se. It deals with a variety of contemporary topics from politics through Jewish orthodoxy. Yet as the title suggests—with its obvious reverberations of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981)—it is concerned with the contemporary ramifications of Jewish identity in a wider context and within the framework of memory in a society that is increasingly removed from the actual events of the Holocaust. The title story of Englander’s collection describes the meeting of two couples, one consisting of secular American Jews, and the other, orthodox Israeli Jews. The two wives, Deb and Shoshana, have known each other from high school before the latter emigrated with her husband to pursue their orthodox faith. Throughout the story, the fundamental differences become increasingly more obvious as the worldviews clash in discussions over whiskey and pot. Deb, the narrator’s wife, “has what can be called an unhealthy obsession with the idea of that [survivor] generation being gone” (8). Deb’s obsession, although “her grandparents were all born in the Bronx,” is a result of the American cultural context that gives everyone an “education” in the cultural trauma of the Holocaust. The collective narratives of and about the Holocaust trauma can result in such overidentifications that even though the couple lives “twenty minutes from downtown Miami” it really feels as if “it’s 1937 and we live at the edge of Berlin. It’s astounding” (12). From Mark’s Israeli perspective “it’s not about the conflict” of being Jewish or looking Jewish” and the immersion in the overwriting collective trauma. “Whether you want to take it seriously or not,” Mark stresses, you can’t build Judaism only on the foundation of one terrible crime. It is about this obsession with the Holocaust as a necessary sign of

Conclusion: The Future of Trauma  179 identity. As your only educational tool. Because for the children, there is no foundational tool otherwise. Nothing Jewish that binds. (22) Mark’s projected views are an expression not only of his different cultural moorings in his Israeli ecology (Pollin-Gallay), but they also express a fundamental critique of the western (American) emphasis on trauma. My analyses in this book focused on this American ecology specifically. When, toward the end of the story, the four characters who are already slightly out of control from the alcohol and the weed play “the Righteous Gentile game.” This macabre form of role play undertakes a “serious exploration” which they take “real seriously—serious to the extreme” (29–30). The premises of the game are to imagine a second Holocaust happening and asking each other the life and death question whether they would hide or betray each other. In the end, She does not say it. And he does not say it. And from the four of us, no one will say what cannot be said—that this wife believes her husband would not hide her. What to do? What would come of it? And so we stand like that, the four of us trapped in that pantry. Afraid to open the door and let out what we’ve locked inside. (32) The thought experiment, here, is only a game; an experiment in imagination. It causes to resurface, however, biting realities from a past that none of the characters in the story has ever experienced or has any genealogical connection to. The dialogue between the generations will continue to approach the trauma and transpose it to the respective contemporary needs. Fictionally, the doors that may have been locked will be reopened and shut over and over again. Each new narrative will be an addition in the engagement with the events that have been true and did happen, although they elude complete understanding. In future engagements, as in the clashing worldviews of the protagonists in Englander’s story, with the Holocaust trauma, new imaginative and creative means will be found to express the respective present realities. The narratives, viewpoints, outlooks, and frameworks will necessarily change, probably resulting in more fundamental changes within the ecologies and collective narratives. Yet these changes will continue to further our engagement and understanding.

Works Cited Alexander, Jeffrey C. Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity, 2012. Bigsby, Christopher. Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory. Cambridge UP, 2006.

180  Conclusion: The Future of Trauma Englander, Nathan. “What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank.” What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank. Edited by Nathan Englander, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2012, pp. 1–32. Joas, Hans. “Cultural Trauma? On the Most Recent Turn in Jeffrey Alexander’s Cultural Sociology.” European Journal of Social Theory, vol. 8, no. 3, 2005, pp. 365–374. LaCapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Johns Hopkins UP, 2001. Langer, Lawrence L. Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Yale UP, 1991. Patt, Avinoam. “A Visible Bridge: Contemporary Jewish Fiction and Literary Memorials to the Shoah.” Third-Generation Holocaust Narratives: Memory in Memoir and Fiction. Edited by Victoria Aarons, Lexington Books, 2016, pp. 39–56. Rosenbaum, Thane. The Golems of Gotham: A Novel. HarperCollins, 2002. Rothberg, Michael. Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization. Stanford UP, 2009. Wardi, Dina. Memorial Candles: Children of the Holocaust. Translated by Naomi Goldblum, Routledge, 1992.


Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes. Aarons, Victoria 12 abandonment anxiety 105, 111–112 Accidents of Influence (Rosen) 4 Adams, Jenni 125, 149, 153–154, 157–158, 161–162, 165 Aeneid (Virgil) 51 Agamben, Giorgio 3 Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2, 8, 14, 21n5, 45n1, 69, 101, 128, 168, 174–175; on collective trauma 49; on cultural trauma 16–17; on experiencing trauma 14–15; on traumatic event representation 41; on Wiesel’s writing of Holocaust narrative 42 All Rivers Run to the Sea (Wiesel) 24, 30, 41 Alphen, Ernst van 74 American Jews 178 Angelus Novus (painting) 87 “An Interview Unlike Any Other” (Wiesel) 40 anti-Semitism 65, 104 anxiety: abandonment 105, 111–112; early childhood 59 “aporia” 9 Appelfeld, Aharon 55 Assmann, Aleida 103, 153–154 Atkins, Kim 18 Augustine of Hippo 132 Auschwitz and After (Delbo) 42 autonomous fiction 143 Bakhtin, Mikhail 44 Baumgarten, Murray 151 Begley, Louis 2, 17, 18–19, 49; background 49; on collective trauma 49; fictional approach to real truths 49–51; on narrative construction 60–65;

on psychological truth 55; use of impersonal narrative voice 56–60; on using fiction and facts cohesively 54–55 Bellow, Saul 81 Berger, Alan 42, 106 “Beyond Eurocentricism: Trauma Theory in the Global Age” (Craps) 113 Bigsby, Christopher 42 Bildung 138 Blanchot, Maurice 75 The Book of Antecedents 157–159, 162 Borowski, Isaac 18, 99–100 Borowski, Keller 108 Boyarin, Daniel 7 Bruns, Gerald 7 Bukiet, Melvin Jules 7, 12 Caruth, Cathy 7, 8–9; on individual trauma 13; perspective on trauma 9 Carver, Raymond 178 Chagall, Marc 130, 132–135, 138, 141 Chagall painting 134–135 Chagall plagiarisms 134 choiceless choice, concept of 107, 121n1 circular historicity: midrashic engagements and 150–152 Clark, Hilary 19 Cohen, Arthur A. 17, 45n7, 73, 107, 120 Colebrook, Claire 8 collective memory 126, 161 collective trauma 5–8, 49 competitive memory 4 Confino, Alon 4

182 Index Connerton, Paul 121, 151 Contemporary American Trauma Narratives (Gibbs) 10 control, assertion and narratives 65–69 The Counterlife (Roth) 70 Craps, Stef 21n4, 113 cultural authorship, over trauma stories 110–111 cultural trauma 2, 11; identityforming collective narrative of 16; insterstices between individual 14–17 damaged goods 111–113 Dante, Alighieri 51, 55, 78 Daschke, Dereck 130 Dawn (Wiesel) 26–27, 43 deep memory 57 Delbo, Charlotte 1, 9, 33, 42; deep memory 57 Der Nister 125–127, 130, 132–142, 145 Deutscher, Isaac 17, 172 dialogic 5, 11, 39, 173 The Diary of Anne Frank 119, 178 Dilthey, Wilhelm 125 Diner, Hasia 38 “Di toyte shtot” (Peretz) 130 Divine Comedy (Dante) 51, 78 Douglass, Ana 50 The Drowned and the Saved (Levi) 3 early childhood anxiety 59 Ecologies of Witnessing (PollinGallay) 4 Eliade, Mircea 150 encaustic memories: breaking down past and present distinctions 105–108; close contact 105–108; cultural authorship over trauma stories 110–111; encountering the ghosts 103–105; between filial rage and generational forgiveness 108–110; first- and secondgeneration trauma 100–103; generational connections to past 103–105; imposing trauma 108–110; individual authorship over trauma stories 110–111; navigating parental trauma and one’s own 111–113; overview 99–100; parental narratives 113–115; progressive narrative outlook in overcoming trauma

118–121; remembering, letting go, and incorporating past into present 115–118; tragic narrative outlook in overcoming trauma 118–121; traumatic impositions 100–103 Englander, Nathan 13, 18, 81, 178–179 Everything Is Illuminated (Foer) 2, 6, 17, 18, 20, 134, 176; connective phantasmagorias of meaning 155–158; fictional records 162–165; fiction as history in 148–170; generational catharsis in dyadic encounters 169–170; generational catharsis in generational encounters 169–170; generational positions 150–152; imaginative representation 167– 168; integrating past-tensed facts 158–162; interrelations between place and its stories 152–154; language and silence 155–158; limitations of fictional meaning creation 149–150; memory’s narrative dependencies 167–168; midrashic engagements and circular historicity 150–152; narrative realities 165–167; narrative trajectories 149–150; permeating events and stories 165–167; (re) constructing the past 152–154; tracking meanings between past and present 162–165; workable terminologies 158–162 external hiding 52 Family Crisis (Der Nister) 135 Fasching, Darrell 110 Fatelessness (Kertész) 62 Felman, Shoshana 6–7 fiction: autonomous 143; as history in Everything Is Illuminated 148–170; of memory 53; post-Holocaust 129; see also fictionalization “fictional facts” 8 fictionalization: of actual facts 51–53; and passing of ownership 58–60; of the self 51–53; in Wartime Lies (Begley) 50; see also fiction fictional records 162–165 Fine, Ellen 24 first generation: communicativenarrative exchange with second generation 81; on Holocaust trauma 1; testimony of Holocaust

Index  183 trauma 73; trauma 81–85, 100– 103, 115–116, 118, 122n2; trauma narratives 9; see also generations Fishbane, Michael 7 Five Chimneys: A Woman Survivor’s True Story of Auschwitz (Lengyel) 3, 42 Foer, Jonathan Safran 2, 6, 13, 17, 20, 149, 152–156, 159–161, 163–165, 169, 170n1, 177; see also Everything Is Illuminated (Foer) Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood (Wilkomirski) 70n5 Frank, Arthur 74 Frankl, Victor E. 6, 30, 121n1, 128 Franklin, Ruth 46n11 Freud, Sigmund 122n2 Fritzsche, Peter 4 Fugitive Pieces (Michael) 77 generation see individual entries generational catharsis: in dyadic encounters 169–170; in generational encounters 169–170 generational connections to the past 103–105 generational positions: and circular historicity 150–152; and midrashic engagements 150–152 generational temporal connections 125–130 The Generation of Postmemory (Hirsch) 2, 99, 108 generations: generational categorization and Holocaust trauma 4; and Holocaust trauma 3–5; reliving trauma 9–10; see also first generation; second generation; third generation genocide trauma 5 ‘genuine historicity’ 125 ghosts: encountering 103–105; generational connections to the past 103–105 Gibbs, Alan 3, 9, 10 The Golems of Gotham (Rosenbaum) 17, 77, 177 Goodman, Allegra 13 A Guide for the Perplexed (Horn) 126 Halbwachs, Maurice 126 Hartman, Geoffrey 5, 7, 16, 177 Havazelet, Ehud 13 hiding: external 52; internal 52

Hirsch, Marianne 2, 11, 13, 99–102, 104, 108, 116, 121, 160 historiographical metafiction 125 History and Memory (LaCapra) 77 Hoffman, Eva 12, 87 Holocaust 99–121, 126–127, 129, 136, 138–139, 148–151, 154–155, 157, 161–163, 166, 170, 172–179; literature 20n1, 73, 136, 150, 175; memorials 105; survivors 40, 74, 100, 139, 166; see also Holocaust trauma; specific writings Holocaust Effect 74 Holocaust Representation 74 Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (Langer) 175 Holocaust trauma 112, 120, 129, 173–175, 178–179; and culture 16; first generation on 1; and generations 3–5; mythologization of 41–45; second generation on 2; and silence in writing 37–41; “symbolic production” 42; third generation on 2; see also trauma Horn, Dara 2, 6, 13, 17, 19–20 Hungerford, Amy 6, 15 Hutcheon, Linda 125 identity: Jewish 17, 62–63, 132, 178; narrated 51–53; real, and narrative construction 60–65; shift of trauma survivors 33; and trauma 32–34 If this Is a Man (Levi) 42 imaginative representation: memory’s narrative dependencies 167–168 individual authorship, over trauma stories 110–111 individual memory 126 individual trauma 49; Caruth on 13; insterstices between cultural 14–17 In Search of Lost Time (Proust) 127 internal hiding 52 In the Image (Horn) 126 Israeli Jews 178 Jewish identity 17, 62–63, 132, 178 Jewish orthodoxy 178 Jews 44, 52, 55, 57, 60, 62, 64–65, 128, 165, 175; American 178; Israeli 178 A Jew Today (Wiesel) 27–28, 44 Joas, Hans 15–16 Judaism 142 Jung, Carl Gustav 32

184 Index Kahanovich, Pinkhas 125; see also Der Nister Karpf, Anne 103 Katz, Duncan 18, 19, 99–121, 122n2, 128, 129, 131, 137, 140, 145, 177 Kazin, Alfred 34, 35–36 Kellermann, Natan 82 Kerby, Anthony 150 Kertész, Imre 24, 50, 62 Klee, Paul 87 Kohn, Robert E. 165 Konrad Wallenrod (Mickiewicz) 57 Koselleck, Reinhart 96n1, 103 Kulback, Boris 126, 135 LaCapra, Dominick 65, 66, 69, 77, 122n2, 124, 139–140 Lachmann, Renate 7 La Gerusalemme Liberata (Tasso) 9 Langer, Lawrence L. 7–8, 24, 33, 52, 107, 121n1, 175–176 language: connective phantasmagorias of meaning 155–158; and silence 155–158 La Nuit (Wiesel) 41 Laub, Dori 5–6 Le chant des morts (Wiesel) 1 Legends of Our Time (Wiesel) 1 Lengyel, Olga 3, 37–38, 42 Levi, Primo 3, 6, 36, 42–43, 65–67, 172–173, 175 Lifton, Robert 37 logotherapy 6 Luckhurst, Roger 9 Mächler, Stefan 69, 70n5 Manseau, Peter 38–39 Margalit, Avishai 128 Mauriac, François 34–35 McGlothlin, Erin 102–103 McHale, Brian 153, 165 McNally, Richard 10–11, 113 meaning creation 88, 142, 149–150 meaningful narratives 137–138 memory: collective 126, 161; competitive 4; deep 57; individual 126; narrative dependencies 167–168; referential connectedness of 103; as sixth sense 151 “memory candles” 128 metafiction, historiographical 125 Mickiewicz, Adam 57 midrashic engagements, and circular historicity 150–152

Midrashic Impulse (Osborne) 7, 143 mirage 45n8 Multidirectional Memory (Rothberg) 2 Muselmann 3, 29, 118 mysterium tremendum 17 The Myth of Moral Justice (Rosenbaum) 51, 102 Nabokov, Vladimir 58 Nachman of Bratslav 142–144 narratives: construction 60–65; and control 65–69; limitations of fictional meaning creation 149–150; meaningful 137–138; parental 113–115; permeating events and stories 165–167; and retelling one’s experiences 65–69 “narrative truth” 150 neo-Nazis 106–107 Neumann, Birgit 53, 70n3 The New York Times 162 Night (Wiesel) 1, 2, 3, 18–19, 83; doublings and repetitions in 25–32; father–child relationship 28; fictionalizing of narratives 24–25; and God 28–32; identities, and trauma 32–34; Kazin’s critical reading of 35–36; Mauriac’s critical reading of 34–35; mythologization of 41–45; as testimonial model 24–45 Nightfather (Friedman) 80, 96n2 None of Us Will Return (Delbo) 1 Orringer, Julie 13, 17 Osborne, Monica 7, 129, 143 The Other Kingdom (Rousset) 45n3 Otto, Rudolf 17 Oyneg Shabes 136 Ozick, Cynthia 81, 155, 172 parental narratives: exclusion from and inclusion into 113–115 parental trauma 111–113 Patt, Avinoam 4 people as stories 138–140 Peretz, I. L. 130, 136 “phenomenological chaos” 50 Plato 142 Pollin-Gallay, Hannah 4–5, 16 “post-Holocaust fiction” 129 postmemory, survivors: Hirsch’s concept of 11; and trauma theory 10–12

Index  185 powerful creativity, trauma narratives 2 progressive narrative outlook in overcoming trauma 118–121 psychoanalytical theory 96n4 Putzu, Vadim 131 Radstone, Susannah 3, 10 real identity, and narrative construction 60–65 realism, traumatic 50–51 Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust (Bigsby) 173 Remembering Trauma (McNally) 10 remembrance 1, 26, 78, 81, 82, 84, 85, 99, 121, 159 Remnants of Auschwitz (Agamben) 3 The Rescue of Memory (Sucher) 2, 7, 13, 19, 102, 103, 128, 140, 176, 177; equilibrium between past and present trauma 74–78; first generation trauma 81–85; and healing trauma 78–81; incorporation of past trauma into present narratives 93–96; meaningful presence of past through emancipation 89–93; photographs and reliving trauma 78–81; second generation trauma 81–85; second generation writing 73 Ricoeur, Paul 108, 111, 132 Rosen, Norma 4, 20n2, 81 Rosenbaum, Thane 2, 7, 9–10, 17, 73, 77, 99–121, 139, 176–177 Rosenblum, Jordan 127 Rosenfeld, Alvin 65–66, 67, 150 Roth, Philip 70, 81 Rothberg, Michael 2, 37, 129, 175; traumatic realism 50–51 Rousset, David 45n3 second generation: communicativenarrative exchange with first generation 81; on Holocaust trauma 2; and omnipresence of trauma 80; and overemphasis of trauma 73; trauma 81–85, 100–103, 113; trauma narratives 9–10; writing and first hand trauma 85–89; see also generations Second Hand Smoke (Rosenbaum) 2, 7, 12–13, 18, 19, 73, 77, 99–121; breaking down past and present distinctions 105–108; cultural authorship over trauma

stories 110–111; filial rage and generational forgiveness 108–110; first- and second-generation trauma 100–103; generational connections to past 103–105; ghosts, encountering 103–105; imposing trauma 108–110; individual authorship over trauma stories 110–111; navigating parental trauma 111–113; overview 99–100; parental narratives 113–115; progressive narrative outlook and trauma 118–121; tragic narrative outlook and trauma 118–121; traumatic impositions 100–103 Seidman, Naomi 24, 33–34 “The Seven Beggars” (Nahman of Bratslav) 142–144 Signs and Wonders (Bukiet) 12 Skibell, Joseph 17 “The Social Construction of Moral Universals” (Alexander) 8 social relations, and trauma 4 Socrates 142 Sophie’s Choice (Styron) 75 Stein, Arlene 24, 118 Stevenson, Robert Louis 57 stories: interrelations between place and its 152–154; as narrative intersections between generations 142–145; people as 138–140 “story dwellers” 110 Study for Over Vitebsk 135 Styron, William 75, 81 Sucher, Cheryl Pearl 2, 7, 9, 17, 73 Suleiman, Susan Rubin 53–54, 70n2 survivor vs. victim 66 “The Tale of the Seven Beggars” 143–144 The Tales of Rabbi Nachman 143 Talmud 6 Tasso, Torquato 9 Taylor, Charles 94, 126–127, 132–133 “testimonial object” 160 texts: Italian 51; Latin 51; trauma transfer through 6–7 theory of postmemory 99 third generation: on Holocaust trauma 2; trauma narratives 10 A Thousand Darknesses (Franklin) 46n11 tikkun olam 13, 19, 79 Time and Narrative (Ricoeur) 132

186 Index The Town Beyond the Wall (Wiesel) 28 tragic narrative outlook in overcoming trauma 118–121 trauma: Caruth’s perspective on 9; as connective force 17–18; dialogical nature of 5–8; between filial rage and generational forgiveness 108–110; first generation 81–85; first-generation 100–103, 115–116, 118, 122n2; forms of 12–13; genocide 5; healing 78–81; and identities 32–34; and identity 5; imposing 108–110; parental 111–113; progressive narrative outlook in overcoming 118–121; second generation 81–85; secondgeneration 100–103, 113; and social relations 4; tragic narrative outlook in overcoming 118–121; transfer through texts 6–7; see also Holocaust trauma Trauma: A Social Theory (Alexander) 14 “trauma drama” 101 Trauma: Explorations in Memory (Caruth) 8 trauma narratives: first generation 9; powerful creativity 2; second generation 9–10; third generation 10 trauma stories: cultural authorship over 110–111; individual authorship over 110–111 trauma theory: concepts 8–10; implications 8–10; outlooks 8–10; and survivors’ postmemory 10–12 “traumatic fragments” 13 traumatic impositions: connecting first- and second-generation trauma 100–103 traumatic realism 50–51 Treasure Island (Stevenson) 57 The Tremendum (Cohen) 45n7, 73 Unclaimed Experience (Caruth) 8–9 victim vs. survivor 66 Vietnam War 129, 139, 142 Virgil 51 Vogler, Thomas 50 Walker, Graham 42 Walker, Heidi 37 The War After (Karpf) 103

Wardi, Dina 106, 128 Warsaw Ghetto Monument 158 Wartime Lies (Begley) 2; control via narratives 65–69; emotional distance in 50; fictional approach to real truths 49–51; fictionalization in 50, 51–53; literary representations of experienced trauma 54; passing of ownership 58–60; use of impersonal narrative voice 56–60 Weigel, Sigrid 9 Weissman, Gary 4 What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank (Englander) 178 What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (Carver) 178 Wiesel, Elie 1, 2, 3, 9, 17–19, 24–45; father–child relationship in Night 28; Kazin on personification of Holocaust by 36; mythologization of Night 41–45; silence in Holocaust narratives 37–41; and split identity 32–34; use of doublings in Night 25–32; using belief system in Night 28–32 Wiesel, Shlomo 28 Wilkomirski, Binjamin 70n5 workable terminologies 158–162 The World to Come (Horn) 2, 6, 17, 18, 19–20, 176; choosing narrative, choosing life 130–132; connecting present, past, and future worlds 135–136; connecting worlds 138–140; creating future from the past 140–141; generational temporal connections 125–130; linguistic connections to translated pasts 132–135; meaningful narratives 137–138; overview 124–125; people as stories 138–140; storied bridges 135–136; stories as narrative intersections between generations 142–145 Yiddish culture 125 Yiddish language 132–133, 137–138, 155–156 Yiddish literature 125 Yiddish stories 130, 134, 136, 138, 142–143 Young, James E. 99, 105, 158 Zerubavel, Yael 6