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By Ruth Franklin

What's the distinction among writing a singular concerning the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives concerning the Holocaust have a different legal responsibility to be 'truthful'--that is, devoted to the proof of history?
Or is it ok to lie in such works?

In her provocative research A Thousand Darknesses, Ruth Franklin investigates those questions as they come up within the most important works of Holocaust fiction, from Tadeusz Borowski's Auschwitz tales to Jonathan Safran Foer's postmodernist relations historical past. Franklin argues that the memory-obsessed tradition of the previous few a long time has led us to mistakenly specialize in testimony because the in basic terms legitimate kind of Holocaust writing. As even the main canonical texts have come lower than scrutiny for his or her constancy to the evidence, we now have overlooked the fundamental function that mind's eye performs within the production of any literary paintings, together with the memoir.

Taking a clean examine memoirs by way of Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, and reading novels via writers akin to Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, W.G. Sebald, and Wolfgang Koeppen, Franklin makes a persuasive case for literature as an both important motor vehicle for figuring out the Holocaust (and for memoir as an both ambiguous form). the result's a learn of significant intensity and variety that provides a lucid view of a regularly cloudy field.

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Extra info for A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

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In another letter around the same time, he expressed a withering condemnation of some earlier Polish poets and their preference for florid description and “Byronic grief ” over reality: “Please believe me when I say that some parts of Germany (Dresden, Württemberg, the Alps, for example) are as beautiful as the landscapes in the novels of bygone centuries. But when we walked across them in prison stripes, we did not extol the beauty of this country. . The most beautiful city? Frankfurt reduced to rubble.

It was an act that many critics, most prominently Czesław Miłosz, have understood as the unavoidable consequence of his political compromises. ” In propaganda, according to Miłosz, he found the ideal vehicle for his fury, and he grew addicted to the esteem that his “malignant articles” brought him. “His mind, like that of so many Eastern [European] intellectuals, was impelled toward self-annihilation,” Miłosz concluded. Miłosz also repeated the rumor that Borowski, after surviving Auschwitz with Tuśka and later settling in Poland with her, had been unfaithful and found the guilt too much to bear.

But this does not really explain anything, since by the year before his death it was already far too late for Borowski to avoid compromise. Two weeks before Borowski’s suicide, according to Kott, Czesław Mankiewicz, an old friend of his who had previously been tortured by the Gestapo, was arrested by the Polish Security Service. ” In The Captive Mind, Miłosz commented that “those who observed him in the last months of his feverish activity were of the opinion that the discrepancy between what he said in his public statements and what his quick mind could perceive was increasing daily.

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