Fiction Books on the Holocaust

Fiction Chronicle: Novels About the Holocaust
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Updated Jan. 22, 2011 12:01 a.m. ET

A barrier divides the diminishing numbers who lived through the Holocaust from the generations that can only know it second- or third-hand. Yet in literature there is an oddly reassuring continuity between past and present attempts to make fiction from the facts of genocide. To Holocaust survivors, the question has been: How can I possibly write about what I've seen? To contemporary novelists, the question is: How can I possibly write about what I haven't seen?

"Panorama" (Random House, 450 pages, $26), by Czech novelist H.G. Adler (1910-88), is a noteworthy example of the struggle to shape personal death-camp experience to the demands of fiction. Adler was a Jewish academic who survived Birkenau and Buchenwald and after the war moved to England to write. He was a prolific historian and novelist, but as he shows in "Panorama, " published in 1968 and now translated into English by Peter Filkins, he was aware of the perils of representation. His main character, Josef Kramer, observes how "unreal it all is when one gets involved with past suffering, " because each person's experience is too intimate and terrible to be fully conveyed. Ultimately, Adler writes, "one can see others but never reach them."

Adler's solution is to chronicle the past in its every traceable detail. For this reason, "Panorama" is less a novel than a patchwork of personal memory. It offers 10 slices of Josef's life, from his pastoral childhood to his youth as an earnest philosophy student to the "deep hole of horror" of the Holocaust. Adler renders these vignettes in coursing, stream-of-consciousness sentences, but the effect is less indicative of a modernist style than of the author's urgent race against the erasure of memory. Because "Panorama" has no plot and compiles its reflections rather than distills them, it is difficult to read straight through. Better to skim it alertly, like a stranger's scrapbook, for its indelible glimpses of a world that the Nazis systematically destroyed.

Ida Hattemer-Higgins's eerie, brilliant novel "The History of History" (Knopf, 319 pages, $25.95) is about a young woman haunted by memories that are not her own. One day, an American named Margaret Taub, troubled by inchoate guilt, returns to her Berlin apartment unable—or unwilling—to remember the previous year of her life. Prompted by an oracular "memory surgeon, " she begins recovering the past, but instead of her own recent history, she reanimates specters of the Nazi era. A phantasmagorical Berlin, constructed with mesmerizing lucidity, springs up before her eyes: Joseph Goebbels's wife, Magda, lives across the street, and the ghost of a Jewish woman who committed suicide during Hitler's rule comes by to play cards. The architecture of Margaret's madness is so precise and coherent that it clarifies her obsessive sense of guilt. Gradually, fragment by fragment, her lost time re-emerges, revealing a dark synchronicity with the apparitions who plagued her.

Source: online.wsj.com


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2009-05-21 09:59:01 by JessiStar

I haven't heard of Pigs in Heaven. I read some great books in college on assignment but they weren't for English Class. I was a history major so they were mostly history books. I was into the Holocaust and read a bunch of memoirs from survivors. However every philosophy book I read was awful. Philosophy was my minor...and I have no idea why. It was all so boring. I'm a good writer and I wrote great papers...and thats the only thing to get me through the class.
But sure...what books are you reading on your own? I've just started The Devil in the White City. Historical fiction. Kinda good so far.

The Holocaust Industry...

2009-01-07 19:43:07 by Pious_Infidel

What a friggin' disgrace...
-------
Disputed Holocaust memoir could reappear as fiction
A Holocaust survivor's memoir of love in a Nazi concentration camp, which was yanked from publication last month when he admitted it was a hoax, could reappear as a work of fiction.
Berkley Books, a unit of Penguin Books, has canceled a planned publication of Herman Rosenblat's memoir, "Angel at the Fence."
But York House Press, a small publishing house based in White Plains, New York, has said it was "in serious discussion" to publish the book as a work of fiction


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