Haunting Legacies

Haunting Legacies: Violent Histories and Transgenerational Trauma

Gabriele Schwab
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Haunting Legacies
    Book Description:

    From mass murder to genocide, slavery to colonial suppression, acts of atrocity have lives that extend far beyond the horrific moment. They engender trauma that echoes for generations, in the experiences of those on both sides of the act. Gabriele Schwab reads these legacies in a number of narratives, primarily through the writing of postwar Germans and the descendents of Holocaust survivors. She connects their work to earlier histories of slavery and colonialism and to more recent events, such as South African Apartheid, the practice of torture after 9/11, and the "disappearances" that occurred during South American dictatorships.

    Schwab's texts include memoirs, such as Ruth Kluger's Still Alive and Marguerite Duras's La Douleur; second-generation accounts by the children of Holocaust survivors, such as Georges Perec's W, Art Spiegelman's Maus, and Philippe Grimbert's Secret; and second-generation recollections by Germans, such as W. G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Sabine Reichel's What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?, and Ursula Duba's Tales from a Child of the Enemy. She also incorporates her own reminiscences of growing up in postwar Germany, mapping interlaced memories and histories as they interact in psychic life and cultural memory. Schwab concludes with a bracing look at issues of responsibility, reparation, and forgiveness across the victim/perpetrator divide.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52635-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  5. chapterone Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)

    The epigraphs borrowed from Ruth Kluger, Nicolas Abraham, and Ishmael Beah raise the question of how both victims and perpetrators pass on the ineradicable legacies of violent histories through generations. The transmission of violent legacies by far exceeds the passing on of historical knowledge or even of stories with thick descriptions of personal involvement. What I call “haunting legacies” are things hard to recount or even to remember, the results of a violence that holds an unrelenting grip on memory yet is deemed unspeakable. The psychic core of violent histories includes what has been repressed or buried in unreachable psychic...

  6. chaptertwo Writing Against Memory and Forgetting
    (pp. 41-66)

    We tell or write stories in order to defer death. In his story “The End,” Samuel Beckett approximates the end from the distant memory of a possible life story: “The memory came faint and cold of the story I might have told, a story in the likeness of my life, I mean without the courage to end or the strength to go on.” ¹ Stories in “the likeness of … life” reside in a transitional space between memory and forgetting. They arise from faint memories, memories not to be trusted. Life writings often emerge from a traumatic core, occupying a...

  7. chapterthree Hauntxing Legacies: Trauma in Children of Perpetrators
    (pp. 67-91)

    The thoughts I am presenting here are a first attempt to formulate my ideas about the traumatic effects of growing up among a generation of children of a perpetrator nation. I was born in Germany after World War II and grew up in a small border town in the south, just across from Switzerland at the outer edges of the Black Forest. I am one of the “children of the enemy,” invoked in Ursula Duba’s poem. Unlike her, I experienced the carpet bombing only secondhand, through endlessly reiterated war stories. My mother and grandmother’s stories about the war have merged...

  8. chapterfour Identity Trouble: Guilt, Shame, and Idealization
    (pp. 92-117)

    These five epigraphs can be read as paradigmatic illustrations of particular forms of identity trouble that emerge from emotional conflicts over ethnic, racial, or national interpellations. Althusser defines interpellation as the hailing of subjects into specific cultural, political, or legal positions. If we walk down a street, for example, and hear a policeman shout: “Hey, stop immediately!” we feel interpellated in the same way as a criminal would even if we have never committed a crime. Rather than as ontological givens, I argue, race and ethnicity operate on the register of affects and emotions as cultural and political interpellations. These...

  9. chapterfive Replacement Children: The Transgenerational Transmission of Traumatic Loss
    (pp. 118-150)

    Whether we know it or not, writing always carries traces of our lives. Most often these traces remain hidden, or we are satisfied with being only faintly aware of them. Certain experiences, especially traumatic or haunting ones, push for more overt articulation. In order to perceive and integrate their hidden traces, we need transformational objects, that is, objects that evoke a distant, often unconscious memory of the traumatic event or history.¹ Commonly, such memories are not immediately linked to the event as such. Often they are involuntary, like the memories triggered by Proust’s famous experience of the madeleine that transported...

  10. chaptersix Deadly Intimacy: The Politics and Psychic Life of Torture
    (pp. 151-182)

    “Their secret was death, not sex. That’s what the grown-ups were talking about, sitting up late around the table.… I wanted to get in on the forbidden news, the horror stories, fascinating though incomplete as they always were—or perhaps even more fascinating for their opaqueness, that whiff of fantasy they had about them, though one knew they were true.” ¹ This is how Ruth Kluger, a child survivor of the Holocaust, opens her memoir, Still Alive. She makes us look at the uncanny proximity of horror and fascination, the lure of secrecy, and our penchant to invest horror with...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-202)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-210)
  13. Index
    (pp. 211-230)