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Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance

Debarati Sanyal
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance
    Book Description:

    Since World War II, French and Francophone literature and film have repeatedly sought not to singularize the Holocaust as the paradigm of historical trauma but rather to connect its memory with other memories of violence, namely that of colonialism. These works produced what Debarati Sanyal calls a "memory-incomplicity" attuned to the gray zones that implicate different regimes of violence across history as well as those of different subject positions such as victim, perpetrator, witness, and reader/spectator. Examining a range of works from Albert Camus, Primo Levi, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Paul Sartre to Jonathan Littell, Assia Djebar, Giorgio Agamben, and Boualem Sansal, Memory and Complicity develops an inquiry into the political force and ethical dangers of such implications, contrasting them with contemporary models for thinking about trauma and violence and offering an extended meditation on the role of aesthetic form, especially allegory, within acts of transhistorical remembrance. What are the political benefits and ethical risks of invoking the memory of one history in order to address another? What is the role of complicity in making these connections? How does complicity, rather than affect based discourses of trauma, shame and melancholy, open a critical engagement with the violence of history? What is it about literature and film that have made them such powerful vehicles for this kind of connective memory work? As it offers new readings of some of the most celebrated and controversial novelists, filmmakers, and playwrights from the French-speaking world, Memory and Complicity addresses these questions in order to reframe the way we think about historical memory and its political uses today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6551-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: Pathways of Memory, Dangerous Intersections
    (pp. 1-22)

    This book is about how literature and film can bear witness to violence and atrocity by bringing together ostensibly different histories through a reflection on complicity.Complicityis a word typically used to mean participation in wrongdoing, or collaboration with evil, and yet it is also an engagement with the complexity of the world we inhabit. The Latin root of complicity,complicare, “to fold together,” conveys the gathering of subject positions, histories, and memories that are the subject of this investigation. In a time of unprecedented connection with other peoples and histories, complicity and solidarity may be two sides of...

  5. ONE A Soccer Match in Auschwitz: Passing Trauma in Holocaust Studies
    (pp. 23-55)

    InThe Drowned and the Saved, his final meditation on the Nazi camps, Primo Levi describes a scene reported by Miklós Nyiszli, a Hungarian Jewish physician who worked as pathologist for Josef Mengele and survived the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz. Nyiszli describes a soccer game played in the courtyard of the crematorium between the Schutzstaffel (SS) and the Sonderkommando (SK), a squad composed primarily of Jewish prisoners in charge of duties at the crematoria: “So, Nyiszli tells how during a ‘work’ pause, he attended a soccer game between the SS and the SK, that is to say, between a group representing...

  6. TWO Concentrationary Migrations in and around Albert Camus
    (pp. 56-98)

    Perhaps the most important allegorist to emerge from World War II, Albert Camus gave lasting expression to the postwar imagination of historical terror. If David Rousset’sL’univers concentrationnaire(1946) and Robert Antelme’sL’espèce humaine(1947) diagnosed the structure and phenomenology of concentrationary experience in testimonial and philosophical form, Camus’s literary works charted its reverberations for other times and places. Although neither a survivor nor a firsthand witness, Camus was haunted by the fact of the concentration camps (which he termedle fait concentrationnaire) and the possibility of its resurgence, just as Primo Levi had wondered if the world of the...

  7. THREE Auschwitz as Allegory: From Night and Fog to Guantánamo Bay
    (pp. 99-148)

    What does it mean for the memory of atrocity to emerge from within the shadow of complicity, especially when it is the memory of others, of those who perished in the camps? And what happens when the particularity of that memory is turned into a figure for other causes, when those who are summoned to remember are torn between the competing demands of testimony and politics? France’s postwar aesthetics of complicity were shaped by the Nazi occupation and its gray zones, yet its practitioners also sought to fashion a future-oriented politics of remembrance. As the preceding chapters suggest, figures such...

  8. FOUR Crabwalk History: Torture, Allegory, and Memory in Sartre
    (pp. 149-181)

    How can writing do justice to the sheer violence of torture while investigating its interlocking meanings at a particular historical juncture? In literature, the bodily encounter of torture has often given rise to the allegorical imagination and its displacements: Kafka’s executionary harrow, the scarred body of the barbarian at the heart and margins of Coetzee’s empire, or, as I shall suggest in this chapter, the crabs that haunt Sartre’s playThe Condemned of Altona. It is as though torture’s embodied experience could be conveyed only paradoxically, by veering away from materiality into abstraction. Yet there is an understandable reluctance to...

  9. FIVE Reading Nazi Memory in Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones
    (pp. 182-212)

    What is the cultural significance of Jonathan Littell’s monumentalThe Kindly Ones(2006) and its narrative of Nazi perpetration within what Annette Wieviorka has described as our contemporary “era of the witness,” a time in which the act of testimony and the victim’s voice have acquired unprecedented historical and moral authority.¹ Along with other scholars of collective memory, Wieviorka identifies the Eichmann trial and its global transmission of Holocaust testimony as a turning point in the rise of the witness. By giving voice to the suffering of survivors, the trial established the witness, subjective memory, and lived experience as key...

  10. SIX Holocaust and Colonial Memory in the Age of Terror: Assia Djebar and Boualem Sansal
    (pp. 213-264)

    In Charles Baudelaire’s classic meditation on memory, allegory, and urban space, the poetic subject transforms Paris of the Second Empire into a junkyard whose debris, like fossils, retains traces of multiple pasts. “The Swan”¹ illustrates allegory’s power to destroy what is there in order to resurrect what has vanished: The poet erects precarious memorial building blocks against Paris’s towering monuments. The city’s smooth facades of forgetting become palimpsests that bear the imprint of those no longer there. From the opening address (“Andromaque, I think of you”) to the tubercular “Negress” from the colonies, to “the captives! the vanquished! . ....

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 265-268)

    The texts and films discussed in this book illustrate the ethical work enabled by cultural representations, the force of allegory in contrast to the poverty of analogy. In the works that I have considered, aesthetic form becomes a laboratory for experimenting with practices of memory and representation. Rhetorical devices disrupt given patterns of remembrance and belonging while illuminating the forces that govern a field of representation. The artifice of aesthetic expression, its polyphony and irony, beckons partial and suspended identifications, teaching us to read in multiple directions and to identify proximities between different formations (psychic, cultural, historical) without turning them...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 269-332)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 333-342)