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The Shriek of Silence

The Shriek of Silence: A Phenomenology of the Holocaust Novel

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Shriek of Silence
    Book Description:

    "In the Holocaust novel, silence is always a character, and the word is always its subject matter." So writes David Patterson in this profound and original study of more than thirty important writers. Contrary to existing views, he argues, the Holocaust novel is not an attempt to depict an unimaginable reality or an ineffable horror. It is, rather, an endeavor to fetch the word from silence and restore it to meaning, to resurrect the human soul, to regenerate the relation between the self and God, the self and other, the self and itself.

    This book is less a critical study in the usual sense than an impassioned meditation on the deeper sources of the Holocaust novel. Among the authors examined are Elie Wiesel, Arnost Lustig, Aharon Appelfeld, Katzetnik 135633, Primo Levi, Yehuda Amichai, Piotr Rawicz, A. Anatoli, Saul Bellow, I.B. Singer, Anna Langfus, Rachmil Bryks, and Ilse Aichinger.

    The Shriek of Silenceis a first in several respects: the first to examine the Holocaust novels in their original languages, the first to articulate a theoretical basis for its approach, and the first phenomenological investigation -- one that attempts to penetrate the process of creation for these novelists. Organized along conceptual lines, the book examines "the word in exile," the themes of death of the father and the child, transformations of the self, and the implications of the reader. Its philosophical foundations are Rosenzweig, Buber, Neher, and Levinas. Its critical approach is shaped by Bakhtin.

    The novelists of the Holocaust, in witnessing through their words, regain their voices and in so doing are reborn. By probing the depths of their struggle, Patterson's study draws us too toward a higher understanding, perhaps even our own rebirth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6149-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Prologue
    (pp. 1-2)

    “And it came to pass in those days that terror denied all languages and frontiers” (Wiesel,Six Days5). For those were days invaded by night, the days of the reign of the Kingdom of Night. They are days that haunt and harrow all subsequent days, words, and deeds, cutting through the frontiers of language and meaning that might once have divided light from darkness. Terror has undone time and with it that being that once inhabited the heart of human being, the being of the word. “There is no peace for the darkened valleys,” Amos Oz has said, “something...

  4. 1 Theoretical Background
    (pp. 3-28)

    “Let him who wants fervor not seek it on the mountain peaks,” the Maggid of Mezeritch once said. “Rather let him stoop and search among the ashes” (see Wiesel,Souls71). Since 1945, however, the world has lived on a mountain of ashes—the ashes of children, ashes of God’s chosen, ashes of God Himself. The winds of Auschwitz have quite literally, quite graphically, scattered the people of the Covenant, and with them the Covenant itself, over the face of the earth. The people inhabit the soil that yields our bread; they haunt the air we breathe. I have heard...

  5. 2 The Word in Exile
    (pp. 29-53)

    “At grief so deep the tongue must wag in vain; / the language of our sense and memory / lacks the vocabulary of such pain.” Thus wrote Dante in hisInferno(235). But, as we shall see, the problem of language in the Holocaust novel is not a matter of insufficient vocabulary. Those who pursue the word in exile enter realms undreamt of even by Dante.

    Casting the word into exile inaugurates the reign of silence and initiates the human struggle for presence through redemption. Yet within the silence that occludes the voice is hidden a remnant, a seed, of...

  6. 3 The Death of the Father
    (pp. 54-76)

    The line of Jewish ancestry is matrilineal, since it is from the body of the mother that the human being is born into life. The mouth of the father, however, transmits the word that sustains life—transmits it from mouth to mouth, not from mouth to ear. When handed down through tales, the word “belongs as much to the listener as to the teller,” Elie Wiesel has written. “You listen to a tale and all of a sudden it is no longer the same tale” (Beggar107). The telling of the tale becomes part of the tale itself; or, as...

  7. 4 The Death of the Child
    (pp. 77-97)

    “I want to see with my own eyes the lamb lie down with the lion,” says Ivan to his brother Alyosha, “and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been about. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer. But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them?” (Dostoyevsky 225). That is the question with which we now collide in our movement toward the visceral recesses of the event we term the Holocaust...

  8. 5 The Splitting of the Self
    (pp. 98-122)

    “The shattering of the ‘I,’” Aharon Appelfeld has written, “is one of the deepest wounds” caused by the Shoah (Essays99). The pen that descends to the page is a scalpel that cuts into the soul, incising a wound to heal this wound. In the words of Edmond Jabès, “the book is a moment of the wound, or eternity” (28). The self bled of word, father, and child splits, and the task with which the book confronts its author is to split again and thus become other to himself in an utterance of the splitting of the self. Bakhtin insists...

  9. 6 The Resurrection of the Self
    (pp. 123-144)

    Elie Wiesel has written, “It is not given to man to begin; that privilege is God’s alone. But it is given to man to begin again—and he does so every time he chooses to defy death and side with. the living” (Messengers32). Many commonly view art as a kind of hubris, whereby a mere mortal assumes or unsurps the role of the Creator to call a world into being. Such a view cannot apply to the Holocaust novel. There the mortal does not create but re-creates; there the author does not begin but begins again. “My purpose and the...

  10. 7 The Implication of the Reader
    (pp. 145-167)

    InThe Dialogic ImaginationMikhail Bakhtin argues that the novel “and the world represented in it enter the real world and enirch it, and the real world enters the work and its world as part of the process of its creation, as well as part of its subsequent life, in a continual renewing of the work through the creative perception of listeners and readers” (254). This statement describes what we have called a phenomenological approach to the novel as an event. Examining what occurs in the process of the novel’s creation, we deal not only with author and character but...

  11. Epilogue
    (pp. 168-169)

    As he lay dying, Franz Rosenzweig said: “And now it comes, the point of all points, which the Lord has truly revealed to me in my sleep: the point of all points for which there . . .” (Glatzer 174). Thus in the hour of his death the man was blessed with the revelation of what cannot be conveyed, a revelation of what we the living shall have to do without. As Elie Wiesel has written, “The image of God cannot be transmitted; it can be carried away only in death” (Beggar200). So the point at which we arrive...

  12. Works Cited
    (pp. 170-176)
  13. Index
    (pp. 177-180)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 181-181)