Page 47 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 37

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DAVID MIRSKY
Abuse of the Holocaust in Literature
T
h is
paper
is
p a r t o f a larger study which I have called “T he Use
and Abuse o f the Holocaust in L itera tu re .” T h a t study treats such
questions as: Is the literary imagination capable o f dealing with
the Holocaust; is now the time fo r such endeavors; if it is, is the
creative pen an adequate instrum en t for do ing so, and are the
available literary forms app rop r ia te fo r such undertakings. T he
focus o f my inquiries led me to deal almost entirely with novels
written in English, mostly by Americans, the work o f au tho rs who
are no t themselves survivors o f the Holocaust, and who did not
experience the Holocaust first-hand.
My examinations encompassed the work o f many o f ou r serious
and highly rega rded literary artists, bu t did no t exclude popu lar
fiction, in the belief tha t the la tter no less than the fo rm e r can help
us und e rs tand problems which confron t au tho rs who are led to
deal with the Holocaust, o ffer us insights into determ in ing why
they are drawn to do so, and aid us in studying the methods and
devices employed by them in dealing with such overwhelming
matter.
Because o f the limits set fo r it, my paper will deal only with what
I call “Abuse o f the Holocaust in L itera tu re” and will adum bra te
fou r types o f such “abuse.” Two o f these types I will touch on
ra th e r briefly, pointing to examples which illustrate what I believe
to be more blatant and scabrous abuses. T he o the r two, which I
consider to be more subtle and more insidious types o f abuse, I
will deal with in some g rea ter length.
T h e re are those who dismiss the Holocaust, wave it away as o f
no matter. One o f the most respected men o f letters in America,
repo rts Cynthia Ozick, revealed to h er in conversation: “For me
the Holocaust and a corn cob are the same.”1This attitude finds
overt expression in non-fictional writing, in tracts which question
the historicity o f the Holocaust o r pu t fo rth the thesis tha t there
never was such a phenom enon as a “Final Solution,” tha t all talk o f
it is a carefully p lanned cabal to discredit the German people or
1 “On Jewish Dreaming,”
J.W.B. Circle Books in Review,
October 1977, p. 28.
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