Released on 17Nov2010
A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, by Ruth Franklin
Is it barbaric to write a poem about the Holocaust? Is it barbaric to read one?
What is the difference between writing a novel about the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives about the Holocaust have a special obligation to be “truthful” –faithful to the facts of history? When is it okay to lie about the Holocaust?
In her provocative study A Thousand Darknesses, Ruth Franklin investigates these questions as they arise in the most significant works of Holocaust fiction, from Tadeusz Borowski's Auschwitz stories to Jonathan Safran Foer’s postmodernist family history. Franklin argues that the memory-obsessed culture of the last few decades has led us
to mistakenly focus on testimony as the only valid form of Holocaust writing. As even the most canonical texts have come under scrutiny for their fidelity to the facts, we have
lost sight of the essential role that imagination plays in the creation of any literary work, including the memoir.
Taking a fresh look at memoirs by Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, and examining novels by writers such as Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, W.G. Sebald, and Wolfgang Koeppen, Franklin
makes a persuasive case for literature as an equally vital vehicle for understanding the Holocaust (and for memoir as an equally ambiguous form). The result is a study of immense depth and range that offers a lucid view of an often cloudy field.
Presents a spirited, polemical perspective on the key works of Holocaust literature
Offers an eloquent sweeping history of Holocaust literature-covers the integral works of both memoir and fiction, ranging from Elie Wiesel to Jonathan Safran Foer
Ruth Franklin - literary and cultural critic and a senior editor at The New Republic. Her book reviews and essays appear also in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, Granta, and Slate.