on 17 June 2008
This modest volume consists of a number of essays by academics teaching courses on the Holocaust in the UK. Aside from the essays themselves, which at times are not without interest (on using theory or film or testimony, etc), I was shocked at the repetitiveness of the list of books, fiction or otherwise, film, etc. Yes, there is a kind of canon of Holocaust literature (e.g., Wiesel's Night, Primo Levi, If this be a Man, the work of Charlotte Delbo and Tadeusz Borowski) and there is one of film: Shoah, Night and Fog, Schindler's List, Life is Beautiful). But there is just so much more in both media that deserve attention and have become classics in their own right:
André Schwarz-Bart, The Last of the Just (winner of the Prix Goncourt in 1960), Leslie Epstein, King of the Jews (a farcical exuberant novel of life in the ghetto (mostly based on the ghetto of Lodz), Jiri Weil, Life with a Star (a Czech existentialist tour de force), Carl Friedman, Nightfather (a child's response to a Duch father returned from the camps and obsessed with his experience), Cordelia Edvardson, Burnt Child Seeks the Fire (a haunting autobiographical account of a German girl, raised Catholic, but considered Jewish, who ends up in Auschwitz), Louis BEgley, Wartime Lies (a semiautobiographical fiction of a boy's life with an aunt passing on the "Aryan' side in Poland), David Wdowinski, And We ARe Not Saved (a Polish tour de force of the Warsaw Ghetto), Aharon Appelfeld (Tzili: a Life, and many others), David Grossman's masterpiece: See Under: Love. And the list could go and on. As for films, The Shop on Main Street (Czech), The Boat is Full (Swiss), Europa Europa (German), Sunshine (Hungarian), The Revolt of Job (also Hungarian), Korzcak (by the great Polish filmmaker, Wajda), etc. etc. in addition to wonderful documentaries never mentioned. What does this say about the UK, when all the essays in the volume are by serious acomplished folks, and yet the horizon is so severely limited? I teach such courses here in the US and the difference to me is quite astounding.