Memory’s Long Voyage
Chapter 3: Memory and Writing in L’Évanouissement and L’Écriture ou la vie
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Memory and Writing in L’Évanouissement and L’Écriture ou la vie
The difficulty surrounding the representation of the Holocaust discussed in the last chapter raises questions regarding the transcription of memories into writing and the creative process which forms part of it. In order to explore the interplay between memory and writing more thoroughly this chapter will focus on L’Évanouissement (1967) and L’Écriture ou la vie (1994). These works are separated by more than twenty years, yet it will be argued that both deal, albeit differently, with the writing process, and therefore trace the evolution of Semprún’s attitude towards writing over time. In L’Écriture, which is much more overtly autobiographical than L’Évanouissement, Semprún revists his experience of Buchenwald, as the news of Primo Levi’s death prompts him to re-examine his memories. He discusses the difficulties associated with writing about trauma and reflects on the writing process in general. Whereas the later work, L’Écriture, is permeated by meta-literary remarks and, not least because of this, came to be highly popular with critics, L’Évanouissement, Semprún’s second publication, is the only one that is out of print nowadays, and has been largely forgotten. Bearing in mind the polysemy of the title,1 it will be argued that the text implicitly deals with the writer’s difficulty in putting his memories down on paper. The novel is set on the day of the Hiroshima bomb and focuses...
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