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The Unspeakable: Narratives of Trauma

Edited By Magda Stroinska, Vikki Cecchetto and Kate Szymanski

How does a trauma survivor communicate «what can’t be said out loud» to others? In what form? How can we – readers, listeners, viewers – recognize the pain and suffering hidden behind words, pictures, or other artifacts produced by trauma survivors? This volume presents a possible response by bringing together the «expressions of the unspeakable» by trauma survivors and the interpretation of researchers in various fields, i.e. clinical psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, literary and film scholars, historians, and visual artists, some of whom are survivors of trauma. By describing or analyzing different strategies for finding a narrative form for expressing the survivor’s trauma, the contributors offer not only insights into how the survivors dealt with the pain of traumatic memories but also how they were able to find hope for healing by telling their stories, in literature, graphic novels, visual art or simply by creating a personal narrative in their own voice.
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A Trauma in Hiding: The Case of Jules Marchal


Lieve Spaas


For the duration of his appointment as District Commissioner, first in the Belgian Congo (1948–1960), then in the independent nation of Congo/Zaire (1960–1967), Jules Marchal was not aware of the atrocities that were being committed against the population. It was not until the 1970s when he became Belgian Ambassador to West Africa, that he was confronted with ‘Congo’s dark history’. His case is poignant in that he never overcame the trauma of having worked as a District Commissioner in the Belgian Congo and being unaware of the ‘Congo atrocities’. He spent the years from 1975 to his death in 2003 researching and publishing the history of Belgian colonization of the Congo. In Lord Leverhulme’s Ghosts: Colonial Exploitation in the Congo and in his multiple volume history of the Belgian presence in the Congo, he sought to expose the massacres and forced labour used as tools of subjugation.

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