Edited By Lucyna Aleksandrowicz-Pędich and Jacek Partyka
“False Veins Under the Skin”: Does Edward Lewis Wallant’s The Pawnbroker Fail as Holocaust Fiction?
The 1960s was the time of the first attempts to elevate the Holocaust to the status of a significant theme in Jewish-American literature. The reasons for the subject matter being almost absent or at most marginally present in American fiction during the previous fifteen years are perhaps rather difficult to elucidate, or, paradoxically, quite obvious. And this paradox should not be “defused” as it testifies to the still thought-provoking problem of representing the unrepresentable, of adjusting the existing language to a radically foreign experience. To name such an experience necessitates at least some basic understanding of it, and for the few survivors of Treblinka, Auschwitz, Chelmno or Bergen-Belsen this must have been an intellectual (and emotional) challenge, if not a virtual impossibility. Besides, the fact of personal suffering does not guarantee an ability to adequately render the pain and the loss into words. It is therefore hard to say whether the “literary” silence on the Holocaust was a required phase in preparation for “mature” writing (a “larval” stage in the peculiarly American, indirect development of Holocaust literature), evidence of helplessness, or a mixture of both. The fact is that for almost fifteen years Holocaust literature in America seemed to be overwhelmingly overshadowed by the already mature, unsurpassed testimonies and analyses of the Europeans: Tadeusz Borowski, Primo Levi, Zofia Nałkowska or Eli Wiesel. This literature, however, was written by former concentration camp prisoners, survivors or witnesses of the catastrophe; nonparticipants from across the Atlantic might...
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