A Thousand Darknesses in the Jewish Quarterly
March 02 11
The spring issue of the Jewish Quarterly includes my review of Ruth Franklin’s excellent A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction. I write that
The subtitle of Ruth Franklin’s A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction is a sleight of hand, simultaneously misleading and subtly revealing about her agenda in this intelligent and clear-minded overview of writing about the Holocaust, with a focus on what the author reticently calls “the canon”. Outright lies play only the smallest part in her argument; Franklin is above needing to flog the dead horse that is Wilkomerski or other “falsifiers” – those kinds of deceptions don’t particularly interest her. Fiction interests her enormously, however, and by using the word to describe her topic, she is taking the first in a series of careful steps.
Each brings the reader closer to Franklin’s understanding that what matters is not whether accounts are fully factual, but in what manner and spirit survivors (and, controversially, other writers) choose to present the Holocaust. Those who have done it most successfully, she argues, are those who, whatever they may say to the contrary, have used fiction’s potent mixture of truth and falsification to create what we usually call “art”. “Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction” isn’t just a subject; it’s a blueprint, according to which without the first two, there cannot, by definition, be the third.
It’s a work I strongly recommend.