A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction by Ruth Franklin | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

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by Ruth Franklin
     
 

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What is the difference between writing a novel about the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives about the Holocaust have a special obligation to be 'truthful'—that is, faithful to the facts of history?
Or is it okay to lie in such works?

In her provocative study A Thousand Darknesses, Ruth Franklin investigates these questions as they arise in

Overview

What is the difference between writing a novel about the Holocaust and fabricating a memoir? Do narratives about the Holocaust have a special obligation to be 'truthful'—that is, faithful to the facts of history?
Or is it okay to lie in such works?

In her provocative study A Thousand Darknesses, Ruth Franklin investigates these questions as they arise in the most significant works of Holocaust fiction, from Tadeusz Borowski's Auschwitz stories to Jonathan Safran Foer's postmodernist family history. Franklin argues that the memory-obsessed culture of the last few decades has led us to mistakenly focus on testimony as the only valid form of Holocaust writing. As even the most canonical texts have come under scrutiny for their fidelity to the facts, we have lost sight of the essential role that imagination plays in the creation of any literary work, including the memoir.

Taking a fresh look at memoirs by Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi, and examining novels by writers such as Piotr Rawicz, Jerzy Kosinski, W.G. Sebald, and Wolfgang Koeppen, Franklin makes a persuasive case for literature as an equally vital vehicle for understanding the Holocaust (and for memoir as an equally ambiguous form). The result is a study of immense depth and range that offers a lucid view of an often cloudy field.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ruth Franklin's new book, A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, is more than a towering work of criticism and insight — it's an invaluable corrective."
—The Atlantic

"By scrupulously defending the integrity of literature, Ms. Franklin has offered her own eloquent testimony."
—Wall Street Journal

"Franklin explicates her central ideas with a piercing, graceful lucidity... a beautiful book that addresses the ugliest of subjects, proving, once more, that it can be done."
—Washington Post

"This text is superbly written and offers insightful analysis."
—Library Journal

"Ruth Franklin's keen analysis makes a major contribution to the literary criticism of Shoah writers, and her humane perspective renders the nuances of a fraught subject newly comprehensible."
—Jewish Book Council

"...an honest effort to inject a little good sense and judgment into an understandably emotional subject."
—Jewish Literary Review

"...a brilliant, challenging and surprising work."
—Jewish Journal

"What A Thousand Darknesses does do, and does very well, is challenge us on every level of virtually every aspect of Holocaust literature. That the Holocaust is 'unknowable' doesn't mean that a lot of it can't be known. Literature lays bare the path to know what is knowable, and Franklin neatly shows us the way."
—The Jewish Daily Forward

"A Thousand Darknesses succeeds in forming a coherent whole that makes a powerful argument for the propriety of treating the Holocaust as a wellspring of literary art."
—Commentary

"Franlin is particularly astute in evaluating why the grayness of truth is important in a Holocaust work... Not merely about the Holocaust, but about why we study history, why we read, and why we tell stories."
—The Literary Review

"[An] important work...Lucid, persuasive...Highly recommended."—CHOICE

"Franklin's work of Holocaust literary criticism is excellent in its interpretations and a valuable read."—Cynthia Crane, H-Net Reviews

Library Journal
There are strong and conflicting viewpoints when it comes to recounting the Holocaust in fiction, and Franklin (senior editor, New Republic) does an excellent job of presenting all sides of the issue. Many believe that writing fictional literature or poetry about this event if it wasn't experienced firsthand is akin to blasphemy. Alternatively, a second school of thought posits that silence could be worse, and that accurately rendered literary versions might better engage readers, potentially assisting them in comprehending an otherwise incomprehensible event. Indeed, even within the most famous of memoirs, accounts have been substantially edited or updated, which additionally brings into question how much creative license the autobiographers themselves should have. In her reasoned discussion of this charged topic, Franklin covers many important writers of both fact (e.g., Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi) and fiction (e.g., W.G. Sebald, Jerzy Kosinski). Another aspect she introduces is the right (or duty) of second and even third generations—of which Franklin is one—to assume the legacy of communicating their ancestors' experiences. VERDICT This text is superbly written and offers insightful analysis. Geared for the academically minded, it is an ideal addition to any college-level program in Holocaust studies.—Judy Brink-Drescher, Molloy Coll. Lib., Rockville Centre, NY
Susie Linfield
"To write about atrocity is impossible," Ruth Franklin admits in A Thousand Darknesses, an illuminating meditation on the special obligations and thorny contradictions of Holocaust novels. "Yet not to write about it—though to do so is absurd, obscene, repugnant, insect-like—is equally impossible." The moral nobility of Franklin's book lies in its willingness to confront this impossibility head-on—and blissfully free of dogma, guilt and sanctimony—without offering comforting, false or easy solutions…Franklin has written a beautiful book that addresses the ugliest of subjects, proving, once more, that it can be done.
—The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195313963
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/12/2010
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Ruth Franklin is a senior editor at The New Republic.

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