miller-stylisedconfigurationsof-2014.pdf (3.89 MB)
Stylised configurations of trauma: faking identity in Holocaust memoirs
journal contributionposted on 2014-11-01, 00:00 authored by Alyson MillerAlyson Miller
Exploring a series of fraudulent Holocaust memoirs-Herman Rosenblat's Angel at the Fence, Misha Defonseca's Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust, Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments and Helen Demidenko's The Hand That Signed the Paper-, this paper argues that fakes are not some 'bogus Other' (Ruthven 3) of 'genuine' literature but in fact parodic works that reflect on the tenuous nature of both the past and the notion of self. Indeed, the revelation of a fraudulent memoir exposes the investments of a public culture in notions of the real-firstly, in terms of an authentic identity and secondly, in relation to a genuine literary experience. The Holocaust frauds perpetuated by Rosenblat, Defonseca, Demidenko and Wilkomirski, in exploiting an historical phenomena regarded as sacrosanct, highlight and utilise the commodification of trauma in both public and literary arenas, manipulating discourses of victimhood and authenticity in order to interrogate the boundaries of the real and the unreal and, indeed, to reveal the faultlines in literary culture per se. Less interested in literary classifications, however, than in notions of history and identity, this paper contends that the scandals surrounding fakes are fundamental to understanding anxieties about the connection between word and world, and the strange expectation that literature is able to provide access to something 'true'.