Elrud Ibsch

With reference to the concepts memory, remembered history, and imagined history regularities in the historical development of Holocaust literature can be described. In addition to different chronological stages the concepts represent different genre conventions, ranging from testimonies (diaries, autobiographies) to autobiographical novels to, finally, narrative fiction. The first ‘literary’ responses could not come from other sources than the survivors who, after a period of traumatic speechlessness, put their memories into words. Later, others began to write, in particular the descendents of witnesses who felt the need of remembering the history of their families. Finally, from the 1980s on, the Holocaust as a literary theme lost its poetic restrictions and became an element of the imagination. Notwithstanding their primarily documentary function, testimonies carry the traces of the selective recollection of the writing subject (example: Primo Levi’s ironical interventions). Authors of the second and third generation, who try to remember history, frequently use the narrative structure of the quest (examples: Amir Gutfreund, Patrick Modiano, Elsa Morante). A striking element in literary representations based on the imagined history of the Holocaust is the recurrent playing with the identities of victims and perpetrators, the genre of the satire being the most adequate literary expression of that theme (early examples of a satirical representation: Edgar Hilsenrath and Romain Gary; contemporary ones: Arnon Grunberg and Alessandro Piperno).


Keywords: Memory, history, remembered history, imagined history, irony/satire