Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ruth Kluger

"Wars, and hence the memories of wars, are owned by the male of the species. And fascism is a decidedly male property, whether you were for or against it. Besides, women have no past, or aren't supposed to have one. A man can have an interesting past, a womwn only an indecent one."

- Ruth Kluger, Still Alive (excerpts are available on google books.)

Just another chance to plug a personal favourite. Madhuri writes about it on her blog. I had also written about it here and on my end of the year book list here.

This book in my opinion is very unjustly obscure. It is not just a great example of Holocaust literature but also one of the best literary memoirs. In fact second only to Nabokov's Speak, Memory as far as I am concerned. (I haven't read many actually and it is not a particularly favourite genre either). There is not one decent review or essay available on the internet. Although the two are not comparable (even though both fall into the holocaust literature by women category), I don't see why Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise got such critical acclaim and bestseller status. I understand that asking for a critical self-awareness is a little too much when you are witnessing the events first hand and then tranforming it into fiction but to me it made the book somewhat uninteresting as an autonomous work of literature. It is still a significant cultural-historical document though, quite well-written at that. By the way, there was a scathing essay by Ruth Franklin in The New Republic on her newly translated books.

1 comment:

nico said...

I agree with Giorgio Agamben (who wouldn't). It is still amazing to keep calling in the 'Holocaust', there was nothing holy about it, no sacrifice, just like Hitler wanted it, killing the jews like lice. I think that Kluger herself calls attention to that in her memoir: no ceremony, no ritual. Have you read her poetry?