Thursday, May 10, 2007

elisabeth reichart/cynthia ozick

"Stella, cold, cold, the coldness of hell." This is how Ozick's miniature masterpiece begins, a story that has caused both wide attention to the author as well as personal self-criticism and debate. Ozick has commented on her decision to never again write what she considers to be a matter for archives, data or history, and this is because her portrayal of these three women (mother, her baby and an adolescent niece) in a death camp was almost entirely made up by her (except the fact that some babies were thrown to the electrified fence, data that she read in another book).
Another book that follows this pattern is "February shadows", by Austrian writer Elisabeth Reichart. I found this book while reading fiction in the context of the online workshop on Austrian literature promoted by "Dispatches of Zembla" blog. I like this novel because of its writing, displayed almost like a long poem, with short paragraphs, repetitive sentences, and poetic constructions that make wonderful use of synechdoque and metonymy. In her novel, Reichart takes the year 1945 in a little Austrian town where 500 out of 570 Russian soldiers of the Mauthaussen concentration camp escaped but were hunted down by National Socialists and inhabitants of the Mill district, people considered 'apolitical'. She shows how nobody helped the soldiers, but creates fictitious characters to do this.
I find this conflict very controversial, and I've found a good explanation for this, called by Berel Lang, 'transcodification'. Berel explains: "Mixing actual events with completely fictional characters, a writer simultaneously relieves himself of an obligation to historical accuracy (invoking poetic license), even as he imbues his fiction with the historical authority of real events"

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