Other than the odd revisionist, the vast majority of sentient humans will attest to the horror that was the Holocaust. Unfortunately, those who can give first hand testimonies are few in number and quickly disappearing. The story gets even more muddled when psychologists protest that memory is entirely subjective, rendering their accounts unreliable. In order to overcome the difficulty of presenting honest memory, Georges Perec and Piotr Rawicz both turned to representative fiction to tell their tales of Holocaust survival. W, or The Memory of Childhood and Blood from the Sky are their stories as though reflected but distorted in a fun house mirror, with “bifurcations, endless bifurcations…” (Rawicz 194) pervading throughout. Both novels are deeply infused with mirroring of people, images, and ideas that are used in a variety of ways but serve the same larger purpose. With this deliberate exercise of duality, Perec and Rawicz address the problem of representing the Holocaust by using “the mirror” to turn fact into fiction thereby rendering the inexpressible into an expressible form.
[...] Without the complete picture of the disgusting boiler man, the idea of Boris saving the fleas would not be quite so compelling. So, by placing the killer David versus the analogous saver Boris, Rawicz creates a glorification of the human spirit even within the most horrific and disgusting conditions. Rawicz's mirroring of characters of death and characters of life does not end with the main character. Dr. Cohen runs the hospital where David works, and by employing him saves his life. [...]
[...] Overall, this doubling of the stories brings fact to the fictionalized realm of which makes it more horrible than a story of the Holocaust itself. The reader could anesthetize themselves to the horror of W while going through it, even mentally elaborate on their own version of W. However, when a fictional and seemingly impossible society becomes suddenly and glaringly true, the effect is far more alarming and shocking than the facts alone. Also, this tactic cleverly dodges the danger of “getting used the Holocaust, in which exposure to it makes it less horrifying. [...]
[...] The nature of this introduction sounds very much like certain Holocaust testimony, in which those involved talk about the feeling of being compelled to talk. The fact that he is talking about the fictional world of W seems irrelevant, since he is very plainly also talking about a Holocaust story that we can infer in some way relates to his own. That we later find out he never actually went to a concentration camp only drives home the idea that the story of W is his narrative in a mirror, distorted and out of focus but still entirely his. [...]
[...] This speaks to several crises of being a Holocaust survivor: the inability to internalize what has happened (deafness), the failure to find means to talk about it (dumbness), and the isolation and entrapment of the Jewish people. Supposedly, the doctors could find no physical/physiological evidence for Gaspard's disabilities, which points to the fact that while a survivor's body could heal, the scars are inescapable even if invisible. Therefore, in all ways, Perec uses his mirrored character to reflect truth back into the untrustworthy autobiography, in a sense using factual fiction to read the fictionalized fact. [...]
[...] Once again, the experience of the story is not directly that of the narrator, but instead a lens through which the reader gets to see it. This very distinct, carnie- like story-teller is functioning as a mirror, for he shows the distorted and fictionalized version of Rawicz's story that still cannot be divorced from his factual past experiences. Blood from the Sky and or the Memory of Childhood also have motifs that proliferate in doubles throughout the novel. Rawicz is not at all subtle with his use of glass and mirrors; their presence reverberates throughout the novel. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee