Britsh Jewish Literature Essay, Research Paper
When looking back on a significant event in history, or even just one s life, there are usually two perspectives. First of all, the event can be something that has been accepted. One does not necessarily have to take pride in it, but they will not ignore the fact that it happened, it s a part of life. In this case, the event is not brought up on a day to day basis, but when it is, the person who lived through it can deal with it and does not become disturbed. The second outlook is that one would want to forget it ever happened at all. In this case the person tries to put it behind them, and in doing so, it really disturbs them. When the event is brought up, it hurts, and it could even in some instances hurt the person on a day to day basis. It may not be a conscious thing, but it could be at times. When we look at British-Jewish literature, we can see the Holocaust as this significant event in history. This literature is definitely post-Holocaust literature in that these two perspectives are taken on in many works. While assessing a couple of books, we will run into people who try to act as if the Holocaust never affected them, while it has, as well as ones who accept that the Holocaust happened, and it was a rather large part of their life.
The first work that will be looked at is Kindertransport, by Diane Samuels. In this piece, we immediately learn about Eva, Evelyn s younger self. She is a child who is sent to England by her mother in order to avoid any harm during the years of the Holocaust. In England, Eva s name is changed to Evelyn because she wants an English name in order to feel as though she is one of the English. This is symbolic of her new beginning, although she does not see it at the time. Eva believes her parents will come to get her as they always said they would, but Evelyn realizes this is not the case in as time goes on. As Evelyn grows up, she becomes close to Lil, her English mother, and although she always has the hope of finding her real parents, as time passes, Lil does become her real parent. This can be seen in Evelyn s developing trust in Lil. The incident that most clearly shows this developing trust is when Lil does not force Evelyn to get on the train to go to school. Evelyn is affected by this because her real mother forced her to get on the train to go to England even though she was opposed to it.
As we look at Evelyn in the present, we see a very strong woman who has chosen to forget her past and the things that happened to her. She has many memories packed away in a box, but she chooses to leave them this way. Evelyn lives her life as though she has always been English, and lets nobody in to see her past. Although it is not seen directly through Evelyn until pressed by her daughter, she shows signs of her past affecting her. As Evelyn s daughter Faith once said, You can t go on a train without hyper-ventilating. You cross the road if you see a policeman or traffic warden. This is completely related to her past although it is not noticed as that by most of her family and friends. Every time Eva was put on a train, it was to be sent away from the ones she loved, and every time she saw men in uniform, it was always German police, who were not seen as good people in a Jewish persons eyes.
Once Evelyn s daughter Faith learns a little bit about her mother, she is intrigued about her past but Evelyn is not willing to let her in. Lil does supply Faith with a bit of information, and once Faith uses this information to confront her mother, Evelyn closes up. At first she refuses to say a thing about her past to her daughter. She believes that it is only her business since it is her past, and hers only. Once Evelyn does decide to tell her daughter about her past, she makes it very clear that it has been forgotten. Evelyn begins by saying, Let me tell you what little remains in my brain. Once Evelyn does not talk about her past, she emphasizes the negativity the most. When Faith decides she wants to meet her relatives, all Evelyn can tell her is that she will not like them because they are very different from themselves.
The Latecomers, by Anita Brookner, is another good example of post-Holocaust literature. In this work we are exposed to two very different people who deal with their past in two very different ways. Although these two characters, Thomas Hartmann and Thomas Fibich, are opposites of each other, they are the closest that friends can be throughout their lifetime. They met when sent to London as refugees during the Second World War. They lived in the same apartment building, and they complemented each other so well that they became business partners. Their differences included their personalities and their outlook on life as well as their thoughts of the past.
Hartmann lives a life of pleasure, rarely disturbed by his difficult past. He basically lives for today and the future. When asked what his secret to being happy is, he replies, The present is my secret. Living in the present. His past is behind him and he would rather leave it that way. As stated on page 6, There were in fact certain memories that Hartmann had consigned to the dust, or to that repository that can only be approved in dreams. For this reason Hartmann took a sedative every night and ensured untroubled sleep. He defended this practice, as he defended all his habits, as sensible: his own glossy head was his best justification. I eat well. I sleep well, he was in the habit of saying, when asked how he did. What else is there? He knew there was more, but thought that wisdom consisted in reducing the purchase of such nebulous matters or indeed of any imponderables that might darken his own impeccable consciousness.
Fibich, on the other hand, is not an extremely happy person. He always has the mental image of the last sight of his mother, fainting on a railway platform, in the back of his head. He lives his life with that constantly lingering over his head, which makes him rather miserable. The past was too strong for Fibich to forget. He remembered blundering through his life, never knowing or indeed discovering whether his actions were acceptable or whether they were as futile as he believed them to be. The years before his arrival were lost, and it was their loss that had sent him to the analyst. And no momentous retrieval had taken place, nothing that he thought might at last supply him with an identity. (Page 27) Fibich eventually comes to term with his past. He returns to Berlin to see what he can do and it does change him. Although not a significant amount, it can be seen in his letter to his son. He lets his son, Toto, in on the history of their family. Although he does not remember everything, he does his best to tell everything he knows.
As we look at these two works of literature, it is clearly evident that they can be defined as post-Holocaust literature. The three main characters spoken about, Evelyn, Thomas Hartmann and Thomas Fibich all have their own ways of dealing with their past. It is known in both works that the Holocaust is the past from the beginning of each novel. If it is not directly stated, it is implied. Thomas Hartmann is the one character in this grouping who is able to accept his past. He doesn t make it a point to completely forget it, yet he doesn t make it a huge part of life. The Holocaust was just an event of his childhood and as he gets older he wants to understand the ghosts of his past. Thomas Fibich, on the other hand, is extremely troubled by his past. He wants to forget it, but he just can t seem to get certain memories out of his head. Fibich eventually comes to terms with his past, but after a very troublesome life. Looking at Kindertransport again, Evelyn sees the past in a similar way to Fibich. She wants to forget it ever happened. In contrast to Fibich, it isn t constantly in the back of her head until her daughter discovers the truth. Evelyn is extremely reluctant to talk about anything to do with her family and her life in Germany as a child. It even seems as though she wants to deny it ever happened, but she knew her daughter had found out the truth.
After assessing these two novels, we see that they are indeed post-Holocaust works. Whether applying the two main character outlooks as I stated above, or just by reading the book itself, it is rather evident. Anita Brookner, though a resident of England her whole life, lived through the Holocaust period. Although she did not experience it firs hand, she was able to see the damage it did. Diane Samuels was not even alive during the second World War, but based her play on personal accounts of people who lived through this tragic event.