Anglo-Jewish Women Writing the Holocaust: Displaced by Phyllis Lassner (auth.)

By Phyllis Lassner (auth.)

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Lore Segal addresses this narrative problem: I experience the calamities of my life as a palpable relief from the perennial expectation of calamity . . what I write will not be suspenseful . . It took me six years to write Other People’s Houses. I was at pains to draw no facile conclusions – and all conclusions seemed and seem, facile. I want not to be able to trace the origin and processes by which the past produces the present. The novelist’s mode suits me – I post myself as protagonist in the autobiographical action.

The Nazis, paradoxically, had confirmed their Jewish identities by marking the children for death. Having escaped to a safe uncertainty, Lore Segal and Karen Gershon choose narrative forms that dramatize the instability of selfhood by showing how that process of questioning and redefining is never ending. In ironic juxtaposition, despite saving the children’s lives, England would offer them no experience that could confirm the identity they left behind. As a result, both Segal and Gershon left England to seek lives elsewhere, though Gershon returned after spending some years in Israel.

In their search for narrative form to break the silence, as adult writers, they find that no archetypal stories of journeys to the climactic fall and awareness of sin can allegorize their own actual fates, those of most parents, and the mélange of awkward welcomes that awaited them. For the Kinder, bedtime stories of overcoming ogres and evil monsters had to be abandoned along with the cartography of a Central European character development. But along with abandoning childhood fantasies, any of which symbolize teleological hopes of home, the Kinder also left behind parents who were about to confront the reality of Nazi evil and the fantasy of possessing an authentic Central European character.

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