Lucille Cairns – Trauma and Testimony: The Case of Myriam Anissimov

Date: 18 November 2009

speaker_Cairns_small_BWLucille Cairns (Durham University) – Trauma and Testimony: The Case of Myriam Anissimov

As Thomas Nolden has averred, ‘among today’s Jewish writers in France, Myriam Anissimov is the most engaged in reminding the reader of exactly what happened in the past’. Anissimov is by far the most prominent Jewish woman writer in post-WWII France consistently to foreground traumatic postmemory of the Shoah. Born in a Swiss refugee camp in 1943 to Jewish parents whose other family members were slaughtered in the Nazi death camps, Anissimov has commented that ‘je me suis toujours demandé pourquoi, moi, j’ai survécu et pourquoi les autres sont morts. Je me suis demandé aussi si vraiment j’avais le droit d’existence et si je n’étais pas coupable de quelque chose’ (‘I’ve always wondered why I survived and why the others died. I also wondered if I really had the right to exist and whether I wasn’t guilty of something’). Whilst Anissimov’s third novel, Rue de nuit (1977) sets a certain template for her later works, the most recent of which appeared in 2007, the mediation of second-generation symptomatology is complicated by a particular narratological choice that actually demarcates it from the rest of Anissimov’s oeuvre. Whereas most of that oeuvre is largely if not exclusively mimetic, Rue de nuit is cast in an ostensibly realist framework of post-war (early 1970s) Paris, but is in fact a dystopic, oneiric first-person narrative which provokes lectorial oscillation between belief and disbelief. Indeed, it has been justly qualified by celebrated Jewish writer Gilles Pudlowski as ‘très kafkaïen’ (‘very Kafkaesque’). In its exegesis of Rue de nuit, my paper will foreground the strengths of that departure from mimeticism in the forging of post-Auschwitz structures of feeling.

This is the inaugural event in the ‘Trauma Fiction History’. Colin Davis will introduce the session with a short paper, ‘Why Trauma?’, outlining the significance of trauma studies for work in the Humanities and laying out some of the aims of the series. This will be followed by a paper by Professor Cairns, entitled ‘Trauma and Testimony: The Case of Myriam Anissimov’.

series website HERE

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Colin DavisWhy Trauma

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Lucille Cairns – Trauma and Testimony: The Case of Myriam Anissimov

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handout (pdf)

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questions:

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