Following on from David’s points about metaphor: The elusiveness of the metaphor is central to Michael’s histographical vision. That even in the present, in the waking experience truth, the nature of a woman, can be looked at, compared to, understood in a hundred different ways. And is flooded by memories of the past. And what Meira Cook sees as a flaw in the technical aspects of Michael’s poetic form, the denseness of the poetic prose, is central to her view on history. There is no one truth to be captured by one metaphor, instead it is a process of language, gradually refining but then challenging itself, attempting to capture reality, whatever that may mean to the thinker.
Which brings me onto what I’ll briefly talk to you about, which is mainly an overview of the critical reading and a discussion of Fugitive Pieces as post-Holocaust literature. And more interestingly as second generation post holocaust literature, written from someone who never lived where the troubles occurred. A spectator out of place and time, attempting to connect to apparently unrepresentable tragedy.
'When the prisoners were forced to dig up the mass graves, the dead entered them through their pores and were carried through their bloodstreams to their brains and hearts. And through their blood into another generation' (page 52)” We have briefly mentioned “Blood memory”
Levi says this is the most important element of the holocaust. He likens it to war trauma that the father comes home from war, these memories experiences change him. In turn projects these memories onto his children, his behaviour is altered. His Children grow up in the shadow of these memories and so pass it onto their children. That the Holocaust was not a carbonized scream frozen in time, but a “gift” that those who have no relation to such events pass on. Fugitive pieces tries to communicate history as memory, which is a state we are submersed in throughout our lives, that we live both in the now and the past.
Why not the preserve the humanity of the Jews? When Cook criticises Michael’s inaccuracy and sentimentalism for imaging the Jews of the Zakynthos ghetto turning into still coral, she misses another key aspect of fugitive pieces. Which is recreating History with language, overcoming suppression. Making them human, beautiful, even poetry, making them myth, denying the Nazi’s world view and imprinting one’s own. One of resonance.
On the other hand Levi does state that poetry in such a situation is ego, lyrical poetry makes the author’s plays on language more about supremacy and intellect than respect and honouring. Thomas Carew Poem. Talking about how happy he is that his son is dead, because he can now write a great poem and read it at his funeral and everyone will think he’s awesome.
Also Fugitive Pieces is not so fragmented. Metaphor exists a method of connection, between times, places, people, events. The world is a cohesive poetic vision of Jacob, of Ben. The protagonists use language to make sense of their lives.
Primo Levi in his book “The drowned and the saved” told the story of the Jews of the
Much has been said about Fugitive pieces being about the Holocaust, but not being about the holocaust. That it deals with it in vague and unfocused way. I would argue that it is entirely about the holocaust, but not just the event, the date, the amount slain, but about the echo of the past through every action of one’s life, it’s spreading into other lives, it’s all persuasive power even when the memory is jagged and faded. Not really experienced. It is the history of the trauma not through textbooks, but the individual.
The fascists themselves stopped the Jews of the ghetto from writing poetry. From trying to escape their position in song or flights of linguistic fancy. The Nazi’s saw the danger, the potential of mental release and cultural survival in the words of these young intellectuals.