The ethics of aesthetics in trauma fiction: memory, guilt and responsibility in Louise L. Lambrichs’s 'Journal d’Hannah'

Article English OPEN
Rye, Gill (2009)
  • Publisher: Berghahn
  • Subject: CLL

This article engages with two themes which are key to the special issue, 'The Witness and the Text': (i) the relations between the individual and history, between the private and the public in relation to traumatic events; and (ii) the ethics and aesthetics of testimony and bearing witness, and the role of fiction in this respect. These themes are addressed through analysis of Louise L. Lambrichs's 'Journal d'Hannah' (1993), a fascinating novel, in diary format, about the psychological effects of an abortion, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. The Jewish woman who reluctantly aborts her second child is in her own mind at once victim, perpetrator and survivor, and consumed by guilt. First, the article considers the mirroring structure of the novel, which arguably invites a comparison between the trauma of the abortion and the trauma of the Holocaust. It then examines the historical context of the setting and the writing of the novel. Finally, it identifies the ethical impetus of the text in its treatment of guilt and responsibility, with particular regard to contemporary France's troubled relationship with its wartime past.
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