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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26451

Title: Distorted Historical Fictions of the Holocaust, the Chilean Dictatorship, and the Algerian War of Independence
Authors: Berdichevsky, Leon Ernesto
Advisor: Hutcheon, Linda
Department: Comparative Literature
Keywords: hermeneutics
ethics
history
postmodernism
Chilean dictatorship
Algerian War of Independence
Holocaust
distortion
20th century literature
Issue Date: 7-Mar-2011
Abstract: The desire and need for historical representation in postmodernism are coupled with the self-reflexive acknowledgement of our inability to faithfully represent the past. This dissertation examines the ways in which certain historical events are represented in postmodern fiction. More specifically, it introduces the term ‘distortion’ to designate various ways that postmodern authors have attempted to convey traumatic and violent histories through intentional permutations of historical facts. In this study, I analyse six texts, representative works that present the multi-faceted nature of what I call ‘distorted’ historical fiction. Each text is devoted to one of three historical events: the Holocaust in Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow and Art Spiegelman’s Maus; the Chilean dictatorship in Diamela Eltit’s Lumpérica and Isabel Allende’s La Casa de los espíritus; and finally, the Algerian War of Independence in Kateb Yacine’s Nedjma and Mohammed Dib’s Qui se souvient de la mer. The analyses of each text are guided by three main questions: How is the depicted history distorted in the narrative? Why is the historical reality distorted? And lastly, what are the hermeneutical effects for the reader of engaging with the distorted historical text? I contend that these historical fictions apply various modes of distortion to create a specific and often peculiar effect on the reader. These include distortions of narrative form and voice, as well as distortions of temporality and space. I argue that the reader’s encounter with distorted historical fiction creates a peculiar hermeneutical effect of ‘defamiliarisation,’ which has affinities with Viktor Shklovsky’s use of the term and Bertolt Brecht’s ‘V-effekt.’ The sense of defamiliarisation creates a conflict in readers, in which their foreknowledge of a past event clashes with the event's distorted depiction. This conflict demands that the reader be responsible, implying that the reader should not be ‘swept away’ by the distorted narrative. Instead the responsible reader is encouraged to interact with the text, apply previous historical knowledge to correct said distortions, and through this interaction gain a greater intimacy with the past.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/26451
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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