By Charlotte Delbo
Delbo’s beautiful and unflinching account of lifestyles and demise less than Nazi atrocity grows fiercer and richer with time. the wonderful new advent through Lawrence L. Langer illuminates the subtlety and complexity of Delbo’s meditation on reminiscence, time, culpability, and survival, within the context of what Langer calls the afterdeath’ of the Holocaust. Delbo’s strong trilogy belongs on each bookshelf.”Sara R. Horowitz, York University
Winner of the 1995 American Literary Translators organization Award
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The SS walked by. He enjoyed setting his dog on them. This was the howling heard at night. Then silence. The roll call was over. It was the daytime silence. The women still alive went back. The dead women remained in the snow. They had been stripped naked. Their clothes would be used by others. Every two or three days, trucks arrived to take the living to the gas chamber, the dead to the crematorium. Madness must have been the final hope of those who entered there. Some, made canny by their stubborn desire to survive, escaped at the outset.
My mother she was hands, a face They made our mothers strip in front of us Here mothers are no longer mothers to their children. All were marked on their arm with an indelible number All were destined to die naked The tattoos identified the dead men the dead women It was a desolate plain on the edge of town The plain was covered with ice and the town was nameless. ” She has no F on her chest. A star. ” “Five weeks . . ” She is begging. ” “For you perhaps there’s hope, but for us . ” She points to my striped jacket and then to her coat, a coat much too big, much too dirty, much too tattered.
I howl. Not a sound comes out of me. The silence of a dream. The plain. The snow. The plain. The woman collapses. One last palpitation and that’s all. Something snaps. The head in muddy snow is nothing but a stump. The eyes dirty wounds. Il faut donner à voir. Delbo’s Auschwitz experience, like all of the Holocaust, is a story of dirty wounds, and if common or external memory sometimes tempts us to disinfect them, to soothe them with the salves and lotions of personal valor—as if such wounds could ever be healed—we need to understand that this is both a natural and an evasive impulse.