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Geller, J. (2002). The Wilkomirski Case: Fragments or Figments?. Am. Imago, 59(3):343-365.

(2002). American Imago, 59(3):343-365

The Wilkomirski Case: Fragments or Figments?

Jay Geller

In 1995, Binjamin Wilkomirski, a Swiss clarinet maker and performer, published in Suhrkamp's prestigious Jüdischen Verlag a book entitled Bruchstücke. Aus einer Kindheit 1939-48, translated into English the following year under the title Fragments: Memories of a Wartime Childhood. This purported memoir, an account of the author's survival as a child in the Maidanek and Auschwitz death camps, sets forth two parallel series of recollections—the fragmented remains of largely painful experiences—which alternate between one story-line about the world of the barracks and another about his subsequent life in Switzerland. Both strands proceed, more or less, in chronological order.

During the next three years, Fragments received numerous prizes, including the National Jewish Book Award, the Prix Mémoire de la Shoa, and the Jewish Quarterly Literary Prize, and it was translated into nine languages, with at least two more translations in preparation; excerpts were even publicly read at the Salzburg Festival, together with passages and poems from Elie Wiesel and Paul Celan, by Elfriede Jellinek, one of Austria's leading writers and women of conscience. But then, Daniel Ganzfried, himself the child of a survivor and the author of a novel (1995) drawing on his father's Auschwitz experiences, published a series of articles (1998a, 1998b, 1998c) in the Swiss weekly newsmagazine, Die Weltwoche, that questioned the authenticity of Wilkomirski's account.

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