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O'Loughlin, M. (2007). Bearing Witness to Troubled Memory. Psychoanal. Rev., 94(2):191-212.

(2007). Psychoanalytic Review, 94(2):191-212

Bearing Witness to Troubled Memory

Michael O'Loughlin

Disastrous Memories

In a speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature, Hungarian novelist Imre Kerteèsz (2002) sums up his profoundly troubled relationship with memory this way: “In short, I died once, so I could live. Perhaps this is my real story. If it is, I dedicate this work, born of a child's death, to the millions who died and to those who still remember them.” (p. 6). In referring to the millions who died, Kertèesz is apparently referring not only to the more than six million Jews and others systematically murdered in Nazi death camps, but also to the many more, such as himself, who suffered psychological death as a result of internment in concentration camps and death camps. At age fifteen Kertesz was deported to Auschwitz and eventually Buchenwald. An account of his internment experiences appears in Fatelessness, his autobiographical novel of that period (Kerteèsz, 2004a). However, the most searing representation of the long-term effects of the trauma he experienced appears in Kaddish for an Unborn Child (2004b).

Kaddish opens with the innocent question of a colleague who inquires of the narrator as to whether he has children.

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