Synopses & Reviews
The events of the Holocaust remain unthinkable to many men and women, as morally and intellectually baffling today as they were a half century ago. Inga Clendinnen seeks to dispel what she calls the "Gorgon effect:" the sickening of imagination and the draining of the will that afflict so many of us when we try to confront the horrors of this history. Clendinnen explores the experience of the Holocaust from both the victims' and the perpetrators' points of view. She discusses the remarkable survivor testimonies of writers such as Primo Levi and Charlotte Delbo, the vexing issue of "resistance" in the camps, and survivors' strategies for understanding the motivations of the Nazi leadership. She focuses an anthropologist's precise gaze on the actions of the murderers in the police battalions and among the SS in the camps. Finally she considers how the Holocaust has been portrayed in poetry, fiction, and film. Searching and eloquent, Reading the Holocaust is an uncompromising attempt to extract the comprehensible--the recognizably human--from the unthinkable inhuman acts of the Holocaust. Inga Clendinnen is the author of Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatan, 1517-1570 and Aztecs: An Interpretation, both published by Cambridge University Press.
"This is a deeply humane book; one need only listen to current news reports to understand why it is a necessary one." Jeffrey Poacher, Times Literary Supplement"...Inga Clendinnen's book, Reading the Holocaust, is not, despite its somewhat generic title, just another book about the Holocaust....this is an important, insightful, superbly written meditation on a sorrow beyond words, well worth the attention of outsiders and insiders alike." The New York Times Book Review"With the profound moral concern of the best general reader, one of our finest historians brings the Holocaust close up and stares the Medusa down. Refusing to be paralysed by the incomprehensible, Inga Clendinnen claims for history the same power as poetry or fiction to enter the silences and make them speak." David Malouf, author of An Imaginary Life"Reading the Holocaust is an impressive, humane, open-ended and generous guide to the field. Clendinnen is 'an outsider, writing for outsiders'....With relentless attention and wise sympathy, she dredges through the testimony of victims and perpetrators....Throughout Clendinnen is clear-eyed, and her voice remains reflective: a kind of crystal murmur....Clendinnen has a counter to evil's mesmerising, Gorgon force. She believes the craft of the historian is to shed light, to understand." The Weekend Australian"This is an urgent, moody, profound book about the gravest subject we can ponder. It will also light up the dark for a lot of people who would never have imagined they would want to read it....This is a brave towering book which deserves to become famous." Australian Book Review"She has written a deeply compassionate book of extraordinary importance." Canberra Times"As the Holocaust moves from living memory into the archival past, the responsibility for keeping its reality actual to our minds and its meaning uncorrupted passes from the hands of the chronicler and the memorialist into those of the historian. For such a telling, Inga Clendinnen, whose earlier works on the Spanish conquest of the Mayans and human sacrifice among the Aztecs have demonstrated her ability to investigate the extremities of cruelty without either exploiting their drama or explaining them away, is superbly equipped. Beautifully written and exactly felt, Reading the Holocaust is a major contribution to collective remembering and to the register of what happens." Clifford Geertz"A trenchant collection of essays intended to forge the human connections necessary to begin the move toward a full understanding of the Holocaust. An important step toward an honest encounter with one of the great horrors of our past." Kirkus Reviews"The book...is a viewpoint that bears serious attention." National Jewish Post &Opinion"The author, a professed outsider to the events (Australian, non-Jewish), captures in nine brief essays the basic range of issues associated with the Holocaust. The work as a whole commends itself as introductory reading raising important moral and methodological questions in a critical and sober style." Religious Studies Review
Clendinnen explores the Holocaust from both the victims' and the perpetrators' points of view, as they appear in histories, memoirs, films and poems.
Exploring the experience of the Holocaust from both the victims' and the perpetrators' points of view, as it appears in histories, memoirs, films and poems, Inga Clendinnen seeks to dispel the sickening of imagination and curiosity and the draining of the will that afflict many who try to understand the Holocaust. Searching, eloquent, and elegantly written, the book is an uncompromising attempt to extract the comprehensible from the unthinkable.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 213-223) and index.