Beyond unspeakability: configurations of ‘travelling trauma’ in contemporary German-language literature about the Holocaust

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This article examines two novels by seminal German-language Jewish authors, Benjamin Stein's Die Leinwand (2010) and Eva Menasse's Quasikristalle (2013), to shed light on major shifts in Holocaust memory since the turn of the millennium. I argue that developments such as the disappearance of the eyewitness generation, coupled with the increasing hypermediation and globalisation of Holocaust memories, force us to reconsider certain conceptions of trauma which for a long time have dominated engagements with the Holocaust and its representation. Instead of approaching Holocaust trauma as unspeakable and inherently inaccessible, I propose to read the novels’ engagements with the Holocaust through the lens of Terri Tomsky's concept of ‘travelling trauma’, which allows us to conceive of the Holocaust as a culturally mediated signifier that moves transgenerationally, transmedially, and transnationally through various discursive networks. The novels by Stein and Menasse furthermore enable us to examine critically certain manifestations of ‘travelling trauma’ and the current state of Holocaust representation in a way that Tomsky's more descriptive approach does not.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)499-521
Number of pages23
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number4
Early online date12 Sep 2019
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2019