Helen Finch

Helen Finch teaches German at the University of Leeds and researches literature by Holocaust survivors, gender in German culture, and queer studies. She is currently finishing a book on the struggle to testify to the Holocaust in German literature, and is beginning a new project on queer Jewish Holocaust survivors. Major publications include ‘Witnessing, Memory, Poetics. H. G. Adler & W. G. Sebald (2014) and ‘Sebald’s Bachelors. Queer Resistance and the Unconforming Life’ (2013). She is also a UCU and equalities activist.

How do survivors of genocidal injustice encounter the perpetrators of that injustice? How does this encounter figure in literature?

Seminar One Provocation:  How do survivors of genocidal injustice encounter the perpetrators of that injustice? How does this encounter figure in literature?  

In this provocation, I will briefly read from two literary works by survivors of the Shoah, Ruth Klüger and Edgar Hilsenrath. Both use grotesque exaggeration and political vehemence to imagine the encounter with their German persecutors and with the next generations of Germans. I will ask: why and how do these literary fantasies of revenge and anger break with norms of Holocaust fiction that assume some kind of uplifting ending and reconciliatory message? Can a violent literary fantasy facilitate in-person encounters?  

Related Profiles