Holocaust was one of the worst nightmares that the world had witnessed. Decades after the incident, it continues to be a significant incident that shapes the lives and identities of the Jewish community. Nathan Englander, author of the book What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, had spoken at the Morton E. Ruderman Memorial Lecture held at Northeastern University.
Englander recounted a game from his childhood that was called the “Anne Frank Game” which included wondering which of their neighbours would hide them in case of a Holocaust No. 2. The books that Englander write also have such an attitude towards the incident. They often make the reader laugh out loud. This is not to mean that they, in any way, ridicule or trivialise the matter. Rather, the message that he wants to convey is done so in a manner where the reader does not feel as if he or she is being bombarded with complex information or a heavy social message. What Englander has to say is passed on in a subtle manner, never compromising on the reader’s enjoyment of the book. Talking about the response he received for the book from the survivors of the Holocaust, he said that none of whom he talked to felt threatened by it. Englander believed that these survivors are heroic people, unbelievable to him.
The goal of Englander’s writing is to show how the past continues to inform the future. Referring to the civil war in Syria and the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, he said that, as global societies, we are often unaware of how to stop these incidents. Through his books, Englander continues to ponder whether the Holocaust prevents other catastrophic events in the future like another civil war. “I don’t write about Jewish people,” he added. “I write about people.”
N Malavika Mohan