Journal of Romance studies

The ethics of aesthetics in trauma fiction: memory, guilt and responsibility in Louise L. Lambrichs’s Journal d’Hannah

Journal of Romance studies (2009), 9, (3), 48–59.

Abstract

This article engages with two themes which are key to this special issue: (i) the relations between the individual and history, between the private and the public in relation to traumatic events; and (ii) the ethics and aesthetics of testimony and bearing witness, and the role of fiction in this respect. These themes are addressed through analysis of Louise L. Lambrichs’s Journal d’Hannah, a fascinating novel, in diary format, about the psychological effects of an abortion, set against the backdrop of the Holocaust. The Jewish woman who reluctantly aborts her second child is in her own mind at once victim, perpetrator and survivor, and consumed by guilt. First, the article considers the mirroring structure of the novel, which arguably invites a comparison between the trauma of the abortion and the trauma of the Holocaust. It then examines the historical context of the setting and the writing of the novel. Finally, it identifies the ethical impetus of the text in its treatment of guilt and responsibility, with particular regard to contemporary France’s troubled relationship with its wartime past.

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Rosnay, Tatiana de (2007) Elle s’appelait Sarah, trans. Agnès Michaux (Paris: Éditions Héloïse d’Ormesson). Elle s’appelait Sarah Google Scholar

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Verdussen, Monique (1993) ‘Le cri retenu du “Journal d’Hannah”’, La Libre Belgique (20–21 November). Le cri retenu du “Journal d’Hannah” La Libre Belgique Google Scholar

Whitehead, Anne (2004) Trauma Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). Trauma Fiction Google Scholar

Wolf, Joan B. (2004) Harnessing the Holocaust: The Politics of Memory in France (Stanford: Stanford University Press). Harnessing the Holocaust: The Politics of Memory in France Google Scholar

Abraham, Nicolas and Maria Torok (2001) L’Écorce et le noyau (Paris: Flammarion). L’Écorce et le noyau Google Scholar

Bernstein,Michèle (1993) ‘Nothomb, Lambrichs, saboté, avorté’, Libération (21 October), 25. Nothomb, Lambrichs, saboté, avorté Libération 25 Google Scholar

Best, Victoria (2002) ‘Louise L. Lambrichs: trauma, dream and narrative’, in Women’s Writing in Contemporary France: New Writers, New Literatures in the 1990s, ed. Gill Rye and Michael Worton (Manchester: Manchester University Press), 29-41. Louise L. Lambrichs: trauma, dream and narrative Women’s Writing in Contemporary France: New Writers, New Literatures in the 1990s 29 41 Google Scholar

Best, Victoria and Kathryn Robson (eds) (2005) Memory and Innovation in the Post-Holocaust Generation in France, special issue, French Studies 59.1 (January). Memory and Innovation in the Post-Holocaust Generation in France Google Scholar

Caruth, Cathy (1996) Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrativity and History (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrativity and History Google Scholar

Cusset, Catherine (2001) [1999] Le Problème avec Jane, rev. edn (Paris: Gallimard). Le Problème avec Jane Google Scholar

Darrieusscq, Marie (1996) Truismes (Paris: P.O.L.). Truismes Google Scholar

Davis, Colin (2005) ‘État présent: hauntology, spectres and phantoms’, French Studies 59.3 (July), 373–9. État présent: hauntology, spectres and phantoms French Studies 59.3 373 9 Google Scholar

Détrez, Christine and Anne Simon (2006) À leur corps defendant: les femmes à l’épreuve du nouvel ordre moral (Paris: Seuil). À leur corps defendant: les femmes à l’épreuve du nouvel ordre moral Google Scholar

Eliacheff, Caroline and Nathalie Heinich (2002) Mères-filles: une relation à trois (Paris: Albin Michel). Mères-filles: une relation à trois Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (1974) Les Armoires vides (Paris: Gallimard). Les Armoires vides Google Scholar

Ernaux, Annie (2000) L’Événement (Paris: Gallimard). L’Événement Google Scholar

Forrester, Viviane (1993) ‘Hannah, jour et nuit’, Le Monde (10 September). Hannah, jour et nuit Le Monde Google Scholar

Frey, Pascale (1993) ‘La double vie d’Hannah égarée entre rêve et réalité’ (interview with Louise L. Lambrichs), Tribune de Genève (11–12 September). La double vie d’Hannah égarée entre rêve et réalité Tribune de Genève Google Scholar

Frey, Pascale (1994) ‘Les 20 meilleurs livres de l’année’, Lire (January). Les 20 meilleurs livres de l’année Lire Google Scholar

Gazier, Michèle (1995) Nativités (Paris: Seuil). Nativités Google Scholar

Gratton, Johnnie (2005) ‘Postmemory, prememory, paramemory: the writing of Patrick Modiano’, in Memory and Innovation in the Post-Holocaust Generation in France, ed. Victoria Best and Kathryn Robson, special issue, French Studies 59.1 (January), 39–45. Postmemory, prememory, paramemory: the writing of Patrick Modiano Memory and Innovation in the Post-Holocaust Generation in France 59.1 39 45 Google Scholar

Greenberg,Wendy N. (1995) ‘Review of Journal d’Hannah’, The French Review 68.4 (March), 748–9. Review of Journal d’Hannah The French Review 68.4 748 9 Google Scholar

Huston, Nancy (1996) Instruments des ténèbres (Arles: Actes Sud). Instruments des ténèbres Google Scholar

LaCapra, Dominick (1998) History and Memory after Auschwitz (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press). History and Memory after Auschwitz Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (1993) La Vérité médicale: Claude Bernard, Louis Pasteur, Sigmund Freud, méthodes et réalités de notre médecine (Paris: Éditions Robert Laffont). La Vérité médicale: Claude Bernard, Louis Pasteur, Sigmund Freud, méthodes et réalités de notre médecine Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (1995) Le Livre de Pierre: psychisme et cancer (Paris: Éditions de la Différence). Le Livre de Pierre: psychisme et cancer Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (1998) Hannah’s Diary, trans. Siân Reynolds (London: Quartet Books). Hannah’s Diary Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (2002) [1993] Journal d’Hannah (Paris: Éditions de l’Olivier/Le Seuil; 1st edn, Éditions de la Différence). Journal d’Hannah Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (2004) [1998] ‘À notre image?’, in À ton image (Paris: Éditions de l’Olivier/Le Seuil), 11–49. À notre image? À ton image 11 49 Google Scholar

Lambrichs, Louise L. (2005) Nous ne verrons jamais Vukovar (Paris: Éditions Philippe Rey). Nous ne verrons jamais Vukovar Google Scholar

Lasserre, Audrey (2002) ‘Le roman français contemporain aux prises avec l’Histoire: Dora Bruder de Patrick Modiano et La Compagnie des spectres de Lydie Salvayre’, Sites: The Journal of Twentieth-Century/Contemporary French Studies 6.2 (Autumn), 327–36. Le roman français contemporain aux prises avec l’Histoire: Dora Bruder de Patrick Modiano et La Compagnie des spectres de Lydie Salvayre Sites: The Journal of Twentieth-Century/Contemporary French Studies 6.2 327 36 Google Scholar

Miller, Nancy K. and Jason Tougaw (eds) (2002) Extremities: Trauma, Testimony and Community (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press). Extremities: Trauma, Testimony and Community Google Scholar

Montremy, J.-M. de (1993) ‘La maison de secret’, La Croix-L’Événement (3–4 October). La maison de secret La Croix-L’Événement Google Scholar

Motte,Warren (2008) Fiction Now: The French Novel in the Twenty-First Century (Champaign IL and London: Dalkey Archive Press). Fiction Now: The French Novel in the Twenty-First Century Google Scholar

Nobécourt, Lorette (1998) La Conversation (Paris: Grasset). La Conversation Google Scholar

Perrier, Jean-Claude (2004) ‘Louise attaque’, Livres Hebdo (17 December). Louise attaque Livres Hebdo Google Scholar

Remy, Jacqueline (1993) ‘Une enfant de rêve’, L’Express (7 October). Une enfant de rêve L’Express Google Scholar

Rosnay, Tatiana de (2007) Elle s’appelait Sarah, trans. Agnès Michaux (Paris: Éditions Héloïse d’Ormesson). Elle s’appelait Sarah Google Scholar

Sardin, Pascale (2008) ‘Towards an ethics of witness, or the story and history of “une minuscule détresse” in Annie Ernaux’s L’Événement and Nancy Huston’s Instruments des ténèbres’, French Studies 62.3 (July), 301–12. Towards an ethics of witness, or the story and history of “une minuscule détresse” in Annie Ernaux’s L’Événement and Nancy Huston’s Instruments des ténèbres’ French Studies 62.3 301 12 Google Scholar

Silverman, Max (2008) ‘Interconnected histories: Holocaust and Empire in the cultural imaginary’, French Studies 62.4 (October), 417–28. Interconnected histories: Holocaust and Empire in the cultural imaginary French Studies 62.4 417 28 Google Scholar

Todorov, Tzvetan (1998) Les Abus de la mémoire (Paris: Arléa). Les Abus de la mémoire Google Scholar

Verdussen, Monique (1993) ‘Le cri retenu du “Journal d’Hannah”’, La Libre Belgique (20–21 November). Le cri retenu du “Journal d’Hannah” La Libre Belgique Google Scholar

Whitehead, Anne (2004) Trauma Fiction (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). Trauma Fiction Google Scholar

Wolf, Joan B. (2004) Harnessing the Holocaust: The Politics of Memory in France (Stanford: Stanford University Press). Harnessing the Holocaust: The Politics of Memory in France Google Scholar

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Rye, Gill