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"As always when we look into the world of supposition and rumour that we call the past, nothing is certain. All we find are questions, shadows, ghosts"

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Introduction

"As always when we look into the world of supposition and rumour that we call the past, nothing is certain. All we find are questions, shadows, ghosts" In documenting history, one must, indeed, enter into the realm of supposition and rumour in order to achieve a valid and comprehensive representation of the past. The distinction between history and memory is becoming increasingly blurred through the recent creation of numerous texts representing both. The Fiftieth Gate by Mark Baker, and Maus I and II by Art Spiegelman are two representations of history utilising completely different text types however, they are linked by a common element, the memories of the authors' parents'. The key phrase in the above quote is that in looking into the past, "all we find are questions". This is true for any investigation into history, as the true history is always the peoples' history: the subjective and personal stories encountered by each individual. Throughout these texts, the experiences and history that is attempted at being represented are the common but greatly dissimilar experiences of the Holocaust. History is a record of interpretation. "So people are shown not what they were, but what they must remember having been"1. It is the memory of the past that makes the history so significant, not the hard facts of the history itself. ...read more.

Middle

It is through this struggle as well as Baker's self-reflexivity that The Fiftieth Gate becomes a very human text, permitting the responder to go beyond the role of audience and to become involved within the text. Baker employs the use of italics to imply his parent's direct accounts that are often interspersed with his own, more factual comments. For example, at the beginning of chapter VI, Baker's comments over his parents serve as a (sometimes useless) commentary to the account being told. "For him it began in Wierzbnik. I was born in Wierzbnik. Wierzbnik was born before him. In 1657, founded by bishop Boguslaw Radoszewski who obtained royal permission to colonise woodlands along the Kamienna River. I remember on Saturday all the Jews would go walking in the forest..."2 The contrast between Baker's father's sentimental comments on his past and Baker's hard facts and straight background information serves to remind the audience of the manner of history. No one representation is adequately able to summarise or explain the past which explains the composer's need to re-establish ideas through fact. The historical documents that Baker had searched for in his pursuit of the truth to his parent's stories and included fragments of in the text, serve to authenticate his story to the wider audience. ...read more.

Conclusion

The documentation of this conversation immediately draws the reader into the story and gives a sense of importance at being almost personally talked about by the subjects of the text. The parallel stories of Vladek's past contrasted against Art's reactions and feelings towards his search for identity through the medium of oral history combine to give a compelling and interesting perspective on representations of the Holocaust. Both of these texts are a search for an identity of the present, through investigation of the past. Although the content of Maus and The Fiftieth Gate is closely related through the parents of both authors' reluctance to divulge their experiences of the past while the composers both pushed their parents towards giving an account in order to have the story in writing before it was lost, this does not typify the generation of Holocaust survivors. Many victims of the holocaust are and have been, eager to come forward and document their personal stories. Without these stories, the history of the Holocaust would not be a real history, but instead a cluster of numbers and figures with no real meaning and with no faces. In relating personal experience to greater history, each representation of any aspect of the Holocaust contributes to the grand narrative that is history. 1 Michel Foucault 1989, published 1992 2 The Fiftieth Gate, Mark Baker, pg 24, 1997 ...read more.

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