A superb anthology of prose work by members of the Second Generation.
Whether 18th-generation Germans or first-generation Americans, states novelist Bukiet (Strange Fire, 2001, etc.) in his elegant, somewhat contentious introductory essay, the children of Holocaust survivors indeed constitute a second generation for whom “there is no Before. In the beginning was Auschwitz.” Many of them, he notes, have become social workers, doctors, and other healers, but for the writers among them, healing is the least desirable response to what Bukiet usefully calls “the Khurbn,” the Yiddish term for catastrophe. (Because holocaust has been applied to so many other genocides since, he suggests, a new word needs to be found.) Healing is, after all, “another word for forgetting,” and those whose work Bukiet gathers here are determined to remember, even as they struggle with the problems attendant in bearing witness to events they experienced secondhand. This rich collection contains equal parts fiction and memoir; it is also, though Bukiet insists that “Hitler won” and Europe is now culturally Jew-less, evenly divided between contemporary European and American writers. Among its many highlights: Eva Hoffman’s recollections of growing up in post-Holocaust Poland subject to quotidian anti-Semitism; Val Vinokurov’s wonderful account of life in modern Miami, a city full of Holocaust survivors and “Jubans” (Cuban Jews) who are sometimes at odds with one another; and an excerpt from Esther Dischereit’s ironic fictional treatment of Jewish life in 1970s Germany. Bukiet’s own contribution, a Borgesian short story called “The Library of Moloch,” scores points for irony, too, and for its thought-provoking take on why it is important to remember the evils of the past.
Tenderness mixes with rage, sorrow with bitterness, in this first-rate gathering of pieces by those who refuse to forget.