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Palimpsestic Memory: The Holocaust and Colonialism in French and Francophone Fiction and Film

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Palimpsestic Memory

The Holocaust and Colonialism in French and Francophone Fiction and Film

Max Silverman

216 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-883-4 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (February 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78238-900-2 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (February 2015)

eISBN 978-0-85745-884-1 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“The central premise of this brilliant study — that ‘the poetics of palimpsestic memory can be the basis of a new politics of memory’ — is convincingly articulated and argued through sophisticated and detailed analysis of a range of theories of cultural memory, as well as through close readings of a range of literary and cinematic texts… a genuinely groundbreaking study that paves the way for further exploration of the poetics and politics of (palimpsestic) memory.” · French Studies

“Silverman's writing is as dynamic as the memory process he describes… I would recommend Palimpsestic Memory to quite a large audience: to those interested in Holocaust and postcolonial studies, obviously, but also to those interested in literature or history in general.” · Contemporary French Cinema

“All in all, this [extremely erudite book] is an important contribution to the study of memory’s multidirectionality, its capacity through its artistic representations to juxtapose the memories of traumatic pasts in fruitful and imaginative ways. For those skeptical of this approach to memory, Palimpsestic Memory is largely persuasive.” · H-France Review

“… a very impressive contribution to discussions of memory in relation to the Holocaust and colonialism in French and Francophone contexts. It is original, erudite, theoretically highly sophisticated and likely to be of immense value in developing debates in the field. It is also very well-written: eloquent and subtle in its expression of and contribution to the theoretical complexities of memory studies.” · Ursula Tidd, University of Manchester

“In my view this book is an outstanding piece of academic scholarship. It is rich, dense and draws on a wealth of literary and filmic texts and theory… I think it has ground-breaking potential.” · Enda McCaffrey, Nottingham Trent University

“In this timely book, Max Silverman deepens our understanding of the transcultural and transnational dynamics of memory. Lucidly written, boldly argued, and wide-ranging in its cultural and theoretical references, Palimpsestic Memory challenges sectarian, competitive approaches to the past. It derives a critical politics of remembrance from an openness to memory’s multiple layerings and poetic haunting - its ‘palimpsestic’ nature. Inspired by early postwar theorists of extreme violence such as Arendt, Césaire, Fanon, and Rousset, Silverman reveals the interconnected histories of genocide and colonialism that have been there all along, but are too frequently ignored or repressed. Through nuanced readings of French-language literary, cinematic, and theoretical texts - from Assia Djebar and Georges Perecto Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard, by way of Jacques Derrida and Hélène Cixous - he offers a necessary new understanding of both the work of memory and the ethics of the human in a post-Holocaust, postcolonial world.” · Michael Rothberg, University of Illinois; author of >Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the Age of Decolonization

“Max Silverman’s Palimpsestic Memory is a significant contribution to the renewal of memory studies over the past decade.  Silverman argues for a model of memory that is non-linear and non-exclusive, not bound to the cultural narrative of a single group or nation but pointing simultaneously to diverse histories. This model suggests coexistence and mutual reinforcement of memories of specific events, rather than competition among groups vying for ‘uniqueness’. Silverman aims for a paradigm shift in building bridges between post-colonial studies and Holocaust studies.” · Susan Rubin Suleiman, Harvard University; author of Crises of Memory and the Second World War.


The interconnections between histories and memories of the Holocaust, colonialism and extreme violence in post-war French and Francophone fiction and film provide the central focus of this book. It proposes a new model of ‘palimpsestic memory’, which the author defines as the condensation of different spatio-temporal traces, to describe these interconnections and defines the poetics and the politics of this composite form. In doing so it is argued that a poetics dependent on tropes and techniques, such as metaphor, allegory and montage, establishes connections across space and time which oblige us to perceive cultural memory not in terms of its singular attachment to a particular event or bound to specific ethno-cultural or national communities but as a dynamic process of transfer between different moments of racialized violence and between different cultural communities. The structure of the book allows for both the theoretical elaboration of this paradigm for cultural memory and individual case-studies of novels and films.

Max Silverman is Professor of Modern French Studies at the University of Leeds. He has written on cultural memory, representations of the Holocaust, post-colonial theory and cultures, and immigration, race and nation in France. His recent publications include Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog, co-edited with Griselda Pollock (Berghahn Books, 2011).

Subject: Film and Television StudiesGenocide HistoryColonial History
Area: France


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