The critic Theodor Adorno once famously proclaimed that ‘To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’. He made this proclamation in 1949, at a time when high-ranking Nazis faced the Nuremberg Trials; when the world was watching newsreels of bodies in pits and walking skeletons in striped pyjamas; when the Holocaust was a recent, raw and stunning event; and when the victims faced a disbelieving world and the perpetrators a divided, beaten and shamed homeland. Adorno’s statement, made so soon after the horrors, still resonates today and can be applied critically to all imaginative literature about the Holocaust.
Critics, historians and Holocaust survivors have argued for decades over whether the Holocaust should be accessible to fiction and, if so, who has the right to write those fictions. Navigating the Kingdom of Night addresses such concerns and analyses various literary strategies adopted by authors of Holocaust fiction, including the non-realist narrative techniques used by authors such as Yaffa Eliach, Jonathan Safran Foer and John Boyne and the self-reflexivity of Art Spiegelman. Matthews frames the discussion by self-examining her experience as an author of a Holocaust fiction.
Navigating the Kingdom of Night is available here: