The Trope of Death - or how to make silence hearable

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In this paper I want to address the poetics of memory of the Austrian writer Elfriede Jelinek. Elfriede Jelinek's writing constantly broaches the issue of the forgotten dead of the NS-crimes during the Second World War. As she states in an interview from 1993 I feel as if I constantly have to talk about (Auschwitz, JO) (Berka, 1993). Jelinek not only criticizes Austria's denial of complicity in the NS-crimes, but also the official way of remembering the victims of these crimes, as well as the everyday fascism of present-day Austria. She does so in a highly experimental aesthetical manner, both at the level of semantics and at the level of the overall form of her novels and plays. In this overall critical discourse, the remembrance of the dead victims appears to call for the strongest aesthetical distortion. The victims have to be remembered in a negative and unrealistic way, for, as Dunker rightly states, no signifier exists for a people that was annihilated to such a degree that only the dust remained (Dunker, 2003). So, instead of a positive representation, Jelinek aims to make silence hearable or to represent absence (Annuss, 2000). She does so by employing tropes that allow her to signify the Shoah in an indirect manner. In this paper I will present different rhetorical strategies of remembrance in Jelinek's work. Most significantly, I will present and discuss the assumption that Jelinek primarily approaches the subject of the Shoah metonymically. Because the association involved in metonymy is typically by contiguity rather than similarity' (OED), it is often claimed, that the metonymy provides an apt rhetorical strategy for Jelinek's purposes.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPoetics of Memory
Pages (from-to)xx-xx
Number of pages5
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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