The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture

The Holocaust Object in Polish and Polish-Jewish Culture

Bo┼╝ena Shallcross
Distribution: World
Publication date: 1/27/2011
Format: cloth 200 pages
6 x 9 x .6875
ISBN: 978-0-253-35564-5
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Honorable Mention, 2011 Kulczycki Book Prize
In stark contrast to the widespread preoccupation with the wartime looting of priceless works of art, Bożena Shallcross focuses on the meaning of ordinary objects—pots, eyeglasses, shoes, clothing, kitchen utensils—tangible vestiges of a once-lived reality, which she reads here as cultural texts. Shallcross delineates the ways in which Holocaust objects are represented in Polish and Polish-Jewish texts written during or shortly after World War II. These representational strategies are distilled from the writings of Zuzanna Ginczanka, Władysław Szlengel, Zofia Nałkowska, Czesław Miłosz, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Tadeusz Borowski. Combining close readings of selected texts with critical interrogations of a wide range of philosophical and theoretical approaches to the nature of matter, Shallcross's study broadens the current discourse on the Holocaust by embracing humble and overlooked material objects as they were perceived by writers of that time.

Author Bio

Bożena Shallcross is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Chicago. She is author of Through the Poet's Eye: The Travels of Zagajewski, Herbert, and Brodsky and editor (with David L. Ransel) of Polish Encounters/Russian Identity (IUP, 2005).


"Brilliant and ambitious . . . approaches [the] topic from a fresh and intellectually challenging perspective. . . . Shallcross's book is surely the most sophisticated analysis of Polish Holocaust literature ever written." —Madeline G. Levine, University of North Carolina

"Here, as aptly as she has in her previous work, Shallcross looks at depictions of the depths of suffering through the 'dispossession' of belongings when a prisoner entered a concentration camp. This is a brilliant analysis. ...Highly recommended." —
Choice , October 2011

"Shallcross . . . is to be congratulated for bringing to the attention of the world these literary remnants by translating these Polish-lanaguage testimonies and interpreting them with great learning and skill." —
Chicago Jewish Star

"Shallcross's illuminating study . . . underlines the way objects can relay information in a subliminal, almost visceral, but ambivalent way." —Russian Review

"In analyzing the artifacts of writers who took up the ethical and precarious charge of testifying to the destruction engulfing and surrounding them, Shallcross has written an important book." —H-Judaic

"Shallcross's book is intelligent, articulate . . . and for all its lucid and detached analysis, deeply moving. It is itself now a document of the Holocaust, at once concerned with the desperately important business of vivifying the past and those who constituted it." —American Historical Review

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Table of Contents

The Totalized Object: An Introduction

On Jouissance
1. A Dandy and Jewish Detritus
2. The Material Letter J
On Waste and Matter
3. Holocaust Soap and the Story of Its Production
4. The Guilty Afterlife of the Soma
On Contact
5. The Manuscript Lost in Warsaw
6. Things, Touch, and Detachment in Auschwitz

Coda: The Post-Holocaust Object
Acknowledgments and Permissions
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