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Type: Thesis
Title: Unintelligible: A Memoir of Unassumable Inheritance
Author: Szorenyi, Anna
Issue Date: 2015
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : English and Creative Writing
Abstract: An MA thesis in two parts. Unintelligible: A Memoir of Unassumable Inheritance is a short work that straddles the boundaries of memoir and creative non-fiction. It explores themes of intergenerational guilt and responsibility in the context of the author’s discovery of her grandfather’s role in the Hungarian Arrow Cross coup of October Fifteenth, 1944, that enabled the deportation, ghettoization and mass murder of the Budapest Jews. The intent of the memoir is not only to confess this legacy, but to meditate on its influence on the rest of the family – Captain Szörényi-Reischl’s loving wife, his son born during the war, and his granddaughter, brought up in Australia – and through their experiences to explore more generally the personal and emotional effects of trans-generational responsibility for historical atrocity, a predicament that might be called ‘perpetrator postmemory’ or ‘postguilt’. The work explores how the conflicted, partial and tentative structures of postmemory , expressed in the creative work through techniques of fragmentation, intertextuality and unreliable, multi-voiced narration, can lend themselves to the task of understanding, without condoning, the structures of genocide. The work has three aims: firstly, to bear witness to the phenomenon of an intergenerational effect of perpetration, and secondly to explore on an intimate, familial scale the structures that enabled and justified such perpetration, and the structures of denial and avoidance that kept it secret, narrowing lives in the process. The third aim is simply to tell the story of what happened; to reconstruct the family history so that it includes what was left out – the consequences of my grandfather’s actions – thus breaking the silence and putting responsibility where it belongs. These aims are echoed in the structure of the work, which begins by exploring the author’s intimate relationship with her grandmother, progresses through her efforts to find out more about her grandfather, and ends by outlining, in bare horror, the consequences of the 1944 Nazi/Arrow Cross coup of which he was, as the story has made clear by then, an enthusiastic facilitator. A final chapter meditates, from the perspective of a visit to Budapest in 2012, on Hungary’s failure to take responsibility for the Holocaust. In this way the work moves on a trajectory that begins with a child’s limited and personal perspective and moves outwards towards a broader questioning of historical responsibility. Overall, the combined creative work and exegesis explore the possibilities of ‘perpetrator postmemory’, concluding that it offers a productive method through which to explore the legacies of atrocity, navigate the literary and ethical dilemmas of representing perpetrators, and performatively enact the paradoxes of transgenerational responsibility.
Advisor: Castro, Brian
Nettelbeck, Amanda
Dissertation Note: Thesis (MA) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2015
Description: Part 1 (Creative Work) Unintelligible: A Memoir of Unassumable -- Part 2 (Exegesis) After-Words: Postmemory and Writing Perpetration
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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