Holocaust Prophetic dimensions | Daily News

Holocaust Prophetic dimensions

The term holocaust has stirred the world transferring several gruesome meanings. It derives from Greek holocauston, literally, something ‘burnt whole’ a compound of holos ‘whole’ and kaustos ‘burnt’ which is also the source of English ‘caustic’ meaning thorough destruction especially by fire. Later on, the term came to be coined to the Nazi destruction caused in the ill-reputed but well-known concentration camps in Poland and other parts of the Eastern European border of countries.

From a historical standpoint, the meaning of the term has come to stay as regards the destruction of Jews in the Concentration Camps like Auschwitz and Majdanek in Poland. Quite a number of true stories like Diary of Anne Frank and narratives like The Pawnbroker, Schindler’s List and the Boy in Striped Pyjamas describe the gravity of the Holocaust both in the capacity of true stories as well as well researched narratives.

Agonies and ecstasies

While reading the Sinhala translation of the novel titled as ‘The Book of Aron’ by Jim Shepard titled in Sinhala as ‘Erange Lokaya’ by well-known journalist Rohana Wettasinha, I recalled the agonies and ecstasies in the life of the victims accosted in the tragedy of the Holocaust. The story as Shepard narrates bears a young boy who is the protagonist named Aron or Eran. He, as a young boy in the first instance, fails to fathom the gravity of sorrow as the Jews are gradually removed from their own houses to the so-called camps in the name of bringing about a better life.

The original author as well as the translator into Sinhala attempts to picturise the pathos of the victims in order to mould a narrative more humane than historical in their altitude. In this process, the reader encounters the gradual human degradation of the birth, diseases, pseudo-regulations, love, death and torture brought about by one race or one ethnic group on another.

From a broader perspective, the writer has left no stone unturned in the research into the work. Jim Shepard (b 1956) is an American creative writer as well as a social scientist who teaches creative writing and cinematography at Williams College in Connecticut. This work, The Book of Aron, which appeared in 2015, it is said, involves massive research into the holocaust which he called ‘critically important’.

Central experience

For a moment, as a reader of the book as well as a visitor to all the places of Holocaust in Poland, I was for a moment gripped into the central experience. With the Polish Professor of History and Anthropology, I had the chance of peeping into the lives of some of the inmates of this disaster. I saw to my own eyes the way the barbed wires are fenced in the camps and the way the victims had to lead their grief-stricken lives as if they are devoid of a decent existence on this earth planet. I saw how the friends and well-wishers of those who faced the disaster left only ashes to remain are weeping over the historic disaster.

Shepard, as a creative writer, is so sensitive that he leaves no trace of what should not be rediscovered by a creator.

The Book of Aron and the Sinhala translation are neither just mere narrative nor are they mere jottings in a story form. Instead, it is also a story of a young boy who sees through his eyes of an impending disaster, the tragedy of the war, which brings not only the destruction of humans but also the process of evolution brought down over the centuries. It is like a clarion call to the adults via the voice of a young one who so desires to live happily in the world. But he is made to either run away from it or struggle against it.

As he cannot run away due to the utmost sensitivity he holds via love and intimacy for his loved ones, he tries his best to struggle against it in the best possible manner. Shepard brings the dichotomy to the forefront.

Dialogues and situations

The narrative pattern is more bent onto an unconventional way of expression central round more dialogues and situations building than descriptions. It is the inner expression or the introspection of the gradual meaning of the family unit making an alienation of individuals that are focused.

The events centred around are not arranging in the form of clearly segmented chapters instead as a series of human flow of tragic situations. The reader feels a sense of pathos on the gradual loss of human identity linked to the central entity known to the world as ‘family’ where father, mother, children matter.

It is the fate of the humans that are focused and not a mere historical plot: unlike very many other narratives on Holocaust issue, the functional attention of Jim Shepard is to focus on the destiny of children. It is hinted that though adults suffer in this process, it is the innocent children who matter very much as children are born to the world in order to be cared for and educated.

This factor is taken seriously by the writer as in the last statement that goes as an epilogue. The narrative in a stream of visions culminates on visualizing the heap of dead bodies in a camp that testifies the tragedy of the humans who in turn the very human conscience into inhuman calamity. The translation of Rohana Wettasinghe is readable and utilizes a poetic diction.

That paves the way for the reader to enter into the prophetic frame of mind. This work reminds, as stated in a UNESCO document on human learning, man has consciously used his gift for speech and expression to communicate from individual to individual, group to group and generation to generation, a store of practical experience, codes for interpreting natural phenomena, rules, rites and taboos, thereby making the socialization of individual memories an essential means for survival.


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