The Afterlife of Yizker bikher in Contemporary Jewish Writing
1 October 2019 - 5:30 PM
Marianne Windsperger (Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies)
In my PhD dissertation project on “Revisiting and Retelling the Shtetl: Narratives of Searching for Traces in American Jewish Writing” I devote a chapter to references to the yizker bukh tradition in contemporary Jewish writing. The Yiddish term yizker bikher has come to describe a large body of books commemorating destroyed Jewish communities in Eastern Europe. These books have been put together in displaced persons camps immediately after the war or in the hometown societies, the landsmanshaftn. A large number of the yizker bikher include various materials such as maps, photographs, documents as well as lists of names. In narratives that seek to draw transgenerational connections to concrete places, these memorial books are consulted to gain or verify knowledge on specific sites and as a repository of names of the former inhabitants. In this chapter I will carefully trace forms of collecting and writing in contemporary Jewish literature connected to the yizker bukh tradition. Traces of the diasporic medium of the yizker bikher can be found in contemporary American writing, in Argentinian literature as well as in French and German works. Through a comparative approach I will map the afterlife of this genre in world literature and show how these books draw together various writing traditions.