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By Mieke Bal, Jonathan Crewe, Leo Spitzer

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While the therapeutic powers of narrative have been questioned as well as endorsed, in this volume, the issue of narrative reintegration remains vital. As several essays here confirm, the topic of cultural memory has surfaced in various contexts, but particularly that of Holocaust memory and trauma. The loss of cultural memory, narrative, and continuity on the part of East European Jews, not to mention the Nazi attempt to obliterate records of the Holocaust, has put an additional premium on post-Holocaust cultural memory.

Why children? Lucy Dawidowicz provides one answer: images of children bring home the utter senselessness of Holocaust destruction. Who could see the enemy in the face of a child? 14 It does not matter whether the boy from Warsaw survived or not for us to feel that vulnerability; with statistics of such enormity, every child whose image we see is, at least metaphorically, one who perished. Boltanski's technique of enlargement and "anonymization" provides another answer. "For me it's very important to start with a real image," he says.

Part III, Memories for the Present, ends the volume with a focus on the importance of acts of memory for the present. The tense relationship between here-and-now and there-and-then examined in Part II receives a complement in this part. The presentness of memory, in which the past is "adopted" as part of the present (as the object of its narrative activity), is emphasized here. This presentness raises the question of agency, of the active involvement of subjectsindividual and collective, always situated in the cultural domainwho "do" the remembering; it also solicits reflection on the value of memory for the culture in which the remembering "happens," and on the dangers of escapist nostalgia, self-aggrandizing monumentalism, or historical manipulation.

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Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present by Mieke Bal, Jonathan Crewe, Leo Spitzer


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