Monday, April 12, 2010

Proud Monster – Ian MacMillan

Ian MacMillan March 23, 1941- 18 December 2008

With ‘Schindler’s List”, I think North American audiences received a wonderful education on the horrors of the Holocaust. We were faced with history and it was done in a way that for those of us who saw it...will never forget it.

In 1981, when MacMillan wrote Proud Monster, there of course were other pieces of literature about the Holocaust but MacMillan delivers his in such a disturbing way as to sear his sketches into your memory.

Is it dangerous to speculate as to the motivations behind authors who continue to write about this event? Is there a line that the artist must walk along where on one side, he is educating and on the other, he is exploiting?

This question was batted around with the works of MacMillan who focused some of his writing on the Holocaust.

In the Boston Phoenix, Adam Kirsch noted that MacMillan is not himself a Holocaust survivor and thus had to rely on the knowledge of others for his fiction. Calling the Holocaust "an impossible subject for fiction," Kirsch added, "fiction, like any art, enjoys an essential irresponsibility, a freedom that comes from being aesthetically rather than ethically committed. And when a writer tries to create aesthetic pleasure out of the ethically atrocious, he comes close to blasphemy." Kirsch professed, "I cannot help but feel that, in this case, MacMillan has tried to do something that fiction cannot, and should not, do." Another critic strongly supported the opposite position, however. In answer to the question of why one should use fiction to portray the Holocaust when the actual events were so memorable, Smardz explained, "It is the experience only of those who saw and remembered and came back to tell us. But to understand completely, we must go beyond all this to the rest of the story, to the truth and the experience of the millions who died." "The only way to get at that truth is to imagine it. And the only way to imagine it is through art," concluded Smardz.

"Ian MacMillan." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center.

I have come to the point in my reading, where I cannot help but to feel that there is simply too much literature out there about the Holocaust. I am in no way meaning to diminish what happened – what I mean to convey, is that there are too many people who think they can produce worthy fiction centered on the Holocaust.

This is another case where I am looking at a genre of writing from 1981 through the eyes of a 2010 reader.

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