Papered Over

by Lisa Lieberman He had told me that he shredded street posters himself to uncover the ones hidden beneath the newer strata. He pulled the strips down layer by layer and photographed them meticulously, stage by stage, down to the last scraps of paper that remained on the billboard or stone wall. Patrick Modiano, “Afterimage”…

Siegfried Kühn’s Mythmaking

by Lisa Lieberman I recently attended a retrospective on the work of East German filmmaker Siegfried Kühn sponsored by the DEFA Film Library at UMass Amherst. DEFA (Deutsche Film Aktiengesellschaft), a production company founded by the Soviets immediately following World War II in their zone of occupation, was responsible for most of the films produced…

Welcome to Weimar

by Lisa Lieberman Hadn't there been something youthfully heartless in my enjoyment of the spectacle of Berlin in the early thirties, with its poverty, its political hatred and its despair? Christopher Isherwood The Weimar Republic is everybody's favorite example of liberalism gone wrong. Just a few days ago, The New Republic posted a reprint of…

Fateless

by Lisa Lieberman I could not swallow that idiotic bitterness that I should merely be innocent. Imre Kertész, Fatelessness Something akin to survivor's guilt is at the core of Imre Kertész's novel, Fatelessness (1975), a fictionalized account of the year he spent while still a teenager interned in Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Published during the so-called…

Somewhere in Europe

by Holly A. Case Demonstration in Budapest in support of CEU, April 9, 2017 On Tuesday of last week, the Hungarian parliament passed a law that seeks to drive the Central European University, founded in 1991, out of the Hungary. Many articles and op-eds have been written condemning the law, and declarations of support have…

The Spirit of the Beehive

by Lisa Lieberman “Trauma's never overcome,” Melvin Jules Bukiet asserted in The American Scholar. Redemptive works of literary fiction—or “Brooklyn Books of Wonder” (most of the authors he excoriated in the essay, including Alice Sebold, Jonathan Safran Foer, Myla Goldberg, Nicole Krauss, and Dave Eggers, hailed from the borough)—provide mock encounters with enormity. Wooly mysticism…

Days of Glory

by Lisa Lieberman I used to teach a course on French colonialism, from the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century through the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). On the first day of class, we read Jean de Brunhoff's classic children's book, The Story of Babar. De Brunhoff's story can be viewed as “an allegory…

Korczak

by Lisa Lieberman In the memoir he was writing at the time he died, my friend Avresh described returning to the Czechoslovakian town of Sevlush, his birthplace, in the winter of 1946. He'd left some fifteen years earlier to attend a Jewish gymnasium in a larger city, stayed on to study engineering at the university…