The Big Read Blog (Archive)

The Horror of History

Washington, DC


Holocaust Memorial Berlin, courtesy of d.i. via flickr

For nearly all of us, the Holocaust falls into the category of history at this point. It?s something for textbooks and museums, lectures and documentaries. Yet as The Shawl reminds us, what is history for one is memory for another. In the novella, Rosa isn?t able to mentally relinquish the time she spent in a concentration camp, or the infant daughter that she lost there. It?s actually more than memory for her; it?s a tangible part of her everyday reality. Below is an excerpt from the book:

When I had my store I used to ?meet the public,? and I wanted to tell everybody---not only our story, but other stories as well. Nobody knew anything. This amazed me, that nobody remembered what happened only a little while ago. They didn?t remember because they didn?t know.

Rosa?s story is really what every survivor of any atrocity must deal with: how to make sense of a past that must seem so incongruous with your present. Her struggle---so poetic, so human---forces us to remember the hearts that lie behind history's horrors.

To learn more about Cynthia Ozick's The Shawl, please visit The Big Read website.

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