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Autobiography from the Other Side: The Reading of Nazi Memoirs and Confessional Ambiguity

Autobiography from the Other Side: The Reading of Nazi Memoirs and Confessional Ambiguity AUTOBIOGRAPHY FROM THE OTHER SIDE: THE READING OF NAZI MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONAL AMBIGUITY ALAN ROSEN Usually when you agree to write a foreword, you do so because you truly care about the book: it’s readable, the literary quality is high, you like or at least admire the author. This book, however, is the extreme opposite. —Primo Levi, Foreword to Rudolf Hoess’s “My Soul” Great autobiographers have generally been heroes, personalities whose mem- oirs are justified by exemplary lives. To be sure, the stories these exemplary figures tell are not without taint. Augustine, Rousseau, and Mary McCarthy, for example, all implicate themselves in theft, and thereby show themselves to be deeply fallible. The transgressions which they recount, however, chafe against their overall moral decency. Indeed, this decency is one of the factors which encourages a sympathetic reading of their autobiographies. In contrast, autobiography from “the other side” deals with lives, and thus narratives, characterized by a profound indecency—narratives written by those culpable of capital crimes, and even of crimes against humanity. Where the first group is famous for the contributions they have made to society, the second group is infamous. Consequently, one turns with some hesitation to the autobiographies of http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Biography University of Hawai'I Press

Autobiography from the Other Side: The Reading of Nazi Memoirs and Confessional Ambiguity

Biography , Volume 24 (3) – Jun 1, 2001

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2001 Biographical Research Center.
ISSN
0162-4962
eISSN
1529-1456

Abstract

AUTOBIOGRAPHY FROM THE OTHER SIDE: THE READING OF NAZI MEMOIRS AND CONFESSIONAL AMBIGUITY ALAN ROSEN Usually when you agree to write a foreword, you do so because you truly care about the book: it’s readable, the literary quality is high, you like or at least admire the author. This book, however, is the extreme opposite. —Primo Levi, Foreword to Rudolf Hoess’s “My Soul” Great autobiographers have generally been heroes, personalities whose mem- oirs are justified by exemplary lives. To be sure, the stories these exemplary figures tell are not without taint. Augustine, Rousseau, and Mary McCarthy, for example, all implicate themselves in theft, and thereby show themselves to be deeply fallible. The transgressions which they recount, however, chafe against their overall moral decency. Indeed, this decency is one of the factors which encourages a sympathetic reading of their autobiographies. In contrast, autobiography from “the other side” deals with lives, and thus narratives, characterized by a profound indecency—narratives written by those culpable of capital crimes, and even of crimes against humanity. Where the first group is famous for the contributions they have made to society, the second group is infamous. Consequently, one turns with some hesitation to the autobiographies of

Journal

BiographyUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jun 1, 2001

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