This article discusses the work of the Prague Jewish writer H. G. (Hans Günther) Adler (1910–1988) as an important contribution to the poetics of German-Jewish displacement in the wake of World War II. It demonstrates the significance of Adler’s early response to questions of refugee status, displacement and human rights in literature. The article argues that Adler’s work can be seen as providing in part a response to the question raised by Hannah Arendt, Joseph Slaughter and other recent theorists of literature and human rights: what poetic form is adequate to give literary expression to the mass displacements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century? Adler’s short story ‘Note of a Displaced Person’ and his lengthy novel The Wall
demonstrate the role that modernist poetics of fragmentation, in particular the legacy of Kafka, can have in bearing witness to this experience. They also demonstrate that the space of exile and displacement provides Adler with a vantage point from which to comment on the rights catastrophe of the twentieth century. Adler’s work develops a theological understanding of the crisis of displacement, a crisis that can only be resolved by restoring a relation between the divine and the human.
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