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Open AccessArticle

‘Humorous Is the Only Truthful Way to Tell a Sad Story’: Jonathan Safran Foer and Third Generation Holocaust Representation

School of Humanities, University of Dundee, Dundee DD1 4HN, UK
Genealogy 2019, 3(4), 55;
Received: 30 August 2019 / Revised: 24 October 2019 / Accepted: 28 October 2019 / Published: 30 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Genealogy The Holocaust in Contemporary Popular Culture)
Jonathan Safran Foer’s representation of the Holocaust in his first novel, Everything is Illuminated, has been the subject of much controversy and critical debate. Several critics and Holocaust survivors have objected to the work for the lack of historical accuracy in its mythological narrative and the irreverence of its humour. However, such responses fail to take into account its specific form of generational representation: The Holocaust of Everything is Illuminated is always perceived through a third-generation lens, and its provocative elements instead highlight aspects of the experiences of the grandchildren of survivors. With this in mind, this paper examines Foer’s approach to the Holocaust in Everything is Illuminated and Liev Schreiber’s film adaptation (2005), making specific reference to the challenges faced by the third generation. Drawing upon theories of the transgenerational transmission of trauma and postmemory, it will explore the roles of creativity and humour in resilience, in addition to the reconstruction of a historical narrative under threat of erasure. Ultimately, by offsetting the tendencies to reduce the complexity of the Holocaust into unequivocal moralities (as exhibited in the film adaptation) with the idiosyncrasies of the third-generation experience, an alternative contextual perspective on the Holocaust is propounded, containing its own discrete set of ethical questions and concerns. View Full-Text
Keywords: trauma; Holocaust; third generation; humour; Jonathan Safran Foer trauma; Holocaust; third generation; humour; Jonathan Safran Foer
MDPI and ACS Style

Coakley, S. ‘Humorous Is the Only Truthful Way to Tell a Sad Story’: Jonathan Safran Foer and Third Generation Holocaust Representation. Genealogy 2019, 3, 55.

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