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A Place of Disadvantage, by Jonathan Littell: Journeys to the End of Ukrainian Hell

2023-11-29T16:00:18.511Z

Highlights: A Place of Disadvantage, by Jonathan Littell: Journeys to the End of Ukrainian Hell. 60,000 Jews were killed in Babi Yar, a wasteland dotted with factories, a few cemeteries, crisscrossed by ravines. "Write under the attraction of the real impossible, that part of the disaster where all reality sinks, saves and untouched," says Maurice Blanchot. "An intractable subject. How can we talk about it? By writing disaster"


REVIEW - Jonathan Littell excels at telling the unspeakable, perhaps too well.


An intractable subject. Jonathan Littell's first words are from Maurice Blanchot. In 1941, the German army invaded the Soviet Union. A place was chosen for the "Grosse Aktion": Babi Yar, a wasteland dotted with factories, a few cemeteries, crisscrossed by ravines. 60,000 Jews were killed there. How can we talk about it? By writing disaster. Disaster is the unspeakable. Silence became order. "Write under the attraction of the real impossible, that part of the disaster where all reality sinks, saves and untouched." An order that Jonathan Littell obeyed.

At the beginning of A Downside Place, the author is in Kiev. It's 2021, and he invites Antoine d'Agata, a photographer, to go to the site of the Babi Yar massacre, which he has already talked about in Les Bienveillantes, winner of the 2006 Prix Goncourt. He's looking for horror... But there's nothing to see. Apart from monuments, trees that rise like steles, only silence remains. Littell finishes his story, and two days later...

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Source: lefigaro

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