We Won’t See Auschwitz at The Onion AV Club

September 10th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

We Won't See Auschwitz

At The Onion AV Club, recent Hugo-winning editor Jason Heller has some kind, considered words for Jérémie Dres’ travel memoir, published last year in Britain by SelfMadeHero and recently released in the US by Abrams. We Won’t See Auschwitz recounts the trip two French brothers of Jewish descent take to Poland in search of their roots, and what it means to be Jewish in Poland today.

The narrative structure is deceptively complex, much like Dres’ linework; fluid and uncluttered, his vivid renditions of himself, his brother, and those they encounter in Poland float in unframed panels across the page like untethered memories. The parallels to Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything Is Illuminated are clear, but it isn’t just the graphic-novel format that sets Dres’ book apart; it’s his ability to more fully ponder the dimensionality, and the baggage, of his own identity. Ultimately, it’s the double meaning of the book’s title—the brothers’ anticlimactic avoidance of Auschwitz, plus the idealistic hope that a holocaust on that scale will never happen—that We Won’t See Auschwitz most poignantly probes.

Interestingly, the “double meaning of the book’s title” that Heller notes in closing is not present in the original French, Nous n’irons pas voir Auschwitz: literally, “We Won’t Go See Auschwitz.” The subtraction of a tiny active verb alters meaning… surely a case of gain in translation? Ttranslation (theory and practice) can only gain in contemporary discourse from being reframed as form of adaptation between the media of different languages, adaptation perhaps being the most common creative practice of our time. Currently, one of the contested criteria for the originality of derivative work (remix vs. adaptation) in adaptation theory is “added value.”


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