Shalom Auslander’s debut novel Hope: A Tragedy imagines the famous diarist alive and not so well in a farmhouse in upstate New York. Hunchbacked and haggard, she is tapping away on the script for a book she hopes will match the success of her diary. ‘I’m a writer! Thirty-two million copies, Mr Kugel, that’s nothing to sneeze at!’
Understandably, Kugel at first doubts the authenticity of the old woman’s claim and counters that Anne Frank died in Auschwitz. Suggesting otherwise, Kugel admonishes, is an insult to the millions of victims of Nazi brutality. Anne Frank replies: ‘It was Bergen-Belsen, jackass.’ She rolls up her sleeve, revealing the concentration-camp numbers tattooed on her arm. ‘And as for the relatives you lost in the Holocaust? Blow me.’ (…)
Luckily, there can only be one Holocaust, but how we are to remember it is a persistent cause of tension. ‘I think never forgetting the Holocaust is not the same as never shutting up about it’, Anne Frank tells Kugel, whose overbearing mother insists that a lampshade labelled ‘Made in Taiwan’ and a bar of soap labelled ‘Ivory’ are her murdered relatives.
Holocaust remembrance often has as much to do with satisfying a need for self-victimisation and with championing personal causes as it does with honouring the memory of those who suffered.
Flinging Marv’s suede-bound portfolio across the desk, Hymie said, “For bad taste, your proposal takes the cake. I’m amazed.”
“We value our good name here,” said Morrie.
“I’ll bet if I had come to you with proposals for Survivor or Castaway camps you would have turned both ideas down. Hey, Hymie, if I told you I had discovered E equals MC squared, you know what you’d say? ‘So what’ is what you’d say. I’m wasting my time here,” said Marv, sweeping up his portfolio.
Hymie snatched it back, flipped through it, made a face, and passed it to Morrie.
“You’re joking,” said Morrie.
“I kid you not.”
“We see where you’re coming from,” said Hymie, “but Jews can be very touchy.”
“You know what the Jew who has everything will still fork out plenty for? A guilt trip. Take it from me. Our people will love it. So will the anti-Semites. You reel in both those groups and there’s hardly anybody left out there. I’m also thinking TV rights. The ultimate virtual reality show. Ratings that go beyond your wildest dreams. Forget the Super Bowl. I’m talking global.”