JTalk: Professor Merle Williams on Nathan Englander, Anne Frank and the Legacy of the Holocaust

Nathan Englander made a name for himself as an accomplished American-Jewish writer with his debut volume of witty, transgressive, tragi-comic stories called For the Relief of Unbearable Urges (1999). His second collection (2012) draws its title from the opening story: ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank’. Two couples, one Charedi and living in Israel, the other secular residents of Florida, meet for a long-postponed reunion. Their protracted and often awkward discussion under the influence of both alcohol and drugs leads them to the Holocaust, and so to the ‘Anne Frank game’ or ‘Who Will Hide Me?’. Consciously modelled on a famous short story by Raymond Carver, Englander’s spare realist narrative explores the continuing legacy of the Holocaust, its complicated role in shaping Jewish identity and the ethical responsibility of the individual in the face of genocide.

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