'The poet remained alone amidst the corpses of words . . .'

The Deportation Poetry of André Ulmann and Maurice Honel

in Critical Survey
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  • 1 Bar-Ilan University molega@biu.ac.il
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In an article entitled ‘Témoignage du camp et poésie’, published in 1948, the former deportee Robert Antelme, author of the now classic deportation text L’Espèce humaine, identifies what he sees as the respective problems of prose and poetic testimonies. The prose account, claims Antelme, in its supposed stark objectivity, all too often reads like some abstract accusatory act, a photograph that may provoke fear and trembling, but from which lessons cannot be explicitly learnt. Poetry, on the other hand, would run the risk of fleeing the reality of the camps, of allowing it to be only glimpsed through melodic counterpoint or nostalgic themes, thus enveloping the reality in a mist of words but never really penetrating it. In fleeing prosaic description, then, poetry would risk falling into obscurity.

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