Fiction (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
An assumption made by a court and embodied in various legal doctrines that a fact or concept is true when in actuality it is not true, or when it is likely to be equally false and true.
A legal fiction is created for the purpose of promoting the ends of justice. A common-law action, for example, allowed a father to bring suit against his daughter's seducer, based on the legal fiction of the loss of her services. Similarly, the law of TORTS encompasses the legal fiction of the rule of VICARIOUS LIABILITY, which renders an employer responsible for the civil wrongs of his or her employees that are committed during their course of employment. Even though the employer generally is uninvolved in the actual act constituting the tort, the law holds the employer responsible since, through a legal fiction, he or she is deemed to be in direct control of the employee's actions. A seller of real estate might, for example, be liable in an action for FRAUD committed by his or her agent in the course of a sale.
(The entire section is 180 words.)
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Fiction (Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity)
Genocide fiction is written for a reason and with an agenda in mind. Motivations for genocide fiction include the search for meaning of an actuality that is not accessible, and the search for a personal and collective identity of first or later generation survivors as part of an effort of coming to terms with or working through the past. Genocide fiction is informed by an effort to promote remembrance, to give voice, to raise awareness, and to deepen a public's understanding of atrocities. Temporal distance from the historical events has been seen to affect the decision to undertake historical fiction rather than memoirs or autobiographical representation as a medium for communication and reflection about atrocities. Survivor authors may write memoirs and histories before turning to fiction in an effort "to establish the historicity of the subject before admitting it to the imagination" (Dekoven, 1980, p. 59) while the memory is still fresh, and decide on more creative storytelling as atrocities move further into the past. Holocaust survivors Anna Langfus, Piotr Rawicz, and Elie Wiesel opted for fiction because it facilitates detachment from suffering and allows for the creation of a new personal and collective identity. Empowered by an agenda to come to terms with the "unmasterable past," to search for meaning, and to reveal "something truthfulbout the fragmented self under siege, about memory, about traumahat may otherwise elude expression" (Horowitz, 1997, p. 24), genocide fiction bridges history, memory, and imagination.
Ida Fink, recipient of the Anne Frank Prize for Literature in 1985 and the Yad Vashem Prize in 1995, is the author of A Scrap of Time and Other Stories (1987), The Journey (1992), and Traces (1997), among other works. She shows in her fictional rendering "A Spring Morning" that fiction can serve to deliver multiple perspectives: Her work renders, on the one hand, a surviving eyewitness report, and on the other, the perspective of its murdered victim. By providing the latter a voice and enabling it to echo throughout the pages of the narrative, the extensive "imaginative intercession into historical realityhe murdered man's life, fate, and feelings, the tragic indignity and the superfluous cruelty of his suffering" counteracts the victim's "radical muteness" consigned to him by his assassins (Horowitz, 1997, p. 14). Genocide fiction gives voice to mute victims; muteness also emerges as an essential behavioral element aimed at enunciating the use of silence as a method of resistance, and serves to vocalize the speechlessness with which atrocities are remembered. In the case of Philip Roth, representation of the void takes the form of ghosts who embody fantastic revivifications of genocide victims and give the writer an opportunity to return to Bruno Schulz and Anne Frank's thoughts, voice, and vision. The inability to heal the wound increases with time, and second or later generations who inherit trauma without personal memory cannot fill the void with knowledge and experience. Second generation Holocaust writers David Grossman (See Under: Love, 1986; English translation, 1989) and Spiegelman (Maus, 1986) enunciate in their writings the fragmentation of self-identity, and the acknowledgement that complete answers will be found. Holocaust author Henri Raczymow writes empty spaces into the narrative, reinforcing the idea that, although the lack of memory cannot be reconstituted, forgetting is not an option.
It lies within the power of literature to complement, enhance, and affect the memory and understanding of history. In the words of distinguished Latin American writer Mario Vargas Llosa, author of Conversación en La Catedral (1969), and La fiesta del Chivo (2000), among other works, "The originality of a narrative lies not in what it portrays of the real world but rather in what it reforms or adds to it. . . a reality that, without being reality, being distinct and alternative, asserts itself, in the case of successful narratives, due to its power of persuasion, as the real reality, the authentic, secret reality, reflected in literature" (Rebasa-Soraluz and Chaddick, 1997). A postgenocide generation can access history only through representation and their and others' imaginations; hence, as those generations then take on the task of further enhancing the representation, the question arises of how their representations affect a new memory and enhance or over-power the history closest to the event. As Neil R. Davison emphasizes in 1995, narrative determines history in the present as well as in the past; at the same time, narrative depends on history and literary form.
Each work adds a new perspective, and influences the concept of history as well as the outlook on the future. Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butter-flies, found motivation for writing a work of fiction about the Trujillo dictatorship through her interest in understanding the special courage that gave the persecuted the strength to stand up to the terror of the time. Alvarez opted for fictional discourse because neither fact nor legend were within her reach or sufficed to reach her goal of raising consciousness and understanding:
What you find in these pages are not the Mirabal sisters of fact, or even the Mirabal sisters of legend. The actual sisters I never knew, nor did I have access to enough information. . . . As for the sisters of legend, wrapped in superlatives and ascended into myth, they were finally also inaccessible to me. . . . To Dominicans separated by language from the world I have created, I hope this book deepens North Americans' understanding of the nightmare you endured and the heavy losses you sufferedf which this story tells only a few (1995, p. 324).
With emphasis on the implication of understanding history for the creation of a better future, Jane Yolen in Devil's Arithmetic (1988) enables her protagonist to travel back through time to gain an understanding of the experiences of Jewish enslavement and her grandfather's associated peculiar behavior. African American writer Nalo Hopkinson turns to science fiction and fantasy writing about slavery in the hope that African Americans find motivation to fight for a better world. She perceives that African Americans as still straitjacketed by the history of slavery and thus contends: "If black people can imagine our futures, imaginemong other thingsultures in which we aren't alienated; then we can begin to see our way clear to creating them" (Davison, 1995, p. 589). Some critics nevertheless caution against such a positivistic approach, although it is reflected in many writings. As Efraim Sicher states,
There is thus both awesome responsibility and ironic ambivalence in imagining the past in order to remember the future. There can indeed be no future without the past, but, when remembrance relies on imagination to give it meaning, one must be aware of the risks that are involved (2000, p. 84).
Despite the strong affirmation that genocide is indeed unrepresentable, representing the unrepresentable may be attempted through fiction. The fictional representation of genocide history, according to Sicher, enunciates the "fragmentation of the self, to the relativity of truth, to the fluidity of memory and to the impossibility of ever fully knowing. . . . Narrative recreates different identities and acts out in fantasy form repressed stories which test the freedom or dependence of the individual vis-à-vis the past" suggesting a relationship with the victim or survivor (2000, p. 81). Fictional renderings of genocide have been considered especially successful in eliciting imaginative responses from readers and in serving as a bridge between the Holocaust and the contemporary reader, affirming the event's historical import. Genocide fiction can compel reader response to pain and suffering and summon the imaginative empathy of affinity with the other. In the words of John Hersey, author of the 1950 book The Wall (1950), "Imagination would not serve; only memory could serve. To salvage anything that would be worthy of the subject, I had to invent a memory" (Hartman, 1999, p. 66). The combination of emotional and imaginative engagement of the reader coupled with factual consistency, such as that achieved in Charlotte Delbo's None of Us Will Return, Susan Schaeffer's Anya, and Livia Jackson's Elli, capture the experience of victimization through the lyrical use of prose that enhances the presentation of emotions and thereby serves to augment the reader's involvement with the novel. Fictional poetic discourse, sustained by historical facts and data, may facilitate a meaningful and imaginative personal memory that approaches genocide memory and provides the latter an opportunity to endure in spite of time and place.
Techniques in genocide fiction are multifold and often contest previous fictional conventions as these texts "make imagination serve fact rather than the reverse. . . to provide a narrative perspective and to make the facts. . . more accessible to the senses" (Heinemann, 1986, p. 118). Perhaps in direct correlation to the notion that "too much fiction can make a fool of history" (Kearney, 2002, p. 57), genocide fiction is marked by authenticating devices such as imitation of a memoir through first-person narrators, authorial voice attributes in prefaces or introductions, as well as the incorporation of documentation, reportage, and diaries, similar persons, patterns, or incidents to suggest that the information is drawn primarily from survivor and historical evidence. Nevertheless, the recurrence of statements attesting to an essential truthfulness in fiction on atrocities in history, which suggests that the achievement of historical discourse is ultimately a condition aspired to even within the context of genocide fiction, does not necessarily signify apprehension about this choice of discourse by writers of fiction.
Many works of fiction specifically identify themselves as fiction and request to be read as such, regardless of the historical accuracy of events, and circumstances, or the similarity between the experiences of the survivor author and those of the fictional protagonist. Wiesel's novel Night is by some referred to as a light fiction due to the apparent connection between Wiesel's own sufferings as a five-year-old boy in Buchenwald and his fictional account of the five-year-old protagonist's struggles in the Nazi death camp. The author negates testimonial validity of the work because, despite the influences of the personal experience on the narrative, it remains a result of his creative imagination. Fictionality provides the author with more control over the representation and message; in genocide fiction, imagination may serve fact in presenting a particular perspective of the event and incorporating testimonial conventions. To give voice to experiences in the Warsaw ghetto, Raczymow incorporates a fictional diary into his narrative that transposes autobiographical information with that of other fictional as well as historical characters, and interweaves actual and fictional events and personal experiences. However, to emphasize the fictionality of the work and to undermine the effect of authenticity rendered through the incorporation of certain devices, Raczymow disrupts the consideration of unmediated testimonial function by signaling the mimetic distance of the diary he incorporates as twice removed from anyone's actual experience (Zeitlin, 1998, p. 9). Because genocide fiction does not pretend to serve as a historical document, Alvarez confirms,
I sometimes took libertiesy changing dates, by reconstructing events, and by collapsing characters or incidents. For I wanted to immerse my readers in an epoch in the life of the Dominican Republic that I believe can only finally be understood by fiction, only finally be redeemed by the imagination. A novel is not, after all, a historical document; but a way to travel through the human heart (1995, p. 324).
In genocide fiction the protagonist's fate is handcrafted by a writer who integrates elements from history to enhance and shape the plot, yet manipulates circumstances, folds events, merges characters, and manipulates circumstances to reinforce a particular reading of the interrelationship between people, time, place, as well as fate. An author's decision on how to end a novel involves consideration of resolution and closure; generally, it also involves a question of hope. However, in most genocide fiction, hope, like the protagonist, is inexorably tied to a final demise. Echoing an absolute lack of hope, Pierre Gascar's "The Seasons of the Dead" evokes "a haze of fearfulness and disbelief," facing "death without coffins, without reasons, without rituals, without witnesses," and culminates in the realization passed on to the reader that the pain and grief will find no closure (Howe, 1988, pp. 191, 196). Nevertheless, a contrasting image is advanced in some children's and junior literature with the tendency to overwrite the impossibility of hope through an open ending, thereby inviting the thought that a particular protagonist might possibly have escaped the claws of the very event that earned it the name of genocide. Novels with open or optimistic endings have become more frequent with the increased publication of escape, rescue, and survival accounts involving children, such as Antonio Skármeta's Nothing Happened (1980), Christa Laird's But Can the Phoenix Sing? (1993); Malka Drucker and Michael Halperin's Jacob's Rescue (1993), Vivian Vande Velde's A Coming Evil (1998), and Julia Alvarez's Before We Were Free (2002).
Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi confirms that
the distorted image of the human form which the artist might present as but a mirror of nature transformed can hardly be contained within the traditional perimeters of mimetic art, because, although Holocaust literature is a reflection of recent history, it cannot draw upon the timeless archetypes of human experience and human behavior which can render unlived events familiar through the medium of the imagination (1980, p. 9).
Schwarz-Bart's The Last of the Just echoes this notion that within the context of genocide, legend, myth, and folktale do not suffice to establish an authenticity effect. His novel depends on authenticity devices for the "cohesiveness and historiographical implications of its story-telling" until the novel's timeline approaches the Holocaust and the narrative is overtaken by, initially rather general and later specific, significant Holocaust phenomena and events (Davison, 1995, p. 294). Genocide fiction can extend beyond the traditional concept of fiction and attain the status of a cultural and social document by providing an insight into genocide horrors and dimensions by creating a literary memory "whose meaning will endure" through "a narrating consciousness who makes sense out of the confusion of history and makes the reader imagine being there" (Sicher, 2000, p. 66). In that respect genocide fiction can contribute toward a postmemory that is connected to the atrocities of the past, perhaps primarily through imagination and literary creativity rather than remembrance.
Unlike authoritarian regimes "that attempt to impose a singular 'reading' of the human condition," literature through its "multifarious coherence" is "always provisional and never final" (Tierney-Tello, 1996, p. 4); at the same time, literature also provides voice to multifaceted interpretations and agendas. Consequently, many scholars, historians, victims, witnesses of atrocities, and others, who seek to remember history as it was and to ensure that certain events will never occur again, caution against free-ranging representation of these horrors, as with each representation one may indeed move further and further away from historical fact. Genocide fiction enables people to represent the past as they visualize it or to "reinvent it as it might have been" (Kearney, 2002, p. 69), to inform others about their interpretation as well as to help others remember. However, the very fact that revisionists and fascists in many instances of genocide have sought to rewrite history in an effort to deny or downplay its significance and horrors keeps critics and readers on the lookout for distorted representation. Argumentation against employing fiction as a means of representing the Holocaust and, in extension, any genocide, includes Lanzmann's affirmation of the impossibility to communicate absolute horror. However, the unrepresentability per se of genocide is not contradicted by genocide fiction and its intent to present what was or might have been and to facilitate remembrance. Genocide fiction requires a delicate balance between "a historical fidelity to truth (respecting the distance of the past as it was in the past) and an aesthetic fidelity to imaginative vivacity and credibility (presenting the past as if it were the present)" in order to serve genocide by "an aesthetic" that matches historical triumph in terms of intensity and impact and that may even require exceeding the latter in an effort to "compete for the attention of the public at large" (Kearney, 2002, p. 60). Due to genocide fiction's particular strength in engaging the reader and eliciting imaginative responses by serving as a bridge between the historical event and experience and the present, genocide fiction may serve to affirm rather than erase the historical import.
SEE ALSO Biographies; Diaries; Memoirs of Survivors; Wiesel, Elie
Alvarez, Julia (1995). In the Time of the Butterflies. New York: Penguin Books.
Davison, Neil R. (1995). "Inside the 'Shoah': Narrative, Documentation, and Schwarz-Bart's 'The Last of the Just.'" CLIO 24(3):29122.
Dekoven, Ezrahi Sidra (1980). By Words Alone: The Holocaust in Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Hartman, Geoffrey H. (1999). "Public Memory and Modern Experience." In A Critic's Journey. Literary Reflections, 1958998, ed. Geoffrey H. Hartman. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Heinemann, Marlene E. (1986). Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust. New York: Greenwood Press.
Hirsch, Marianne (1997). Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Horowitz, Sara R. (1997). Voicing the Void: Muteness and Memory in Holocaust Fiction. Albany: State University of New York Press.
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Lang, Berel, ed. (1988). Writing and the Holocaust. New York: Holmes & Meier.
Lehmann, Sophia (1998). "'And Here [Their] Troubles Began': The Legacy of the Holocaust in the Writing of Cynthia Ozick, Art Spiegelman, and Philip Roth." CLIO 28(1):292.
Rebasa-Soraluz, Luis, and Larisa Chaddick (1997). "Demons and Lies: Motivation and Form in Mario Vargas Llosa." The Review of Contemporary Fiction 17(1):154.
Rutledge, Gregory E. (1999). "Speaking in Tongues: An Interview with Science Fiction Writer Nalo Hopkinson." African American Review 33(4):58901.
Sicher, Efraim (2000). "The Future of the Past: Countermemory and Postmemory in Contemporary American Post-Holocaust Narratives." History and Memory 12(2):561.
Tierney-Tello, Mary Beth (1996). Allegories of Transgression and Transformation: Experimental Fiction by Women Writing Under Dictatorship. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Unnold, Yvonne S. (2002). Representing the Unrepresentable: Literature of Trauma in Chile. New York: Peter Lang.
Zeitlin, Froma I. (1998). "The Vicarious Witness: Belated Memory and Authorial Presence in Recent Holocaust Literature." History and Memory 10(2):52.
Yvonne S. Unnold