James E. Young, professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is also the author of The Texture of Memory (0 300 05991 4, pb. [pound]18.95*), published by Yale University Press, which won the National Jewish Book Award.
While many critics and commentators point to attempts by the "new Germany" to reconcile itself with its genocidal past, most accounts that make it to these shores come from an outsider's perspective. Young, author of The Texture of Memory and a University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor of English and Judaic studies, was the only foreign and only Jewish member of the commission charged with raising a Holocaust memorial in Berlin. Here, he gives an insider's look at the process that got Daniel Liebeskind's celebrated museum built, and also takes stock of the echoes of the Holocaust he finds in the work of other artists and architects. A chapter on Art Spiegelman's Maus comics, which intersperse autobiography with his parents' Holocaust experiences, finds an ingenious transmission of "the living memory of survivors." Shimon Attie's "hypermediated relationship to the past" translates movingly into his site-specific installations in Europe. Young British artist Rachel Whiteread is interestingly placed among fellow applicants for a German national "memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe." Chapters like "Germany's Holocaust Memorial ProblemÄand Mine" (discussing the recent quest for a national monument) are full of wryly sensitive and firm observations. While the book leans more toward academic criticism than general interest nonfiction, those interested in the subject will find Young's treatment accessible and engaging. (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"The brilliance of James Young's theoretical insights is matched by his outstanding knowledge of the vast array of representations of the Shoah and by his artistic and literary sensitivity. At Memory's Edge will become an influential book." Saul Friedlander "Young's book needs no extra boost, and yet this recent debate over the meaning of German nationalism gives his subject another dimension of topicality, proving again how accurately discussions of art can pinpoint all that's buried just beneath the surface of everyday life." Robert Leiter, New York Times Book Review "A beautifully written and illustrated book that tells us something profound about the featured artistic projects and their contexts." Natasha Lehrer, Jewish Quarterly "This book provides for further study of the nature and meanings of memory, and on the way contemporary artists contribute to the broad and growing discussion of what memory is." Jay Winter, Art Bulletin