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Old 02-29-2016   #1
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Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

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Until a couple of years ago, Thomas Ligotti’s name was barely a sinister whisper amidst the larger horror community, only known by true genre connoisseurs. He was the top-shelf stuff, his writing reserved for readers with palates supposedly developed enough to digest his works of unease and dread. That all changed with the New Weird’s creep into public consciousness—Jeff VanderMeer’s best-selling Southern Reach Trilogy, along with critical and financial darlings like The Leftovers and American Horror Story and Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective, whose premiere season draws the most directly (some would say a little too directly) from Ligotti’s essays and fiction. Ligotti’s own popularity has risen sufficiently that Penguin Classics has recently republished some of his most acclaimed works, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe.
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"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 02-29-2016   #2
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

I never caught the Buber reference before. Interesting.

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Old 03-01-2016   #3
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

I missed the Buber reference too. I actually read some of that book when I was going to college. I can't recall specifics so many years later, but I do remember having a general negative impression of it.

Ligotti didn't mention Buber in Conspiracy but he did cite the Ernst Jentsch essay "On the Psychology of the Uncanny." I believe it is available as a free pdf online.

I like this part of the OP article:

"Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe are certainly not Ligotti’s attempt at exploring Shoah theodicies, but their masterful spook stories can be a blueprint for authors interested in subversive ways of tackling the notions of cosmic injustice and inhuman horror. If employed properly, uncanny horror can be the future of Holocaust literature for the generations feeling the pull toward investigating those uneasy feelings that something fatally wrong exists among us."

I also liked his comments on writing about horrors that were not experienced "first-hand" and even the horror recounted directly but from a distance in time. This latter comment is also connected to Ligotti's work in that it sometimes deals with compromised memory. I read an interesting book on this subject years ago.





I have read realistic 'horror' fiction regarding the Holocaust, but I don't recall anything that could be called uncanny or weird fiction. The pre-Holocaust work of Kafka and Meyrink come to mind but don't qualify. Does anyone know of stories that fit this description?

Last edited by bendk; 03-01-2016 at 08:18 AM..
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Old 03-01-2016   #4
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

I Mazes of the Serpent, Richard B. Salomon notices some structural similarities between weird fiction and holocaust literature. It's highly recommended.
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Old 03-02-2016   #5
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

I just read this yesterday, in Otto Dov Kulka's Auschwitz memoir, Landscapes of the Metropolis of Death. He mentions an inmate, a former conductor, who organised a children's choir and staged a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy and all:
What was his intention in choosing to perform that particular text, a text that is considered the universal manifesto of everyone who believes in human dignity, in humanistic values, in the future - facing those crematoria, in the place where the future was perhaps the only definite thing that did not exist? Was it a kind of protest demonstration[?] ... That is one possibility, a very fine one, but there is a second possibility, which is apparently far more likely, or may sometimes be called for. ... I refer to the possibility that this was an act of extreme sarcasm, to the outermost possible limit, of self-amusement, of a person in control of naïve beings and implanting in them naïve values, sublime and wonderful values, while all the time knowing that there is no point or purpose and no meaning in those values. In other words, that this was a kind of almost demonic self-amusement of playing melodies to accompany those flames that burned quietly day and night and those processions being swallowed into the insatiable crematoria.
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Old 05-13-2016   #6
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

Quote Originally Posted by pchallinor View Post
In other words, that this was a kind of almost demonic self-amusement of playing melodies to accompany those flames that burned quietly day and night and those processions being swallowed into the insatiable crematoria.
This had me in tears. It's hard to convey the relief in finally finding a place where this understanding can be shared.
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Old 05-13-2016   #7
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Re: Thomas Ligotti’s Uncanny Horror and the Future of Holocaust Fiction

Holocaust literature is uncanny because the dehumanization that the Nazis employed was horrifyingly effective if the person survived.

"Killing Hitler" by Roger Moore? chronicled the minutae of each attempt to assassinate Hitler, some of which were so inept and absurd--or conversely, came so close and were botched by the chance in such minute ways that it leaves one in a sort of agitated frustration and also with an inescapable sense that malign presence was actually looking out for him.

"Army of Shadows" is a film that gives a sense of what actual resistance in a situation like that costs and dispatches with all romanticism.

“The real reason why so few men believe in God is that they have ceased to believe that even a God can love them.”
― Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island
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