Speaker: Áine McGillicuddy (Dublin City University)
'When fiction deals with real historical events what is its responsibility to the truth? What about its responsibilities to its readers? These opening questions in Lydia Kokkola’s 2007 article ‘Holocaust Narratives and the Ethics of Truthfulness’ have lost none of their relevance today. Questions concerning truth, authenticity and memory are even more crucial as we progress through the first half of the 21st century and draw further away from the lived memory of the National Socialist era (1933–1945) and its terrible impact on society and individuals. This includes the displacement of thousands of children on Kindertransports and their forced separation from family and home. A new generation of child readers is now learning about this significant chapter of world history. For many children, fictional narratives continue to be their first meaningful encounter with historical events and influences how they conceptualise the world around them in terms of its past. This underlines the importance of writing and publishing narratives for child readers that depict historical events accurately, even if the characters and their stories are fictional. Such considerations will be discussed within the framework of historical fiction for children depicting the experiences of Kindertransportees. More specifically, we will examine two novels for children by Irish children’s writers centred around the Kindertransport: Faraway Home by Marilyn Taylor (1990) and The Hunt for David Berman by Claire Mulligan (2022). Unlike other literary treatments of the Kindertransport that are inspired by the author’s own childhood experiences, both these works are written by authors with no personal experience of the Kindertransport. In this comparative analysis, we will discuss these Irish authors’ motives for writing stories depicting the experiences of Kindertransportees and investigate the representations of this particular historical context and the lived experiences of child exiles in their works for current and future generations of young readers.
All are welcome to participate. Attendance at the seminar is free; advance online registration is required.
Image: London Kindertransport Memorial (photo by Paul Simpson, 1976; via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)