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1.1. Thesis Rationale
11.1. Research Questions and Approach
III. Analysis of Cole Moreton’s My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them
III. 1. Genre and Narrative Mode
111.2. Narrative Urgency
111.3. Male Family Relationships as Agents of Transmission: The Rise and Fall of the Father-Hero
111.4. Artifacts ofMemory and Photography
IV. Conclusions and Further Research
This thesis is dedicated to the memory of my parents Raymond Walter Howes and Nora May Howes (ne Evans), both of the war generation. My father served in the Royal Air Force in Italy, Yugoslavia and Rumania, being captured and imprisoned by the Russian Forces at the end of the war. He finally returned to Britain in 1946. My mother worked as a welder in a munitions factory in Wrexham (UK), where they met. They married shortly after, in 1943
I have my father to blame for my life-long obsession with the history of World War Two. But it was my mother’s comment that “he changed so much after the war” and my father’s confession of his rather cold welcome on his eventual homecoming which inspired me to question, like so many other members of the post-generation, whether they were unique in their post-war experiences and we were an unusual family. After some initial investigation, I discovered that there were indeed many other similar family stories, a historiographical study of demobilization, and an emerging sub-genre of memoirs, one of which I have chosen as a generative text for the present study
My thoughts on this topic have recently developed in the light of conversations I had with Trauma and Memory scholars at a conference at The University of Portsmouth in July 2013, and again with scholars in the Cultures and Commemoration conference in July 2014 at the same University. A special thanks goes to Dr. Christine Berberich and Dr. Elodie Rousselot for providing such an enriching opportunity for discussion.
I would also like to thank Dr. Barbara Merill at The University of Warwick for her encouragement and thought provoking discussions on the effects of war trauma on family life; her own father was captured and imprisoned in Auschwitz II for most of the duration of the war. My thanks also go to Emma Gallardo Richards, one of my undergraduate students, for her insightful conversations about her grandparents’ war and her own third generation postmemorial work.
My gratitude also goes to Professor Andrew Monnickendam for his belief that an aging dog can still learn new tricks and for his support.
Finally, I would like to thank my husband, Toni Mengual, and son, Alexander, for all their patience and for sacrificing most of their summer holidays while I completed this thesis.
My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them (2004) is Cole Moreton’s autobiographical account of his quest not only to uncover the untold stories of his grandfather’s participation in World War Two and difficulties after demobilization, but also to trace the war’s lingering effects through three generations of male family members. Furthermore, in a stylistic blend of history, fiction, self-conscious archival research and confessional memoir, Moreton explores the notions of heroism, the creation of collective mythologies surrounding World War Two and the reliability of memory. This thesis examines how Moreton’s text operates within the framework of postmemory (Hirsch, 1997), and principally aims to demonstrate that this concept may be broadened beyond its original contextual location of second generation Holocaust writings to the descendants of British exservicemen. A close reading of the narrative further hints at its inclusion into the emerging subgenre of European post-vaterlitertur, as Moreton’s contemporary standpoint and generational distance allows new insights into the events of the war and a fresh understanding of its generation. Finally, this study of Moreton’s work illustrates how this emerging sub-genre distinguishes itself from that of the Holocaust not only through its representation of the small human truths behind the grand historical events, but also how its writers necessarily and overtly articulate their archival research in order to subvert existing myths, further cultural memory of hitherto unknown histories and to discover the truths behind their family’s post-war troubles.
This thesis has been written in general agreement with the guidelines established by the ML A Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (Seventh Edition).
“Like everyone born shortly after 1945, I saw the war flickering at the edge of my childhood. My father stayed in the Territorials, my TV screen was filled with soldiers, and so was my weekly comic (the Victor). But for all that, the fighting felt remote - all the more so because my father very rarely talked about it. I used to think this was his modesty and reserve - and so it was. Now I realise it was also because he didn't want the shadow of what he'd been through to fall across my own life. I've always been grateful to him for this, but I've also wanted to know his story. It's been one of the shaping paradoxes of my life.” (Motion, 2014)
“[...] there was no way these damaged men could explain their incapacity for normal emotional experience except by complaining, and they would not complain.
Buttheirchildrenmust.” (Greer, 1990: 14)
“[...] but my bet would be that anyone who’s seen real combat would have for the rest of his life something going on inside him. Some wound. Some secret.
I listened, transfixed. “‘What is it?’” I asked him [.] ‘I meant there was going to be a big difference between those who had been in the war and those who had not - between the fathers and the sons.’” (Matthews, 2005: 226)
It wasn’t until over fifty years after the end of WWII that many of the silences surrounding the war had begun to be broken. I write silences in plural because they are many: Silence in France over the collaboration with the Vichy Regime, the guilt-ridden silence in Germany, silence over the allied bombing in Germany and Japan and silence in Japan over the atrocities committed on allied prisoners of war. But the literary sub-genre that I explore in this thesis concerns itself with something more intimate and more ordinary; the silence of hundreds of thousands of returning veterans at the end of the war and the wars’ lasting effect on family life. After demobilization these ex-servicemen were expected to put their war behind them and get on with building a new life. Certainly many of them didjust that, but the often extraordinary, traumatic wartime experiences of many of these men and their difficult adaptation to civilian and family life on returning home never quite penetrated the post-war grand narrative of the return from the ‘Good War’. But neither did the other untold story; the devastating effect this silence often had on family life; echoing through three generations.
A fresh urgency to record personal familial experiences, emerging with the generational renewal from first to second and third generations, has lent more value and significance to the smaller historical narrative or the micro-history1 over what Lyotard termed the grand narrative (Lyotard, 1984). These micro-histories recount the hardships of war as experienced by the ordinary people and add fresh overtones to the post-war family relationships. This change has not only taken place in Anglo-American texts, but also in those of other languages; works which have frequently caused heated debate. For example, French writer Alexandre Jardin wrote of his grandfather’s collaboration with the Nazis, and although not a family novel, German writer Gunter Grass’ autobiography and novel has certainly raised eyebrows in certain sectors of German society.2 Also in Germany, however, Uwe Timm wrote about his older brother’s participation in the war as a young SS soldier, pointing towards familial reconciliation and concern for the impact of WWII on ordinary Germans.3 Indeed, writing from the German perspective, Aleida Assmann pointed to a shift from the critical second generational standpoint of the Vaterliteratur4 of the 1970s and 1980s to a more reconciliatory, less condemning position of the “family novel” at the turn of the century (Assmann, 2006). These later second and third generations’ narratives, of which I argue that Moreton’s forms part, thus exemplify the willingness to understand the war generation and uncover family secrets; shattering, in the process, the haunting silence and social amnesia of the post-war period.
Certainly, the legacy ofWWII, which Cole Moreton likens to “a draught that lingers when a door has been slammed shut” (Moreton, 2004:7),5 still reverberates through deep culture and has been an undercurrent in the imagination of many postmodern writers. Authors such Graham Swif t (b.1949), Ian McEwan (b.1948), Julian Barnes (b.1948) and Kazuro Ishiguro (b.1954) amongst others have produced fictional works with their inspiration rooted in their fathers’ war (Crosthwaite, 2009:6); demonstrating a personal and affective connection. Significantly, these writers belong to the second generation writers, bornjust after the end of the war. Growing up in the 1950s with the war as a presence in the home through parents’ stories, photos and experiences, this second generation often had mythologized visions of The Good War6 illustrated in the literature and cinema of the period. Many of the writers reflect Cole Moreton’s (b.1967) thoughts on his own (early) third generation when he notes “We were the last generation to be brought up on the folklore of the war, the last to know the names of battles from three decades before. Our father’s encouraged it. Mine did anyway [...] the conflicts on the carpet always looked right” (Moreton, 2004: 4).
The war generation had become known as the ‘Silent Generation’ since they rarely talked about their wars. Many second and third generation writers and memoirists testify to this silence, as Tom Matthews in his book portraying ten WWII veterans and their sons, puts it “I started to wonder whether The Good War might be the Last Best Kept Secret” (Matthews, 2005: 29). This silence often served to intensify the myth, as Moreton explains: “Neither of my grandfathers would talk about what he had done in the war, but thatjust added to the glamour. It must have been top secret, or so traumatic they couldn’t bear to relive the memories” (ibid: 5-6), so Moreton simply drew up his own conclusions, that his “grandfather was a hero” (ibid: 6). He adds:
The silence is passed down, from father and mother to son and daughter, and so on. And so it was for the men and women who came home at the end of the Second World War but could never talk about what they had been through, nor explain why it was so hard to settle down again. Their families could only imagine what had happened, by watching the person who had come back to live with them. In these acts of imagination, both heroism and guilt were exaggerated. (Moreton, 2004: 7)
Similarly, Germaine Greer in her memoir “demanded heroism” (Greer, 1990: 127) of her father, an Australian RAF intelligence officer, who “died with his mouth still shut” (ibid: 142). For this generation, their father’s war had mostly been “in black and white and not very bloody” (Schultz Vento, 2011: 23).7 Moreton’s father had passed down this folkloric, heroic version of the war to his son, but Moreton slowly:
began to realize that this was notjust a game; that the soldiers on the television who clutched their chests and fell writhing to the ground were actors, yes, but they were acting out a version of something real. Somebody had really died, sometime in the past. The survivors were still alive, and you could see them out in force once a year; old men in berets and raincoats marching to Remembrance Day service in loose formation behind the Boys’ Brigade band, then standing to attention with tears in their eyes as the Last Post was played. Each was alone again the following day, bareheaded, shuffling with a stoop, carrying dinner for one home from the Wavy Line, (ibid: 5)
The passing of time seems to have been the impulse these writers needed to reformulate historical reality, and as Matthews puts it “to rewind the tape” (Matthews, 2005: 29) in order to question what the war must have really been like for their parents and in doing so, discover what the after-effects were on their family life.
Yet WWII as a legacy of traumatic events specifically located within the intimate core of family life had been largely neglected in both historiographical and literary works until around the end of the 1980s. The first text of this kind that I am aware of emerges in 1989 with Germaine Greer’s memoir which investigates her troubled relationship with her father, tracing the origins of these difficulties to his war experience. The catastrophic events of 11 September8 along with the passing of the war generation triggered the emergence of new works by authors engaging directly with their fathers’ wars: Julia Collin’s My Father’s War (2002); Tom Matthew’s Our Fathers’ War (2005); Lucinda Franks’ My Father’s Secret War (2007); Jan Elvin’s The Box From Braunau (2009); Thomas Childers’ Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II (2009); Leila Levinson’s Gated Grief (2011); and Carol Schultz Vento’s The Hidden Legacy of World War Two (2011) all form part of this evolving sub-genre of family postmemoirs. Similarly, the book I explore in this thesis, Cole Moreton’s My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them narrates the writer’s investigation of the silence surrounding his grandfather’s war and his father’s post-war childhood.
These family narratives act as a channel for revising the cultural memory of WWII; inviting the reader to question the mythic interpretation of the seemingly ‘successful reintegration’ of the Greatest Generation9 war veteran into family and social life in the United Kingdom. Mary
Anne Shofield notes that literary representations of the return between 1945 and 1951 simply attest to the “raw, untested peace; [...] the war and its consequences are assimilated into preexisting patterns and standard tropes that are absorbed into the national consciousness as quickly as possible” (Shofield, 2007: 81). This “fantasy of paradise” (ibid: 82) and “romanticized home front” (ibid: 82) does not account for the difficulties posed by the separation of families, sometimes for nearly six years; the hardships of the home front; the shift in women’s roles; the reality of a depressed economy and food rationing; the resentment that both ex-servicemen and civilians felt about each other’s war experiences; and the lack of support and understanding for what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
The impact of psychological trauma on post-war family relationships cannot be overly stressed. The admittance of trauma symptoms at the time, was still considered LMF (Lack of Moral Fiber), and was generally ignored, both by the government and the armed services; the former to avoid paying out pensions and the latter to keep their men in active service. Sometimes the treatment was worse than the symptoms, and it is little wonder that most men refused to admit their illnesses; treatments included narco-therapy, lobotomies or being locked up in a dark room and fed only bread and water (Holden, 1998: 124). Many memoirists, mentioned above, attest to and lay bare their father’s hitherto silenced PTSD, placing it at the very core of their family’s troubled history.
In addition to the upheavals and traumatic experiences of the war itself, upon demobilization many men found the adaptation from military to civilian life difficult; after all they had been in an all-male military environment, with its emphasis on a “code of masculine behaviour more single-minded and more traditional than the wide array of circumstances and personal nature that influences the behaviour of men in non-war situations” (Braudy, 2003: xvi). On their return many men devoid of the authority and command that the military had conferred upon them now felt “powerless and emasculated” (Stafford, 1990: 4).10 Jo Mary Stafford, remembering her father’s return from the war states: “The only people he could still order around were his unfortunate wife and children, and they would have to do” (ibid), even “lining them up for inspection, shoulders back, tummies in, feet straight [...]” (ibid). Although Alan Allport in his detailed account of the problems of demobilization in the UK states that such cases “were thankfully the exception” (Allport, 2009: 67), these family postmemoirs do narrate similar conflicts. Many fathers were to discover that their parade ground disciplinary tactics, with no answering back, would simply engender further conflict with their children in the post-war period. A similar common trait apparent in these Anglo-American texts is the father’s desire for his sons to “be a man”; to be brave and conceal emotions. Matthews narrates how his father tried to persuade his four year old self to have enough courage to jump off the roof of the garage; when he refused, his father replied “No son of mine is a coward” (Matthews, 2005: 4). Matthews suggests that “from the day [his father] came home, the kinetic energy of WWII stuck at [our] center of gravity” (ibid: 4). Strict military discipline combined with traits associated with military masculinity such as stoicism, courage, and strength of character in the face of adversity, not only dominated the myth of the war in literature and film in the 1950s, but was, for many, a reality in their domestic life as well. Indeed Oedipal narratives, selfdiscovery quests and a search for ‘lost’, but finally rejected fathers, are a common trope of the literature of the Beat Generation (Braudy, 2003: 515)11. This Vaterliteratur, mentioned above, continues to reject the father figure well beyond the immediate post-war period; becoming more reconciliatory with the aging of the second generation and the emergence of the third, as Moreton’s narrative illustrates. Nevertheless, the rebellious youth of the 1950s through to the late 1970s might partly be attributed to this generation of wartime fatherhood12.
Furthermore those children bom just before or during the war found that their father had become a stranger to them on his return.13 Many men had been away at war for some years, and those who had been taken prisoner at the beginning of the war, on the retreat from Dunkirk for example, had not seen their families for nearly six years. The absence of the father figure at home and the ensuing difficulties on his homecoming brought further psychological problems to their children. They frequently had only their mothers and other female members of the family for company, often sleeping in the same bed. This lack of a male standpoint on events of the war and demobilization meant that children frequently acquired a biased feminine viewpoint of events.14 In addition, some children had been evacuated from the cities and were themselves returning home, which only added to the troubles. Nonetheless, demobilization brought about a rude awakening, with children losing the central attention of their mothers, and many fathers concluding that their wives had been too lenient in their absence. Wives and husbands also had to rebuild their relationships and come to terms with what had often been youthful and hasty war marriages, such as that of Cole Moreton’s grandparents; frequently the expected and longed for hero’s welcome had not been forthcoming. The additional problems of unemployment, lack of housing and a generally war torn civilian population took a toll on many relationships, resulting in a soaring post-war divorce rate. Returning servicemen were also advised not to talk about their war experiences so that family life could resume normality as soon as possible. But as Turner and Rennell so fittingly put it in their study of family life after demobilization: “It was silence, separateness, the refusal to share, that built the barriers” (Turner, 1995: 224). Other families simply fell into a domestic cold war, or else took up the battle in the home, resulting in constant arguments and matrimonial conflict. Evidently such dysfunctionality within the family would deeply affect these children. Many of them were never to rebuild their relationships with their fathers quite simply because, as Allport so tellingly puts it: “Their ‘real’ fathers, the men they had prayed for and wondered about for so many lonely years, never returned from the war” (Allport, 2009: 74). Thus, this explosive melange of post-war familial conflict with the traumatic, disruptive and devastating events of WWII at its heart, caused an enormous ‘silence’ in its aftermath; the effects of which continue to reverberate through three generations.
The work explored in this thesis, then, forms part of these ‘family novels’, which attempt to confront, reconstruct and understand the ‘unspoken’; the emotional truth embedded in unknown familial histories. What these authors endeavour to do in their narratives, in effect, is to “re-create a very well-remembered time and project a lost history onto it” (Alden, 2014: 182). Yet, these small histories, or micro-histories, cannot be separated from their wider historical backgrounds. Indeed, they are inextricably linked; embedded within their macro- historical context. These narratives lend a deeper understanding and provide new insights into the personal experiences of the ordinary serviceman in the war and the effects that WWII had on the post-generations.
1.1. Thesis Rationale
What interests me is precisely the ‘projection’ of this lost or silenced family history onto the grand narrative. How do these writers counter the mythologized version of history and how do they identify and narrate additions to the cultural memory of WWII? How does the genre of second and third generation memoir, which does not constitute first-hand memory, mediate accessibility to the small ‘silenced’ history narrative and what characteristics might influence this mediation? How do these works engage with emotional truth? Does third generation narrative alter perspectives on history and familial conflict, and if so, in what ways? Finally, are these perspectives mediated differently? In addition, I would also like to explore how the relationship between three generations is articulated within the more restorative post- vaterliteratur novels.
I have singled out this work by a British writer over others of similar nature, mentioned above, principally for three reasons. Firstly, for its historical setting in post-war London; with the emphasis on the Blitz and the retreat from Dunkirk as mythologized histories; secondly, for its depiction of the severe socio-economic, cultural and political upheavals which the war precipitated in its aftermath; and thirdly, because this particular work is written by a third generation writer, thus it might be interesting to see any possible shift in narrative style or other differences between generations. Furthermore, the themes of ‘silence’ surrounding the war within the family, the search for identity in family history, and familial conflict are central to Moreton’s work. Indeed, what is interesting in this text is how Moreton fills in the gaps behind the silenced stories of what he terms ‘the silent generation’. He intertwines historical research, personal memory and reflection, and a fictional style of narrative to discover the secret behind his grandfather’s war and his father’s silence; thus narrating the effects the war had on three generations.
By taking Moreton’s work as an example of the ‘father’s war’ family memoirs, I attempt to discover how this particular emerging sub-genre, produced through affective, familial relationships, might articulate the memory of WWII from the more distanced standpoint of second, and particularly, third generations. The exploration of how these family memoirs narrate the memory and legacy of WWII contributes to furthering current knowledge about the nature of contemporary historical discourses of the war and, indeed, how the effects of war continue to reverberate into the Twenty-First Century.
II. Theoretical Framework
[...] impasses in representation and historical understanding do not thwart post-memorial fiction, they create it (Alden, 2014: 205).
The closing decade of the Twentieth Century gave way to an emerging memory culture concerning WWII, challenging and enhancing these more conventional and mythologized narratives. But, the question emerges as to why this should happen at this particular point in time, so long after the end of the war? Certainly, this is a pertinent question that forms the nucleus to much theoretical work in fields across diverse disciplines such as memory and trauma studies as well as historiographical enquiries. Many writers themselves have considered this issue. Julie Summers, for instance, in her unique historiographical work on the women’s perspective notes: “‘It takes a long time, I think, to understand a war’, the novelist A.L. Kennedy said in 2008. ‘We are almost at the point where we can have an overview of 193945’. I would go further and say that it takes even longer to understand the effect that war has on those caught up in its slipstream” (Summers, 2008: 1-2). Undoubtedly, this point seems to have arrived and might be explained in diverse ways: Firstly those springing from objective, more perceivable cultural reasons and secondly, those seemingly originating in a personal and collective subjectivity of the subconscious forces of trauma and history. Furthermore, 09/11, the terrorist attacks in London and the consequent wars in the Middle East seem to have triggered a return to the memory of the Blitz in Britain, Pearl Harbour in the US and other traumatic experiences of WWII, which would partly explain the accelerated pace of production of this sub-genre of postmemoirs. The more visible motives, then, comprise of the apparent cultural and political transformations at the end of the century: The fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany; the anniversary celebrations and official memorial services in 1995 and 2005; and of course the passing of the wartime generation, giving way to second and third generations, all of which have aided the memory culture.
Notably this generational turnover has brought fresh perspectives and revised multiple interpretations of history frequently narrated within the tropes of postmodernism; often inside what Linda Hutcheon terms historiographic metafiction (Hutcheon,1988), or postmemoir (Morris, 2002); self-reflective texts blurring the boundaries between fiction, autobiography and historical documentation, of which Moreton’s text forms part.15 Significantly for the analysis of Moreton, Natasha Alden (2014) notes that Hutcheon’s historiographical metafiction genre has recently evolved, fusing with the notion of Marianne Hirsch’s postmemory; producing texts which, in Alden’s own words, allow us “ to look back with an awareness of the restraints of the historical novel and of the project of historical recovery, and an awareness of historical difference” (Alden, 2014: 180). Reading Moreton as third generation postmemorial text within these postmodernist tropes allows an analysis based on the reader’s awareness and knowledge of the historical moment and contemporary perspective.
The second reason for this memory revival seemingly has its origins embedded in a personal and collective cultural psyche; more abstract and elusive in its perception. The passing of time appears to have been the impulse these post-generation writers needed to reformulate historical reality, examining what the war must have been like for their parents and revealing its after-effects on family life. Certainly, Paul Crosthwaite’s work on the relationship between trauma, WWII and postmodernism has given food for thought as to the theoretical reasons for the contemporary literary fixation with WWII memory; an attempt to answer the question ‘why now?’ Perhaps the response lies not only in the first, more discernible motives outlined above, then, but also in the more complex notion of history as surging from the traumatic events of war. In other words, these literary memorial practices of the present age articulate, in broader and more varied terms, what Freud termed as a belated return to hitherto unassimilated and incomprehensible events. In addition, this belated return to a ‘dormant’ trauma can be reawakened by other literary texts, films or events; the tragedy of 09/11 served to revive not only the heroic rhetoric of “liberty against tyranny” (Torgovnivk, 2005: 1-2), but also the unspeakable horrors of war, both in the collective and personal psyche.
Certainly the history of the Twentieth Century can hardly be approached without addressing traumatic events. Freud’s influential concept of Nachtraglichkeit or belated return, emerging as a response to WWI war trauma, has since paved the way for scholars such as Cathy Caruth and Dominick LaCapra to theorize their now renowned notions of ‘history as trauma’ (Caruth), and ‘acting out’ and ‘working through’ (LaCapra, 2001). In a nutshell, Freud lay the foundations for “permitting history to arise where immediate understanding may not” (Caruth, 1996: 11). Caruth suggests that the “oscillation between the crisis of death and the correlative crisis of life: between the story of the unbearable nature of an event and the story of the unbearable nature of its survival” define the complexity of Twentieth Century history (ibid: 7). For Caruth, then, experiential and more traditional documental historical discourses cannot fully narrate traumatic experiences such as those of the grandfather in the text I explore here, nor the bearing this has had on the lives of both the father and his family. The silence surrounding the aftermath of their experiences can be explained, in part, by what Caruth calls “a numbed state”, in which the returning veterans found themselves after demobilization; the experience can be revived at a later date, by the triggering causes I mentioned above, such as 09/11 or even the screening of war films such as Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan”.16 Variations on the notion of belatedness or the return of trauma, although perhaps not necessarily in the pathological, clinical sense of the concept, have continued to evolve, as Francis Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere’s (2004) influential study, discussed below, on the second generation of families who had suffered traumatic upheavals suggests. Thus, the family narrative addressed in this thesis has, as Jay Winter puts it, “the purpose of converting] trauma into history, to locate it [trauma] in time and in place” (Winter, 1999: 47), and also testifies to this reawakening of collective and familial traumatic histories.
This Nachtraglichkeit or belated return surfacing through the post-generation, however, cannot be ‘traumatic memory’ in the strictest sense, as they have not experienced the trauma first hand, but rather what Marianne Hirsch referred to as “received memory” (Hirsch, 2012: 3-4). The post-generation, then, inherits “the resonant aftereffects of trauma” (ibid: 3-4) induced by “stories, images and behaviours” (ibid: 5) surrounding their childhood. Hirsch, working within the field of Holocaust Studies, describes the work of the children of Holocaust survivors as distinct from other kinds of memory work since the descendants of these survivors “connect so deeply to the previous generation’s remembrances of the past that they identify that connection as a form of memory, and that, in certain extreme circumstances, memory can be transferred to those who were not actually there to live an event” (Hirsch, 2008: 3). Thus in Hirsch’s own words, the term postmemory refers to: “the experience of those who grew up dominated by narratives that preceded their birth, whose own belated stories are evacuated by the stories of the previous generation shaped by traumatic events that can be neither understood nor recreated” (Hirsch, 1997: 22). She points out that although her work originally concerned the post-generation of Holocaust survivors, “it may usefully describe other second-generation memories of cultural or collective traumatic events and experiences” (ibid: 22). Indeed, Crosthwaite (2009) and Alden (2014) have both produced work broadening the terms of postmemory from the literary and artistic works of the Holocaust post-generation to that of other participants in WWII, especially ex-servicemen; the former demonstrating the traumatic legacy of the war in postmodernist fiction, and the latter rather focusing on writers’ use of historical source material to create their postmemorial fictional works. Following on from Crosthwaite and Alden my analysis of the works in this thesis similarly explores postmemorial works by children of Anglo-American combatants of WWII, but focuses on memoirs rather than fiction, with Cole Moreton’s postmemoir as exemplary of the sub-genre.
Furthermore, psychoanalysts Davoine and Gaudillere (2004) also attest to the notion of ‘received memory’ and suggest that “the sheer repetitiveness of family members’ war stories, or more significantly, to their refusals to speak of horrific or shameful episodes that are nonetheless betrayed by unstable emotions, absences of affection, strange habits and compulsions, or disproportionate responses to such apparently banal occurrences as simple household quarrels” (qtd. in Crosthwaite, 2009: 173), may be mechanisms by which, ‘charging down the course of several generations’, knowledge of the Real17 [rushes], with an incredible concentration, into a mind and body too small to contain it” (Davoine, 2004: 148-149).18 Hirsch’s notion of postmemory also embodies the notion of the Real, although not referred to directly, describing this powerful relationship between the first and post-generations as shaped by “traumatic fragments of events that still defy narrative reconstruction and exceed comprehension” (Hirsch, 2012: 5). For Hirsch the works of postmemory mediate what she refers to as “object or source” (Hirsch, 1997: 22) through “imaginative investment and creation” (ibid: 22).
The theoretical importance of Davoine and Gaudillere’s study to this thesis, however, lies in two key concepts: Firstly, the break in communication of experience or trauma at its “object or source”, as Hirsch puts it, causes a rupture in the social link,19 leading to social amnesia; secondly, these unknown histories or traumas, are passed down the generations through those “unstable emotions, absences of affection, strange habits and compulsions, or disproportionate responses” (qtd. in Crosthwaite, 2009: 173) mentioned above, possibly causing distress or even psychosis, even though these later generations might not be aware of what was silenced in the first instance. Working within the framework of micro-historical theories, they suggest that these small family histories cannot be considered merely against the backdrop of the larger grand narratives, but must be thought of as ‘embodied history’. In other words, history is transmitted through our everyday activities as well as through gender and sexuality. In addition, painful historical experiences cannot be “acted out” or “worked through” as LaCapra conceived these terms, until “history walks in the door” (Walkerdine, Valerie Olsvold Aina and Rudberg, n.d.), because the affected subjects “did not know about this history before” (ibid). These family novels and other postmemorial works therefore, might be read as the writers’ personal search to recover the missing social link or the rupture in transmission from their parents’ and grandparents’ generations; that is to discover history, to make it “walk in the door”; locating it in the present. This concept of embodied history might also explain the obsession of many of these post-generation writers to search for their own identity, purging their own demons in creating their works, as well as to find out the cause of generational conflict.20 Indeed this social-scientific research seems to give strong support to the tropes which Hirsch identified in post-generation Holocaust narratives; the quest for historical reality and the search for identity through documental research and the disclosure of family secrets.
In order to link the narrative interplay between a writer’s concern with historical truth and fictional creation, characteristic of postmemorial work, Jay Winter’s narrative framework of performative and constative elements might prove profitable to explore the writer’s narrative mode. Winter frames his discussion of the representation of historical memory on J.L. Austin’s Speech Act theories;21 likening thejuxtaposition ofhistorical, documental ‘truth’ and creative imagination to constative and performative acts of memory. He proposes that since the confines of language place limitations on what might be describable in terms of the horrific events of war, perfomative statements enhance “the overlap between history and memory [...]” (Winter, J.M, Tilmans Karin, Frank van Vree, 2010: 13) since they are better able to illustrate “truth statements rather than true statements” (ibid).22 Indeed fiction writers, such as Tim O’ Brian and Melvyn Bragg,23 claim that story-telling better articulates the truths of the incommunicable horrors of war, human emotions or affective elements. For Winter, as for Brian and Bragg, affect is always recorded in performative acts, and these acts “rehearse and recharge the emotion which gave the initial memory or story embedded in it its sticking power, its resistance to erasure or oblivion” (ibid: 12). Memory as an embodied experience thus might only be brought to life and transmitted through performing the past, rather like contemporary museums in which history is ‘lived’ or performed.
Many of these postmemoirs, including Cole Moreton’s, include photographs and artifacts of memory, whether reproduced within the text itself or described in narrative style. The role that photographs play in memory and culture would evidently be too wide to describe in detail here, but they are key to shaping the work of postmemory, and so I briefly outline the main functions. Hirsch has dedicated much of her work to studying and detailing their role in familial and affiliative24 memory transmission of the Holocaust.25 She points out that the original meaning attached to photographs at their cultural time of production undergoes changes with the passing of time and generations, “mirroring the movement from memory to postmemory” (Hirsch, 2012: 37); much like historical events, then, photographs and artifacts might be read with the knowledge and hindsight of the present. Understandings of images change with historical context, but also frequently lose any former significance they might have held. Photographs and objects of memory usually bear different meanings between generations, even within the same family. Yet family photographs not only transmit information about the past, but also embody affective elements; diminishing with the passing of time and changing cultural contexts. Public images, reproduced in text books and museums, also risk losing their contextual meaning. Nevertheless, as Hirsch notes, particularly with tragic events such as genocide or war, they can also “produce affect in the viewer and the reader” (ibid: 111); in much the same way as video images and news reels would. Third generation viewers and affiliative memorial practices might thus “project their own anxieties, needs and desires - feelings disproportionate to what the pictures can, in fact, support” (ibid: 67), and the truth might be outside of the frame rather than within it, as Roland Barthes has discussed (Barthes, 1981). Therefore, the post-generation would need to exercise creative imagination to fill in ambiguities and gaps. Furthermore, Hirsch discusses Barthe’s notion of the punctum or points of memory in relation to photographic memory transmission. The punctum is that which pierces or punctures “through layers of oblivion, interpellating those who seek to know about the past” (ibid: 61), and represents the “point of intersection between the past and the present” (ibid); that which generates recall and “piercing insights” (ibid: 62) about the past. Barthes, in fact, distinguishes between what he refers to as the studium, which, in a nutshell, provides information about the past, and the punctum; more subjective, personal and affective elements outside of the frame (Barthes, 1981). In conclusion, with Hirsch’s framework in mind, Section Ill.iv of this thesis explores how Moreton employs artifacts, or objects, and photographs as a transmission point of generational memory within his own context of postmemorial work.
II.1. Research Questions and Approach
Through the examination of Cole Moreton’s My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them, I set out to examine how this sub-genre of postmemoir, written by the post-generation of WWII allied forces veterans, might articulate the traumatic legacy of the war through the framework of Marianne Hirsch’s notion of postmemory. In this thesis, I propose that Moreton’s work functions largely within this framework, but also extends and enhances this concept from that of the Holocaust, to include this distinct category of post-generation relationship to the war; that of the descendants of the ordinary British servicemen. I also argue that Moreton’s hybrid narrative mode of family memoir, history and fiction emphasizes the self-conscious construction of historical events and memory through intertwining what Jay Winter terms performative and constative elements;26 re-creating the small histories of the Blitz and demobilization from a contemporary standpoint; in the process contributing to their demythologization.
In order to engage with the thesis questions above, I explore Moreton’s work through the context of postmemory: how creative imagination fills in the gaps of the grandfather’s war stories, how the urgency to know the truths behind the silences is articulated, the role that photographs and artifacts play in the re-creation of memory and how history might be embodied and transmitted through the gendered discourse of male family relationships. Taking Moreton’s text as a generative text within this emerging sub-genre, with some variations of gender, father’s role in the war and cultural context, I hope to be able to tentatively draw some initial conclusions as to the nature of the transmission of historical memory within this particular mode of discourse.
III. Analysis of Cole Moreton’s My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them
He never knew what was going on, from one fight to the next, and I was scornful of that as I tried to work it all out with the luxuries of time and history, but I hear the G.I speaking. ‘This is war. We’re not supposed to know what the hell is going on’. Every televised death, every severed limb, every withered hand, every firefight now makes me think of Grandad then, and I wonder, what would I do? Would I measure myself against him and find myself inadequate? Surely.” (259)
That’s when we understand the ambiguous nature of heroism, the truth that all our fathers were heroes. And none of them were. (260)
This section examines Cole Moreton’s My Father was a Hero: The True Story of a Man, a Boy and the Silence between them. I explore how the text might be understood within the framework of postmemory, described in Section II, by firstly considering the narrative mode. I explore its characteristics, and how this mediates the ‘silence’ and ensuing mythologies surrounding family history and cultural memory. I highlight how third generation narrative seeks to modify these memories and myths. This post-generation of writers articulate the affective experience of transmission through three generations and I discuss here how Moreton’s narrative mode communicates this affect through performative elements, and furthermore, how Hal Foster’s notion of an alternative archive of cultural memory works as “correctives and additions [...] to the historical archive” (Hirsch, 2012: 228). I also briefly consider how Moreton’s postmemorial narrative locates transmission through father-son relationships in the absence of female voices. In addition, I draw attention to the role of photographs and artifacts as vehicle for the transmission of memory to postmemory. In this section, then, I concentrate my attention on illustrating how Moreton, as a member of the postgeneration of WWII articulates his particular “legacy of trauma27 and thus the curiosity, the urgency, the frustrated need to know about a traumatic past” (ibid: 35), and which of the aforementioned tropes, outlined in Section II, substantiate his work particularly as postmemoir.
III.l. Genre and Narrative Mode
Cole Moreton’s work has been described as being: "like Angela's Ashes with bombs".20 Certainly likening it to a work of ‘Misery Lit’, such as Frank McCourt’s autobiography, does seem to bejustified, as Moreton begins his work with his own painful memories of childhood, being sent away from his family to a sanatorium for asthmatic children: “There is a pain in my chest as I am telling you this, a faint but insistent sense of panic” (8). He frequently lapses into confessing his family’s state of utter poverty in the postwar period, represented by the environment in which he lived, his own childhood nightmares, his parents’ marital problems and his troubled relationship with them:
It [the house] was a dump. [...] in retrospect: this was not a nice place to live in [...] I had bad dreams about going back to that dormitory. I also had nightmares in the new place, [...] I loved and hated them [his parents] at the same time, [...]. Most of all, I felt detached, as though I didn’t belong with them anymore. When there were arguments I would roll up on my bed and pound my forehead with my fists in rage, silently screaming that I wanted to go home. Wherever that was. (10-11)
The opening of the narrative, then, recalls the tropes common to confessional ‘misery lit’ memoirs. Yagoda, in describing the trends contributing to the longevity of the modern memoir boom, sums up the features present as: “less concern for privacy, a strong interest in victim- hood, and a therapeutic culture” (Yagoda, 2007: 238). It is, as he says “lying on a couch in public” (ibid). Indeed the ‘father’s war’ memoirs, mentioned in the introduction to this thesis, frequently appear to be a melange of the confessional genre of biography with popular war memoirs. Certainly, other works within this sub-genre of ‘father’s war’ memoirs, taking Carol Shultz Vento’s, Leila Levinson’s or Germaine Greer’s family memoirs as prime examples, also echo these confessional tropes. These works seek to understand the man haunted by the memories of WW2, as well as the writers themselves. Consequently, they belong to those subgenre of memoirs which are a search for identity, with double plots involving the quest for the fathers’ war stories, and for the writers’ own origins; giving rise to revisiting places of memory; Americans often visiting places on the European Continent, such as Poland; and the British, the places or regions where they were brought up. The writers’ own personal quest for the origins of their often troubled lives, the concern to ‘break family silences’ then, forms the background and raison d’etre for their journey of discovery; eventually revealing the reality behind their fathers’ wars. In brief, these works are part family biography, part war memoir and historiographical documentary, part popular ‘misery lit’ and also part detective story; not disclosing the truth behind their fathers’ wars until the end. Thus, the categorization of Moreton’s text appears slippery, as it indeed reaches beyond the ‘confessional’ biographical. Blurring the conventional boundaries between memoir and fiction; meta-fictional, imaginative and theoretical historical discourses play off side by side, as I discuss below, challenging the conventional categories of genre.
Moreton weaves grander historical discourses with those smaller familial narratives; enabling him to pull back the curtain on the reality of the Blitz, demobilization and post-war life for the ordinary citizen, exposing the mythologized version of events and offering alternative histories to the popular myths. The opening of the text, echoes postmodern cinematographic and documental tropes, in which thejuxtaposition of the, usually fictionalized personal, and the broader perspectives of historical discourses portray the intimate small story, as it might have been, within the grand narrative. In this way, Moreton’s text also highlights the contrast between anonymity in war and suffering on an individual level. Torgovnick, taking Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) as exemplary of this method in postmodern film, points out that “Spielberg makes the movement between [...] anonymous and sympathetic deaths, into a major structuring principle” (Torgovnivk, 2005: 919).29 So, at the opening of Moreton’s narrative, we read of the writer and his father looking at a photo taken during the Blitz from an aircraft flying above the German bomber; anonymity inherently implied through the grand perspective of the German pilot.30 Moreton then shifts the narrative to an imaginary scene in which the photographer, as participant in one of the fighter escorts accompanying the bombers on their way to the docklands of London, crosses the Channel while “their newly self- appointed commander” (32), Hermann Goering, on the cliff top in France, proudly surveys his work and transmits his speech over the radio: “‘Today I have heard above me the roaring of victorious German squadrons which now, for the first time, are driving towards the heart of the enemy in full daylight’” (ibid). Then, the scene cuts to a fictionalization of his grand-parents, in cinematographic style, as Bert and Vi, shelter in a canal tunnel from the deluge of bombs on the first day of the Blitz:
[...] muttering prayers out loud. Thy kingdom come. They look out through streaming eyes as firefly incendiaries flutter, clang and clatter against pipe and tile. The ground under their feet moans, groaning with the pain of it all as the night comes early. [...]. Somewhere on the road above them a baby cries or a woman cries like a baby or a man does and the smoke slouches over the side of the bridge to rest on the water, sucking up breath. The horse on the empty towpath, abandoned, stands dead still as it is enveloped. The power and the glory screams from above [...]. Throats bum, lungs are shriveled by the fumes from flaming oil and tar and rubber and paint and varnish in the blazing yards. The bombs fall again and again. (33) When the bombs cease, Bert and Vi, as survivors, walk through the aftermath of the bombing; Moreton imagining what they would have seen and heard:
[...] they begin to walk, dazed through night streets blind with blood and oil and shattered glass [...]. The burning barge, the smoldering pub, the fizzing rosettes left by incendiaries among the rubble will have to go untended. Bert and Vi walk past them [.] blackout curtains are closed, shelters are full [...]. (33)
Thejuxtaposition of grand and small narratives, allows Moreton, then, to portray the reality of what must have been a terrifying experience for the individual citizens of London, and to strive to articulate the Real,31 the unsymbolizable and unspeakable truths of the horrors of the Blitz; the origins of personal traumatic memories in familial histories.
Moreton’s text abounds in the technique of mapping fictionalized versions of individual experiences onto archival research and historiographical accounts of events, allowing him to exploit his family stories to symbolize the ordinary ‘everyman’; exposing the reader, in the process to alternative histories. He uses this technique to expose stories of demobilization which were not as smooth as the cultural memory of events would have us believe.32 The following passage exemplifies this style:
I have a book that makes me think of Grandad standing in line in 1946, waiting for the demob suit. Call Me Mister! A Guide to Civilian Life for the Newly Demobilized was published that year and is long out of print. [...], ‘you are like a fighting cock’-and all the sergeants are smiling, says the book. [...].
That was certainly not true in Bert’ case. The CO was anything but kind when he ordered him to stay in the army one extra day for going absent without leave. [...].
So, here he is in my mind, standing in the demob line a day late, holding the Army book X801 and looking along a row of tables.f..].” (179-181)
His overt naming of his grandfather, Bert, as ‘soldier, or as ‘Gunner Moreton’ on occasions, and other soldiers by their pre-war professions, further highlights the ‘everyman’ focus of the difficulty of demobilization. Moreton informs or teaches the reader about the forgotten, or unknown stories of the event, firstly through the historiographical discourses of the Bevin Plan; “There would be a new system balancing age against service, advice centres to help with resettlement, retraining for those that wanted it, grants for education, and eight weeks’ pay on release” (169). He then briefly describes the reality for many men by quoting a report, although he does not cite the source; “‘Civvy Street is at once the conscripts’ peace-dream and his nightmare [.] he longs for the comfort and warmth of personal affection of it after the cold, impersonal, regimented life of the forces. He dreads the insecurity of job-scrambling, money worries and personal responsibility’” (169), but as he notes “going back to normality was a lot more complicated” (ibid). To better illustrate why this was so, Moreton fictionalizes a scene at the wars’ end, with soldiers “in various states of relaxation, a couple with boots on the table, one lighting a cigarette for another” (170). Rather than giving the characters names, he names them by their professions: “Sparky”,33 “the Miner” and “the Barrow Boy”, drawing attention to their pre-war civilian status, but also of their ordinariness and their ‘everyman’ representation.
The writer further exploits historiographical discourses and background knowledge of the era to fill in the gaps of his fathers’ memories and biased viewpoint of events; in the process demythologizing cultural memories of the Blitz and demobilization. As children our version of episodes and family affairs, what we experience, understand and see is usually coloured and overshadowed, not only by our immaturity to comprehend events as they really are, but also by another family member’s opinion or reaction, and frequently this is our mothers. This certainly would have been more so in the 1940s, partly because the upbringing of children was usually designated to the mothers, but also because most fathers were in the Armed Services; servicemen not being demobilized often until the end of 1946 or even 1947. This being so, what was transmitted to the second generation or the 1.5 generation, referring to those who were young children during the war years, was heavily influenced by the mothers’ and other women’s viewpoints; the fathers’ absence, and subsequent silence, preventing alternative truths. Moreton shows through the ‘father plot’ of his narrative how Arthur’s standpoint was influenced by age and female perspectives.34 The perceptions of events by the generations-after might not only shift as these generations age and new understandings arise from a more adult standpoint, but also because historical research brings new perspectives to hitherto unknown or silenced histories. Penny Summerfield points out that “gendered popular representations of the Second World War, have discouraged the transmission of some types of memory and encouraged others over time” (Summerfield, 2014: 39). This gendered transmission also applies to familial memory of events of the war. Moreton expresses gendered transmission and shifting standpoints of this kind through the plot of whether his grandfather, Bert, had a lover in Germany and also through his grandfather’s supposed absence and shirking of family responsibilities after demobilization, which leads to Moreton’s father speculating and imagining where he must have been:
‘He didn’t come home from Germany for a long while. I don’t know why.’ [...] ‘And then when he did come back he didn’t want to stay with us. I remember a huge great row and him walking out. Coming back and leaving on the same day’. His eyes glistened. ‘You think, hang on, everybody else’s dad is home. Doesn’t he love us? What have we done?’ (69)
Moreton’s father is so heavily influenced by his mother’s standpoint and his own generational memory that he is unable to reconcile with Bert who, according to Arthur, was simply “wrapped up in his own world” (190). Arthur’s mother’s anxiety and suspicion about her husband’s possible German lover filters down, unintentionally, to her son:
‘What’s the matter, mum?’
‘Nothing lovely. Nothing. You go and play’.
She turns away from him carrying a box under her arm. A parcel arrived this morning from a woman she does not know who lives in a country she has never been to. An enemy that has been blown to smithereens and occupied by the army in which her husband serves. Arthur has been trying to get a look at it all day, but she won’t let him [...]. (173-174)
Then, Arthur overhears the women neighbours’ gossip about a potential lover, once again demonstrating a gendered transmission:
‘Can you believe it?’
‘It’s an insult, is what it is. A flamin’ insult. She should write on the label and just send it back’.
‘Do you think he’s got a masher out there?’
‘What, Bert? Don’t make me laugh.’
‘No, that’s what they say though. I heard her sister. There was a woman’s name on the label, she said. A kraut. Fancy that, mixing with one of them.’
‘Been out a long time, ain’t he?’
‘Yeah, what else could it be? I mean, who’d have dreamed it? A food parcel, to here, from bloody Germany’.
‘A great big bloody insult.’ (174)
Evidently the above conversation is a fictionalized version of what his father might have overheard and appears to be another example of the writer’s self-conscious story-telling. The reader does not know that this took place in reality, but this narrative mode does serve to illustrate how memory and myth is conditioned by cultural, popular, gendered viewpoints and discourses which alter through time, shifting meanings and imaginings of WWII, demobilization and the post-war period. Clearly, Moreton’s own perspective, as third generation appears to be distinct, drawing on historical and cultural knowledge to delve into the truth:
Did Bert have a lover in Germany? His brothers and sisters talked about it while he was away, and so did the neighbours. ‘We were told he had a girlfriend out there’, my father said. ‘I don’t know. He lived well in Germany, he admitted that. He was doing better than us. The major effrontery was that these people out there were sending us food parcels. I remember all this because it hurt’. Dad had never challenged his father about it and was not about to do so. That was down to me, apparently, but what right had I to ask such a question? Grandad had been more open with me than with anyone else, it seemed, but I was uneasy about pushing him too far. (175)
Moreton clearly indicates here, then, the shift in generational perspectives in his text, the change from myth and resentment of the 1.5 and second generations, to that of the seemingly more understanding third.
He tells stories within the text which, at first sight, seem to have little relation to the plot ofhis grandfather’s war, but function as examples of myth-making on political, historical and personal familial levels. The story of how Arthur found himself alone in a room with Liberace for example, the well-known flamboyant pianist, but never talked about whatever might have happened there, acts as an illustration of just how these silences are filled by creative imagination, often evolving into new mythologies:
What happens next? I don’t know and I can’t imagine any more. For some reason I can’t go all the way in my version of this story. It was easy to listen to Grandad’s stories and think of him as a soldier; and it is slightly more difficult to imagine my father as a child, but not impossible - but all that stops in his teenage years, with the girls in the park and with Liberace in the Savoy. I have a mental block [...].
‘Come on, dad, tell me. You know you want to’. He shook his head.
‘There’s a lot of things you don’t know about me mate.’ (213-214)
It is interesting to note here, furthermore, that the silencing of family secrets seems to be repeating itself, as the above example shows. Just as Moreton’s father could not share his father’s experiences of war, Moreton finds it more difficult to share his own father’s as well. In Moreton’s postmemoir at least, the third generation does seem more capable than the second of prizing out the difficult and often traumatic memories.
In addition to gendered and cultural perspectives as instrumental in myth-making, Moreton demonstrates how our own “needs, cravings, desires or prejudices” (223) work to construct heroic figures, modify and influence memories, “justify actions, or forgive our mistakes” (ibid) and create the stories we wish to hear. When Moreton was a child, his father told him a story of how he had had an accident. Twenty-five years later, passing through the accident scene with his father, he learns the truth. He does not mention explicitly the role of visual narratives, like cinema or television, on memory and myth construction, but does note how, in his childish imagination of his father as a heroic figure, he pictured him riding a motorbike, much like Jimmy Dean, evidently a visual memory based on film:
I was wide-eyed, an utterly taken in. I believed in that story - the big bike, the flying glass, [...] until the moment in the car with him twenty-five years on when I heard a word that shattered the whole heroic fantasy.
‘Sorry what did you say? What did you say you were riding?’
‘A moped. You’re quiet. Stop me if I’m boring you.’
He had no idea. Heroes do not ride mopeds. The king had fallen from the castle.
[.] It was a moped not a motorcycle. (223-224)
Moreton realises that this formative process of myth-making operates on all levels, whether in family narratives, heroic deeds and figures, or history:
I heard what I wanted to hear. We do the same with history. That’s history with a capital H, as distinct from personal histories of people like Bert who do not keep diaries, seldom write letters, and have not traditionally been of interest to the composers of the grand narrative of time. (224)
The multiple layering of constructed familial and cultural myths further enable the writer to indulge in theories of how post-war left-wing political ideologies were also partly built upon the myth of the Blitz.35 People imagine and believe what is useful for a particular viewpoint and ideology:
The instant myth was useful to the government, which wanted to show the rest of its people they could take whatever the Germans threw at them and survive. It was useful to socialists who wanted to show people it was possible to build a new Jerusalem unbound by class or oppressive tradition: they could achieve anything in even the most extreme of situations if they worked together for good. (225)
Apologising for political digressions he overtly spells out his theory to any reader still unaware of his motives: “And what has all this got to do with stories about Liberace and the myth of the Blitz? Only that there is no truth in politics; the story depends on who is telling it” (229).
Moreton’s choice of narrative mode, then, in which self-reflexivity, overt fusion of historiographical truths with fiction and story-telling, serves as a vehicle, not only to teach the reader alternative histories to common myths, but also to demonstrate the blurring of myth, story and reality. As he explicitly points out “The story was better than the reality, but isn’t that usually the case?” (233). Within Winter’s narrative framework of perfomative and constative statements,36 Moretonjuxtaposes both the constative elements of historical memory, consisting of factual grand narratives, archival and documental narratives to creative, imaginative and performative discourses in which the subjectivity of affect might be better communicated; moving, therefore, from “documentary truth to a kind of poetic truth combining creative elaborated memory particular to the generation after, first-hand witness memory and history in unique ways” (Winter, J.M, Tilmans Karin, Frank van Vree, 2010: 13).
Pierre Nora suggests that the root of the contemporary obsession to record the present and preserve the past lies in “anxiety about the meaning of the present and uncertainty about the future” (Nora, 1989: 13) echoing postmodernist concerns, unleashing in its wake a fixation with recording and documenting everything deemed memorable. Nora notes this preoccupation with the “archive that marks our age” (ibid: 13) and he is not alone in his observations, since the literary world has also discerned this cultural trend. Indeed, Suzanne Keen has coined the term ‘romances of the archive’ to describe the evolving sub-genre of fiction in which characters delve into documents and archives to find historical information (Keen, 2001). Alden cites Graham Swift’s Shuttlecock (1981) as exemplary of this category,37 with the protagonist, Prentis, turning to archival research to discover the truth about his father’s war. Interestingly, Swift’s novel seems to parody the sub-genre that many of these postmemoirs fall into, including Cole Moreton’s. I believe the novel worth mentioning briefly here, as the similarity of its structure and core theme, albeit fictional, lends support to the emergence of this sub-genre of historical narratives within postmodernism, and also serves as an example of how it works. Prentis, like Moreton’s father, has grown up in the shadow of a war ‘hero’. He seems unable to live up to his father’s masculine war-time traits of bravery, stoicism, and post-war success, consequently affecting the relationship with his family; a common element in many of these postmemoirs. Finally, on discovering that his father was not the hero he thought, but rather an ordinary soldier whose reactions were perfectly human when faced with mortal danger, his relationship with his father improves. Like Moreton’s text, then, Swift’s novel questions the meaning of heroism, but concerns itself with the issue of the post-war effect of heroic models of masculinity: “toughness, quick thinking, resourcefulness and above all, bravery” (Alden, 2014: 37) that was often expected of ex-servicemen’s sons growing up in the 1950s. Similarly, Prentis’ quest leads him to self-discovery, and eventually to establishing a better relationship with his son. Throughout thejoumey, Prentis also writes a memoir, part of the narrative turning to ‘misery lit’ as he reveals his troubled home life. The denouement, furthermore, of the truth behind his father’s war isn’t revealed until nearly the end, in detective genre mode. Contrary to Moreton however, Swift doubts the usefulness of too much historical detail in his fiction, as it “hinders the work of the imagination” (Alden, 2014: 43). Articulated within Winter’s theoretical framework mentioned above, too many constative elements within the narrative would obstruct the performativity of historical construction. Nevertheless, Swift “does take care to create a historically plausible fictional world” (ibid: 43), demystifying and humanizing in the process, the seemingly heroic exploits of escaping POWs. Swift’s novel also appears to raise awareness of how events, whether on a historical, national or familial level become mythologized, and how a hero figure may be constructed.
Moreton’s choice of narrative mode then certainly seems to fit into the framework of Keen’s ‘romance of the archive’, but also merging fiction with historiography striving, as Hirsch puts it, to “re-activate and re-embody more distant political and cultural memorial structures by reinvesting them with resonant individual and familial forms of mediation and aesthetic expression” (Hirsch, 2008: 33). This multiple genre approach enables Moreton to kill several birds with one stone: to prise out the truth of his grandfather’s war, thus concurrently investigating the root of his troubled family relationships, to set the collective memory record of the Blitz and demobilization straight, and to position his ‘self’ within the generational angst still reverberating after WWII. Furthermore, and I address this issue elsewhere, Moreton explores the breakdown of boundaries between perpetrator and victim, and thus questioning the meaning ofThe Good War.
In conclusion, in this section I have focused on Moreton’s narrative mode as a vehicle for the expression of postmemory; the melange of history and fiction lying at their core. The silences of family history, the missing stories, are compensated by speculation and imagination, supported by cultural memory, historiography and archival research. As Hirsch points out “Scholarly and artistic works of these descendants also makes clear that even the most intimate of familial knowledge of the past is mediated by broadly available public images and narratives” (Hirsch: 112). Moreton’s text would certainly lend support to this trope. Yet, his postmemoir also demonstrates that these works spring from myths and unreliable memories surrounding the silences. Greer similarly, self-consciously and fittingly, recognizes such unreliability and myth-making in her postmemoir:
“This is what I remember. Or rather, this is what I remembered until I found out the truth. Nobody told me any of this, you understand. I was told nothing. I made this up myself when I was too young to remember that I had made it up. They call it confabulation, when people who are brain-damaged fill the vacancy in their minds with plausible matter, believable but unrelated to the truth.” (Greer, 1990: 2)
Similarly, Moreton demonstrates this through his fusion of historiographical, constative and fictional performative discourses, at times overtly and at others embodied within the fictional familial story.
III.2. Narrative Urgency
As I pointed out in the theoretical framework to this thesis, the term postmemory embraces a set of characteristics habitually present in works of the ‘generation after’ catastrophic events. Although these might be rather elusive at times and variable in differing contextual, historical and cultural perspectives, they certainly share certain features, one of which is the common urgency and intimacy of the work driving these narratives. Partly, the questions posed in Section II of this thesis, as to ‘why now?’ explained by theories of belatedness, illness or the passing of eye-witness accounts, post 09/11 culture or other psychological causes are often self-consciously elucidated in these postmemoirs. This section aims to explore how these theories are played out in Moreton’s text.
The opening to the narrative, then, partly answers the question as to ‘why now?’, as Moreton stresses his generation’s connection with WWII. As a child, Moreton’s vision of the war was glamourous, replenished with top-secret and heroic exploits, because nobody, least of all his grandfather, talked about it.38 His wish to uncover the family secrets becomes more urgent after his father’s heart attack, leading him to realize that if he had died the “untreatable burn of loss” (16) would have led him to the “gradual revelation of things [he] never knew about the person [he] had no choice but to live with” (17). Thus, Moreton decides to seize the opportunity before it is too late, to fill in the gaps of family history and, perhaps, reconcile with his father. Moreton also becomes a father himself: “I had lost my childish faith in him as a hero but now at last, as a man who had a son of his own, I would begin to recognize the struggles he had been through. I was going through them, too” (23) inciting him to search for the man behind the father figure.39 Certainly many of these male or female writers search for their father’s wars after becoming parents themselves; Leila Levinson and Lucinda Frank’s works, mentioned in the introduction to this thesis, provide further examples.
However, there also seems to be a more phenomenological reasoning behind this urgency. Moreton makes this explicit in his text when he notes: “When I looked at him [his father] on the sofa and on the casualty trolley I saw my future self. That was frightening” (2223). In her family memoir Germaine Greer also writes “I knew as I held my father’s old hand in my own, its exact replica, and watched my own skull emerging through its transparent skin that I am my father’s daughter” (Greer, 1990: 14). Contemplating one’s parents as they age conjures a sense of finality and one’s own fleeting existence. Roland Barthes, gazing at photographs of older family members noted, it reminds us of “death in the future” (Barthes, 1981: 96) and the inevitable loss of parents; hastening the urgency to fill in the familial silences. Yet, as Greer remarked, this looking also generates a stronger sense of identity, as the aging process irons out the physical differences between parents and their children.
In addition, Moreton was writing his work in the midst of the War on Terror: “As I write there is another war on” (258). Images of soldiers in the media, and televised interviews with participants, led him to imagine his grandfather, Bert “on the guns as the Stukas come screaming down out of the sky” (259). He realises that he has the “luxuries of time and history” (ibid) to lend meaning to his grandfather’s war, but the soldiers he sees on the television do not; thereby initiating the process over again. Moreton’s narrative stresses how history repeats itself through the soldiers’ talk of intense comradeship in combat, reminding him of his grandfather’s comment as he showed him a photograph, “that was a lovely big family” (259).
Although not explicit within the text, it seems likely, judging by the publication date, 2004, that furthermore, the events of 09/11 triggered remembrance of experiences “we might have lived through” (Hirsch: 35), such as the Blitz or the battle for Europe, generating within him a sensation of identification, asking himself “What would I do? [...] would I risk what he risked, or suffer what he suffered?” (259); questioning his own ability to be a heroic father- figure. It seems to be precisely this positioning of oneself in relation to the war generation which has a great deal of fascination for the generation after. Samuel Hynes noted that war narratives are principally stories rather than history, and what the readers of them want to know most urgently is “What happened? What was it like? How did if feel? [these questions] are our motive for reading” (Hynes, 1997: Loc. 409). Like Prentis in Swift’s Shuttlecock, discussed in Section III.l. Moreton wishes to know how it must have felt to be involved in combat, whether it was hard “to kill someone” (251). The desire to know what it was like typifies second and third generation postmemorial works alike. Similarly, Prentis in Swift’s Shuttlecock feels frustrated by his father’s cold and emotionless descriptions of his war. Precisely by prising out the truths behind the memories, these works seek to undermine the mythologized, heroic versions of war stories, prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s by specifically questioning the lack of emotion in these adventure-like stories that Swift parodies. In much the same way as any war story then, there remains a fascination and an urgency to know the answers to these questions, before the complete passing of the war generation.
Yet, there is a double ‘why now?’ plot, as Moreton’s father searches for the origins of his anxiety as well. Resonant of Gunter Grass’ narrator in Crabwalk,40 Bert was born in the midst of catastrophe; the writer’s grandmother pregnant as the bombs fell around her: “The unborn child survived and became [Moreton’s] father” (34). Like Crabwalk's narrator, Paul, Moreton’s father, Arthur, is burdened by history, “[...] some nights he wakes up sweating and the bedroom is like a couldron to him [...] then he starts scribbling page after page of notes [...]. He has unfinished business” (23), as do the other men and women who visit the museum, where Arthur has volunteered to note down WWII oral histories.41
Further similarities to Grass’ novel can be found in Moreton’s attribution of “the fate of this family during that war, and just after it” (34) to the “burdens that [his father] carried” (ibid). Similarly, the “fragments of memory and half-truth lay around the family like debris” (35), sparking the writer’s imagination to fill in the voids left by “hesitant answers” (35) and unanswered questions. Greer wrote her postmemoir only after the death of her father, not daring to break the silence surrounding his war trauma during his lifetime; “Now that Daddy’s need to have us not know is at an end, my need to know can be satisfied” (Greer, 1990: 5). Once again, archival research and creative imagination, the quest to “open Pandora’s box” (ibid), as she puts it, springs from the first generation’s silence. Moreton’s text, then, clearly reflects the postmemorial trope of urgency to uncover family secrets and to discover the truth behind family war stories at the heart of this sub-genre.
III.3. Male Family Relationships as Agents of Transmission: The Rise and Fall of the Father-Hero.
A gendered reading of the text within the framework of masculinities, or an analysis of post-war father-son relationships in the text would most certainly consist of a thesis in itself.42 But Moreton’s narrative of a triangular three generational male relationship creates a collaborative construct of memory; just as Hirsch believes that there is a “feminist mode of knowing” (Hirsch, 2012: 98) the past there should, then, also be particularities of male father/son transmissions. Thus, this section examines how Moreton represents this construct through this relationship, and particularly, the rise and fall of the father as heroic figure; symbolic of mythologized visions ofThe Good War.
Postmemoirs by Tom Matthews and Thomas Childers43 focus on post-war difficulties of father-son relationships and how militarized masculinities in the armed services affected their father’s behaviour once returned to civilian status. Father-son relationships were particularly turbulent in the years following demobilization, as Matthew’s postmemoir and investigation into the problems of “ten fathers and ten sons” (Matthews, 2005) confirms. He researched the war of other men’s fathers in order to more fully understand, and to come to terms with his own father-son bonding. They also narrate the transmission of certain values pertaining to the war generation, such as stoicism, fearlessness, and thrift. This transmission does not appear to be exclusive, however, to fathers and sons, as Greer, Shultz-Vento, Collins and other female postmemoirists have attested to.
Yet Moreton’s narrative clearly goes beyond these difficulties, as it articulates the attempt to fill in the gaps left by a memory influenced by female perspectives, and my argument focuses here on this point. As I discussed in Section III.l above, the lack of male presence during the war years meant that the female standpoint influenced Arthur’s memories. Indeed, the children’s conceptualization of their absent fathers, “had reached the levels of purest abstraction” (Allport, 2009: 68), some of them only identifying their fathers as “photos on the mantelpiece” (ibid). Furthermore, the war-torn civilian population, including wives, mothers and children struggled to understand the problems of returning servicemen. Children, then, unaware of the reasons for irrational behaviours, and ensuing domestic conflict, would have adopted a rather biased view of events. Thus Moreton’s attempt to discover the truth behind his grandfather’s war, and why he hadn’t returned immediately on demobilization might be read, to a certain degree, as an attempt to counter this female viewpoint.44
Allport points out that the increase in juvenile delinquency and other behavioural problems of the 1.5 generation was attributed to the lack of male discipline in the house, with mothers too busy or too lax to fully control their children (Allport, 2009: 71-73).45 Moreton, engaging with this theory, fictionalizes his father’s unruly behaviour in his attempt to keep the debt collector away from his mother, culminating in the policemen enquiring, “‘Did you see his old fella at all?’” (68); evidently a subtle hint that the lack of a father was the reason for the boy’s disobedience. With historical hindsight, Moreton realizes, through the story of these behavioural problems, the great significance of this absence in his father’s life:
And there is the mystery [...] I realized that none of Dad’s stories about the years just after the war included any reference to his own father. He spoke warmly of his mother [...]. The bond that developed between them during the bombing, the burning, the hungry days and the mess of their survival, was never broken by misfortune or death. Bert, on the other hand, was missing from those memories. Surely he was there in real life?
‘No’ said Dad next time I saw him. ‘No, he wasn’t there’.
The subject made him talk very quietly, and carefully. I had asked the question casually, not realizing how painful he found the answer. A secret had been uncovered. (65-69)
Just as the absence of the mother in Art Spiegelman’s Maus (2002) creates, in Hirsch’s words “a masculine collaboration between father and son” (Hirsch, 1997: 34), Moreton’s text also demonstrates the strengthening of male familial bonding through the absence of female voices. Like Maus “one provides most of the verbal narrative, the other the visual; one gives testimony while the other receives and transmits it. In the process of testimony, they establish their own uneasy bonding” (ibid: 34). Furthermore, the wisdom of age and historical perception also leads Moreton to the gradual understanding of his father and the strengthening of the bond between them:
The hate was far louder than the love by the time I was sixteen. That is how sons are with their fathers. Each of us grows up believing ours is the greatest man in the world, a colossus who can fend off any enemy on our behalf. We long to be like him. Then we begin to see his faults [...]. Our task is to challenge the old man, to bring him to account. To take his place at the head of the household. And then to leave it. (15)
In addition, the sons in these postmemoirs testify to their youthful need to view their fathers, not only as the “greatest man in the world” but also as almost mythical, manly heroic figures. After WWII, many ex-servicemen’s sons had heroic expectations of their fathers’ participation in the war, and as Summerfield notes this “infused the relationship” (Summerfield, 2014: 31). Comic books and boys’ adventure stories, as well as war films, especially those produced in the 1950s and 1960s, cultivated this idea. Undoubtedly this masculine vision of the soldier hero model, heroic exploits of pilots, combat soldiers and escaping POWs permeated their children’s and grand-children’s perception of their war.46 Interestingly, as Summerfield suggests, these heroic expectations often encouraged exservicemen’s silences, or exaggerations about their wars so as not to dishearten their listeners (ibid: 31-32).47 Children also filled these gaps with ideals of soldier hero exploits. Moreton notes: “When I asked my grandfather what he had done in Holland and Germany he said ‘Not much’” (160); his grandson began to suspect that perhaps there was indeed little to tell: “I let it go. Maybe I was guilty of trying to impose a story on him” (161), but time and a shift in the meaning of heroism has changed the kind of story his grandson expects. Michael Paris (2000) calls attention to the ‘pleasure culture’ surrounding WWII in which children like Moreton’s father played at being heroes. At the opening to Moreton’s narrative, the writer describes how his father had passed this culture onto him, “Our fathers encouraged it” (4). He narrates how he played at “Us versus the Hun” (3), noting how this was principally a masculine game with “few girls”, painted models of Stukas and Spitfires and the tank his father gave him for his Action Man. With historical hindsight though, Moreton highlights the tainted perspective he had as a child of the “Us” and the “Jerries” (3-4), the “folklore of the war” (ibid), and how later he came to realize that “Somebody had really died”; questioning the meaning of The Good War. Because of his grandfather’s silence, then, Moreton reached “the obvious conclusion” (6), that he must have been a hero; indeed lending support to Summerfield’s observations.
Moreton’s representation of the masculine transmission of the supposititious heroism of WWII, then, fuses with the multi-layered representation of how mythologies of WWII develop. As I discussed in Section II.l., his narrative reiterates the question of perspective; his childhood version of his war hero providing support for his argument. He remarks of the War on Terror:
But what has their version [the Allies] of heroism got to do with the boy of Jacob’s age who was held up to the camera this morning so that the world could see a face that was burned when a missile came out of the dawn haze and destroyed the building next to his, without any care for what the generals call collateral damage but he knows as a searing pain, a hideous pain, a weeping pain? (258)
He further questions the meaning of Good and Bad, to be on the ‘Right’ or ‘Wrong’ side of war: “What does it mean to have a father or a grandfather who is a soldier on the wrong side, waiting in a trench with an old rifle while the men with billion-dollar tanks and body armour and microphones linked to the press room prepare to attack?” (ibid). The fictionalization of his grandfather’s advance through Germany, “turn[ing] away as [his] beloved comrades threw flame into the rat corners burning out survivors, shooting first and counting later” (259), reveals the truth behind the alleged heroic war stories, but above all, questions the roles of victims and perpetrators; highlighting, once again, the role that historical context and cultural perspectives play in meaning-making.
In addition, Moreton’s text clearly shows a trans-generational, triangular mediation of memory; demonstrating the more relaxed relationship formed between grand-parents and the third generation grand-children. In the local museum Moreton notices how the veterans “come with their grandsons and daughters [...] while Gramps, or rarely Granny talks into a tape recorder, telling tales of another life that might otherwise have been forgotten. There is something safe about grandchildren: they are interested enough to listen but don’t know enough to ask the really awkward questions” (24).
The safety of the third generation standpoint, as well as his historical knowledge, enables Moreton to position himself at a distance from the intimate familial history and to reach a more reconciliatory understanding of events. He acknowledges the usefulness of his historical research to reach this new perspective of the war: “but I could not dismiss Bert’s war as easily as his son had. I knew much more about it than he did” (193). He further recognizes that, unlike his father, generational distance meant that “he had not been hurt by reality” (237); the lack of emotional charge thus enabling his grandfather to confide in him; “He could tell me about it” (ibid).
Furthermore, Moreton demonstrates how this triangular transmission of memory, might also be passed down unconsciously, as Davoine and Gaudillere advocate, thus suggesting the embodiment of historical trauma, causing distress and anxiety through the generations. In other words, Moreton attempts to show how history or myth might be transmitted through everyday activities and behaviours,48 above all through the male linage, as he imagines his own son’s internalization:
[...] the one thing you should know about fatherhood, if you are a man, is that you will mess it up. You probably won’t know how or why or when - it could be a misplaced word, a burst of temper, a bad habit, an act of neglect, a character flaw you don’t know you have - but it will be found out and held against you and someday, who knows when, your child will stand there and yell: ‘Why did you do that? How dare you?’ (256)
If these irrational behaviours remain unexplained, then, as Moreton puts it, “you’ve had it. The silence will grow, keeping you apart” (ibid).
To conclude, in this section I have sought to show how Moreton’s narrative expresses postmemorial practices of gendered generational transmission of events, and how, this text in particular, functions to counter the female standpoint, highlighted in HI., so prevalent during and immediately after the war. Like Swift’s protagonist in Shuttlecock., Moreton too uncovers the fallibility of the heroic figure, and demonstrates the cultural channels enabling the mythologization of historical events. Through this triangular familial transmittance, then, Moreton undermines the myth of The Good War, questions the meaning of heroism, and in the process of filling in the gaps left by his grandfather’s silence, strengthens the bonds between three generations of male family members.
III.4. Artifacts of Memory and Photography
Hirsch writes that “the work of postmemory, in fact, is to uncover the pits again, to unearth the layers of forgetting, to go beneath the screen surfaces [.] to see what these images [...] both expose and foreclose” (Hirsch, 2012: 119). This section considers the function of photographs and artifacts abounding in Moreton’s family postmemoir, explored within the framework of Hirsch’s postmemory, and how they both testify to historical events, but also transmit memory between generations.
Anne Fuchs identifies artifacts as one of the key characteristics of the post 1989 memory works “that aid or trigger the narrators’ investigations of a historical event that is perceived as a disturbance” (Fuchs, Cosgrove, and Grote, 2006: 184). As Moreton delves into documents and letters, artifacts mediating history, he “began to see that Bert was just one of many who struggled to cope with their return” (87); these objects providing a means to reconstruct the psychological reality of his grandfather’s demobilization and the origin of his family’s trans-generational anxiety. As Fuchs points out, then, these documents trigger further investigations. In the museum, he finds a lined exercise book, the diary of a former POW written in a “camp somewhere in Germany” (ibid), with photographs inside, telling the pains of the return home: “‘Now I was in the great wide world as an individual. The thought frightened me [...]. I was not going to fit into this life, the one I had enjoyed’” (88). The document “written in pencil, in a loping hand, [.] a long time ago” (ibid), marks the traces of life and time passed, reflecting the Real in its present materiality and tangibility. In addition, the notebook transmits gendered memory inviting the reader to engage not only in the masculine standpoint of the returning POW, but also in his anxiety towards women:49 “He found it hard to talk to anyone about anything, but women rendered the traumatized pilot mute. ‘The sight of the opposite sex after such a long time unnerved me. I had no topic of conversation. I could just look dumb” (88). The documents trigger wider public and political discourses permeating the narrative, illustrated through the story of politician Enoch Powell,50 as well as other ex-servicemen; transmitting alternative and counter histories, once more at odds with the post-war myth. But, typifying postmemorial practice, for Moreton these stories also raised questions about his grandfather as well as clarifying what might have been: “Was my grandfather actually a hero? I was beginning to doubt it. Why did he not go home when he should have done?” (92). Moreton’s grandfather was still alive to help solve the riddle, but for other postmemoirists, artifacts would spark more questions, leaving the answers open-ended.
Bert shows Moreton a book “that the fusiliers were all given to commemorate their part in Operation Overlord, ‘ten months of hard, almost non-stop operations’ from the deadly beaches of Normandy to the German city of Hamburg’” (161), written to remind “‘those [...] who were there [to] remember the scenes of devastation of a beaten enemy’” (ibid). The book holds a moment of shared privacy between grandfather and grandson, in much the same way as the miniature book does in Arthur Kessler’s memoir.51 Hirsch points out that these artifacts act as ‘points of memory,’52 testimonial objects “that pierce through the temporal and experiential layers separating us from the past” (Hirsch, 2012: 197), transmitting historical information, but also triggering personal memory. But, furthermore, with generational turnover, from the first to the third generations, like Kessler’s memoir, the book’s function has shifted from ‘commemorative’ souvenir to a record and a ‘point of memory’ (ibid: 186). Neither does it commemorate the “devastation of a beaten enemy” (161), but the horrific experiences of the men behind the battle. Yet it might also suggest the victimization of the soldier conscript rather than the German prisoners, who, having been captured, would no longer have to further risk their lives: “The fusiliers behind the prisoners looked miserable. They were the ones who were still wearing their helmets, and who would have to fight on” (162).53 In addition, Moreton emphasizes the aforementioned ‘point of memory’ by naming the book “it” when his grandfather “took a book out of a plastic bag and showed it to me” (161).54 The indeterminate it lends the object importance as a testimonial object that will fill the void and replace the need for words. Furthermore, “Someone had sketched battle scenes for the souvenir book in a hand, made shaky by the dreadful sights of torsos in craters, horses flailing in the mud, smashed tanks and trees black against the sky like old bones” (162); this someone, whose hand was “shaky” from battle, marks an unattainable and unsymbolizable return to the Real, as well as a testament of courage and endurance. The someone who drew the scenes acquires utmost significance as the man behind the battle; the soldier’s experiences of ‘what it was like’, as Hynes puts it, unattainable and unimaginable to the contemporary viewer. Contemplating the artist, the someone, suggests the ‘having been’ of the event and the future perfect of his fate. However, to fully comprehend this testament, it must be read from the viewpoint of the present, with historical perspective and with the understanding of time. Moreton highlights, not only the horrors of battle, but also the absurdity and irony of the war as seen from the future perfect: “The world had turned upside down on their journey from the beaches to Hamburg. Fifteen years later the Beatles would play there” (163).
Objects of memory not only trigger postmemorial imaginative investment here, but also the urgency to know. In the above scene Moreton, contemplating the soldiers guarding the German POWs, questions if his grandfather was “among them?” (162). But Bert does not appease his postmemorial urge but changes the subject: “‘There was a lot of shagging going on when we got to Germany’ Grandad said, seizing a cue to talk about something other than death and fighting” (163). The disjuncture between Moreton’s expectations of what his grandfather ought to explain about his war, however, and what his grandfather actually recounts supports Samuel Hynes’ point, that the soldiers of WWII did not usually testify to the horrors of fighting or trauma, but to the “comradeship, the excitement, the satisfaction in complex physical skills, the pride men feel in hardships shared and endured” (Hynes, 1999: 219). As noted in Section III.2, the third generation wishes to know what war was like, or the emotional truths, they wish to hear about the barbarities of war. But the witness remembers or only desires to remember or recount other facets. Moreton then picks up on his grandfather’s memories of “a bit of frat” (163) to disclose the historiographical story of “the ban on fraternization” (ibid) with German women at the end of the summer. As Hynes points out, civilians often take the “killing to be the center of the story” (Hynes, 1997: 111) and “ignore all the other business of war” (ibid:111). Fraternization would have been, perhaps, a more memorable part of the war for many servicemen than the actual killing, as the grandfather suggests. The Salvation Army book of prayers that had been with Bert “throughout his battle through Europe to Germany” (251) further exemplifies the processes of historical and testimonial significance that an object undergoes with the passing of time. The meaning of the prayer book has shifted from religious consolation to a testimonial object of historical witness and the source of postmemorial creation. Still “water-stained and crisp” (ibid) it embodies both objective historical truths as well as personal traumatic memory. For Bert, the book was a memorial object to the horrors of battle, but also was “a help in the slow process of learning to cope with the readjustment to civilian life after the war” (ibid). For his grandson, however, it represents a return to the Real, the source of trauma and an opportunity to fill in the gaps of the story he wishes to construct, that of Bert’s participation in combat:
‘It took a long time to adjust. We had changed, you see, become a bit like savages by the end of the war. You stop caring, become more like an animal’. Those words surprised me. They were not the sort of thing you would say after spending all your time in Germany on ceremonial duty. Was it hard, I asked slowly, trying to sound casual, to kill someone?’ (251)
The book, as an object of memory then, assists personal memory, familial transmission and aids Moreton’s postmemorial construction as a memory trace; projecting himself into his grandfather’s position, imagining what it must have been like: “children running from their homes and shouting for mercy as exhausted, battle-crazed soldiers fired in through windows” (ibid). Torgovinck, points out in her analysis of the Eichmann phenomenon,55 that there would have been no opportunity to opt out of such situations in a battle, with the whole unit acting as one (Torgovnivk, 2005. ch.2). Similarly, Bert had no choice but to follow his fellow soldiers into the house clearing. Remembering that he was told to “spray the houses with tommy-gun fire”, he states “I didn’t like it [...] we never did it” (252). Moreton’s contemporary understanding of the changes war produces in a person, enables him to call the soldiers “killers” (90);justifying the reason for their subsequent silence. He quotes the words of a priest:
‘no wonder they don’t talk about it [.] the ordinariness must have been hard to come to terms with, to have done things that on a normal day we would have been hanged for, to sit on sofas in painted rooms holding tea cups having bayoneted other young men to death must have created an awful inner loneliness. I’ve buried killers. Their wives and children, all say the same thing: he never talked about it.’ (ibid)
Bert too questions the meaning of Good and Evil, Victim and Perpetrator, as the image of a flamethrower reminded him that “They would point to one of those at a house where a load of Germans were and they would all be burned alive” (ibid). Moreton unable to ask if he too had ‘murdered’, could only speculate: “Who were ‘they’? Was he one of them?” (ibid). Bert “put the book down, closed it and smoothed the cover with his palm” (ibid), then put the book back on the shelf, signaling the closure and finality of the shared moment of remembrance and transmission; the object having served its role as a memory site.
Photographs in Moreton’s narrative operate both on familial and documental levels.56 They have a bearing upon affective familial memory and collective affiliative memory, and “are the medium connecting first and second generation remembrance, memory and postmemory. They affirm the past’s existence, and, in their flat two-dimensionality, they signal its unbridgeable distance” (Hirsch, 1997: 23). For Barthes, a photo of his mother ignites the existential ‘9a a ete’ or ‘having been; not necessarily invoking past memories, but rather the feeling of pastness and death, something that can never be retrieved. Gazing at the photo of his mother, then, conjures a sensation of mourning, of the desire to bring her alive again; the permanence of death, or what ‘has been’ (Barthes, 1981: 82). Similarly, in Moreton’s narrative, photographs not only lend affective elements of ‘having been’, but also charge the need to know, shape the necessarily fictional stories of postmemory, and mirror the transition from familial to affiliative cultural memory, from personal to public.
The first mention of photographs in Moreton’s text, “the one of Arthur outside a holiday chalet sometime in the sixties” (18) also seems to rouse the feeling of ‘having been’ for Moreton. The photograph, shown at his retirement party, describes his father in sixties attire: “winklepicker shoes, pork-pie hat, goatee beard, a white T-shirt and blue jeans like a West Coast Beatnik stranded on the Kent mudflats;57 and the old trim waistline he had before all those working lunches and late-night post-council pints” (18). The period of the photograph ‘has been’, signifying the irrecoverable dimension of time, and a past life with which he also has familial connectedness. In other words, for Moreton’s gaze it embodies an element of the ‘punctum’, the “prick of recognition [...] that “attracts and repels us at the same time” (Hirsch, 1997: 4). The intention of showing the photo, however, at Arthur’s retirement party, was to make people laugh, and therein lies the paradox. For others outside the family, the photo might well cause amusement, as seeing family and friends dressed in outdated clothes in their youth usually does, but Moreton’s contextualization of this photograph points to other interpretations as well. Firstly, the photograph forms part of an album with the title “This Is Your Life”; a popular television program originating in the United States.58 Irony clearly exists, because the program was intended to “integrate the wreckage of the present with his [the WWII veteran chosen for the first program] happier past and the promise of a hopeful future." (“Radio: Sermon on the Air”). Moreton then shifts the description of this photograph and its album to the hospital, where Arthur lay in casualty after a near fatal heart attack, and his wife’s grandmother was dying. Thus, for Moreton, the inclusion of the photograph in the narrative here is one of affective connection, the ‘9a a ete’ of an irretrievable past life and time, but nonetheless, also pointing to the “present, rebuild [ing], reconnect [ing], bring [ing] back to life” (Hirsch, 1997: 243), in much the same way as This Is Your Life intended to do for its first veteran guests. The photograph, however, can function as a historical document, from an affiliative position, and Moreton’s description of his father’s fashion would permit this reading; the historical and cultural position of the viewer thus altering its interpretation. For Arthur photographs communicate the indescribable, that which cannot be spoken, but which also serve to remember “everything he [Arthur] would rather forget” (28); triggering traumatic memories of his wartime childhood. Arthur’s images transmit familial, affective memory, but also “facilitate the affiliative acts of the post-generation” (Hirsch, 2012: 39), enabling Moreton to understand both the micro and the macro historiographical meaning of the photograph beyond the frame.
The image of the German bomber flying over London on the first day of the Blitz provides a central axis in the narrative for Moreton’s postmemorial creation. “The photograph had been in his loft room for years” (27); the room where Arthur goes to be alone with his memories, surrounded by model aircrafts, books and videos “mostly concerned with the aeroplanes of World War Two” (ibid), further indicating Arthur’s obsession with the war. The positioning of the sentence, after a break in the text, and the use of the definite article, The, signals its importance and its central role in the transmission of familial and affiliative memory between father and son. The memories and secrets it contained had been dormant, waiting for the right moment to be reactivated; the photograph had been there “for years” (ibid), but the time had arrived. For Moreton, the image “was not out of place but it was sinister” (ibid) as it hints at the ‘having been’ of the Blitz, seen from the future perfect; trauma, death, destruction and catastrophe ‘will have taken place’ below the frame of the German aircraft, offloading its bombs onto the civilian population below, where his grandfather and Vi were walking along the canal. As Hirsch points out, the “horror of looking isn’t necessarily in the image but in the story the viewer provides to fill in what has been omitted” (Hirsch, 1997: 21). This clearly applies to this image of the German bomber. Moreton then takes this historical image and “reinvests [it] with resonant individual and familial forms of mediation and aesthetic expression” (Hirsch, 2012: 33), at the heart of postmemorial work. For Arthur, the image has a strong traumatic association, passed down from Bert and Vi. But for Moreton, it lends him the liberty to express the “living connection” (ibid) it continues to hold; not only for his own family, but for all those who were outside of the frame. The fictionalized story ofBert and Vi, walking along the canal, could have been any other young couple, they embody the everyman and everywoman of the Blitz, overtly articulated through the writer’s impersonal naming of his grandparents; “The soldier and his shy lover, a boy with war eyes and a girl carrying a child” (31).
Other photographs further ignite moments of the punctum, and the ‘having been’ of an irretrievable familial past, lending themselves to a phenomenological reading for Moreton. One such image “yellowed with age, of Bert and Vi in the young years of their love, before the children. Before the war. [...].” (237), echoes those of pre-holocaust family photographs, of an “irrecoverable lost innocence” (Hirsch, 2012: 214); a time before the war and the traumatic events of the family’s past. It suggests a possible alternative world before the loss; what might have happened without the interference of the war. Yet it provides another reading, once again of the future perfect; what will have taken place after the image was taken, and the impossibility of return. The photograph of Moreton’s grandparents enables him to receive and transmit the root of the family silence as Bert confesses that after demobilization he couldn’t “face life” (237) having found himself in debt from his wife’s overspending. Similar to the function of the prayer book, mentioned in Section III.4.i., the image of the happy couple before the war, then, triggers a “collaborative narrative” (Hirsch, 1997: 34), like that of Spiegelman’s Maus discussed in Section III.3 above, but this time between grandfather and grandson, giving and receiving memory and in the process establishing and strengthening the male familial bonding between first and third generation.
Finally, for Bert the photograph of his ex-comrades, “a group of men in battledress, five rows deep, the front ones sitting on the grass” (254), recalls his past self and that of others; reconstituting “a cultural act of affiliation and identification” (Hirsch: 2012: 159), a “witness of [his] particular historical moment” (ibid). But, for Moreton it transmits both cultural memory of the story of intense comradeship experienced by combat infantrymen, and also the intimate, familial act of generational transmission. Moreton as narrator, not having shared Bert’s experience of war, does not seem to identify with his grandfather’s emotions: “he said something I could not quite believe I was hearing, given all that we had talked about. It was said confidently, almost lovingly, with no irony: ‘That was a lovely big family’” (254). The writer himself, however, if we are to separate one from the other, might well have understood what Hynes clearly highlights, that “narratives testify to the satisfactions of military life during the war - the comradeship, [...]. We must accept as fact that men on the whole are glad they went to war; their narratives tell us that” (Hynes, 1999: 219).
This section on the function of artifacts and photographs within Moreton’s narrative has attempted to address how they might operate within this sub-genre of postmemoir. Postmemorial practices of creative imagination and speculation, as well as the urge to fill in the gaps of family silences, depart and emerge from objects of memory, family and documental photographs, such as the prayer book or the picture of the German plane over London. They also play an important role in the shared memory space between generations, facilitating both familial and affiliative transmission of affective and historical events. In addition, they embody traces of memory, which fluctuate with generational and cultural perspectives; their meaning shifting with contextual modifications. Above all, they are “fragmentary remnants that shape the cultural work of postmemory” (Hirsch, 2012: 37).
IV. Conclusions and Further Research
This thesis has principally attempted to demonstrate that Moreton’s postmemoir, confronting family silences surrounding the participation of British servicemen in WWII, operates within the concepts of postmemory and thus embraces many of its primary characteristics. A close examination of the text, focusing on its hybrid mode of narrative, the rationale and urgency of its narration, the collaborative construct of memory between three generations of male family members, and the function of artifacts and photographs, would confirm that this postmemoir indeed shares many of the elements of postmemorial Holocaust writings.
Firstly, in Section III.1., the exploration of Moreton’s narrative mode has identified the tropes of postmemory operating in its fusion of fiction, historiographical discourses, confessional memoir and self-conscious archival research. Thus “imaginative investment and creation” (Hirsch, 1997: 22) mediates Moreton’s particular vision of the stories passed down to him through a combination of familial and cultural memory, as well as archival research. In this way, Moreton’s text overtly demonstrates what Hirsch described as mediated postmemories (Hirsch, 2012: 4). Furthermore, Moreton’s mode of familial confessional memoir clearly articulates the continuing effects of the war through three generations and how this unreachable, unsymbolizable traumatic past has been passed down through behaviours, silences and the subsequent creation of myths. Section III.2. revealed how Moreton’s text further articulates the urgency to know this “traumatic knowledge and embodied experience” (ibid: 6); laying bare the mechanisms of belatedness59 triggering the traumatic recall of Moreton’s grandfather and father, and the writer’s urge to unveil the truths. This is crucial, because postmemory, to use Hirsch’s own words, “is a consequence of traumatic recall at a generational remove” (ibid: 6).
Secondly in Sections III.3 and III.4., the study of how Moreton’s gendered discourses of memory, and the role that artifacts and photographs play in his text has shown parallels with the tropes of Hirsch’s post-generational Holocaust works. Like Spiegelman’sMans, in which “memory, family and photography” (Hirsch, 2012: 31) take central stage, Moreton’s narrative conveys the memory transmission in the absence of female family voices; in the process strengthening male familial bonding. Similarly, he also suggests how the grandfather’s and father’s experiences, “can acquire the status of fairy tale, nightmare, and [above all] myth” (ibid: 31), when prived of verification. Moreover, Moreton reveals the transgenerational structures of postmemory, and the “transferential processes” (ibid: 31) in his family, from grandfather to grandson and onto his own son, through incomplete stories, half-truths and unconscious behaviours. I have explored artifacts and photographs as testimonial objects and points of memory. On the one hand, they serve as a springboard for private and public postmemorial discourses, and, on the other, they are testimony to what Barthes termed ‘qa a ete’ or ‘having been’, signaling an irretrievable past; further enhancing postmemorial discourses. In addition, they also disclose transmission from the small familial memory to the affiliative postmemory, as their meaning shifts with generational and historical perspectives.
However, although Moreton’s text certainly shares many of the tropes originally elucidated in Hirsch’s work, it also appears to vary and transcend it. Most importantly perhaps, Moreton’s text searches for the origins of a less well-known trauma or not perhaps as openly- articulated as the Holocaust, and so the narration of this research assumes as much importance as the war’s effect on his family and the way it shaped their identity. This overtly self-conscious urge to investigate the silences of the war, combined with historical distance and generational standpoint, necessarily lends the narrative its melange of popular confessional misery lit (Yagoda, 2007), historiographic metafiction (Hutcheon, 1988) and romance of the archive (Keen, 2001). Through this narrative melange, then, Moreton kills two birds with one stone: firstly, by making “history walk through the door” (Walkerdine, Valerie Olsvold Aina and Rudberg) he overthrows cultural myths and enhances collective memory of the war; and secondly, unlike post-generation Holocaust writers, he discloses “history” in order to better understand the origins of transgenerational anxieties.
I propose that the particularities of Moreton’s postmemorial work within the context of the British servicemen’s experience of WWII, the difficulties of post-war relationships after demobilization and the on-going anxieties caused by the events of the Blitz on the homefront, not only contribute to broadening the horizons of postmemory, but also to widening understanding of how the inherited anxieties of WWII manifest themselves in autobiographical discourses. In the process, these discourses, produced with the historical hindsight of a contemporary standpoint and generational distance, contribute to challenging, questioning and countering the mythologized cultural memory, such as those narrated by Moreton: the traumatic events of the Blitz on ordinary citizens, the retreat from Dunkirk, the idealized vision of family life after demobilization, and the ordinary servicemen’s experiences in the European theatres of war. This postmemoir reveals the plurality of remembrance in memory discourses, mirroring postmodernist concerns. In other words, Moreton explores the different sides of perpetrator and victim, the ‘wrong side’ and the ‘right side’ and what that means to both the ordinary soldier at war and the civilians caught up in the battle; hence, subverting the notion of The Good War. This family postmemoir thus aligns itself with postmodernist desires to pin the story of the ordinary citizen, the small unknown histories onto the grand historical narrative. In the process, Moreton’s work exposes how both familial and grander historical myths might be created through cultural, popular and gendered viewpoints in order to counter the silences that have been maintained since the end of the war. In addition, his text also emerges as an exploration of how heroic figures, especially that of the father, constitute the same process of myth creation.
Finally, through the close reading of Moreton’s text, this thesis has illuminated how this sub-genre might form part of a wider literary trend in life writing emerging in diverse cultural contexts, including Germany and France since the 1990s, which deal with breaking the silences of WWII through the investigation of grandparent’s wars. The distance of the third generation enables these writers to reach a fresh understanding of events, not only through new historiographical insights, but also partly because the more relaxed relationship between grandparents and grandchildren has permitted it. Moreton’s text illustrates the difficulties the second generation generally felt in asking questions about the war, as well as the indifference to their father’s war stories, but this seems to have waivered with the third. To this effect, this narrative might be perceived as belonging to the European trend of post-vaterliteratur, articulating a greater willingness to understand the war generation; taking on a more reconciliatory position, albeit contextually very different from the German and French texts. In addition, the contemporary understanding, as articulated by Hynes, that the situation of war changes the self, transforming an ordinary individual man into an anonymous ‘killer’, and new insights into the prolonged effects of combat on the psyche, has further favoured this atonement.
By necessity, this thesis could not address several other areas which might have been fruitful to better understand the workings of this sub-genre more fully, and I propose these for further study. Firstly, a wider investigation to include other works of a similar nature would further enlighten how the legacy of WWII has shaped family bonding through generations, and furthermore, a comparison of second and third generation texts would illuminate modifications produced by generational distance from events. As Alden points out “the potential of postmemory as a conceptual frame has not been fully explored” (Alden, 2014: 8), and as she suggests, the expansion of postmemory beyond that of the family to social groups might also enhance understanding as to how alternate and counter histories emerge within these groups. To this respect, a study of the websites, such as those maintained by Carol Schultz-Vento (Schultz Vento, “Daughters of D-Day”)60 or the BBC’s website People’s War,61 might help clarify how postmemorial practices on the web contribute to shifting hegemonic or mythologized narratives, creating alternative histories and a sense of community; generating “archival practices with ever greater openness and participation” (Hirsch, 2012: 242).
Secondly, it would be interesting to study the role that landscapes and community play in the search for identity and absent memory, as Moreton returns to the neighbourhoods ofhis childhood and his grandfather’s sites of memory. Other works within this sub-genre similarly intertwine places as part of the narrative, often revisiting sites of war in Europe, but also those of the writer’s own childhood in the post-war era. Hirsch refers to these sites as “places of return” (Hirsch, 2012: 213). I would tentatively propose the similarity of this trope to narratives of exile or immigrant narratives in their search for belonging and identity.
Thirdly, a more in-depth study of how gender shapes these narratives might also be profitable. In this thesis, I very briefly addressed how female perspectives coloured Moreton’s father’s memories of the war, especially concerning the reasons for Bert’s late homecoming, and it might be interesting to look more closely into this notion. Furthermore, many works in this sub-genre of ‘father’s war’ postmemoirs are produced by female writers, and it might be interesting to make a comparison with those by male writers to identify any differences in perspectives or the representation of family relationships in the post-war period. Furthermore, I have not investigated whether there are any memoirs or fictional representations, apart from textual representations of oral histories,62 written by wives and mothers of these ex-servicemen.
Finally, broadening this study of family postmemoirs to include other wars, such as WWI or Vietnam, might prove to be fertile ground to further research in this sub-genre of postmemoirs.63
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1 See Jacques Revel (1996)
2 See Jardin, Alexandre, Des Gens Tres Bien. (Jardin), and Gunter Grass, Crabwalk (2002). Alexandre Jardin is grandson of Jean Jardin, Chef de Cabinet in the Vichy Regime. Jean Jardin escaped assassination by the Resistance after the war for his role in the deportation of Jews, and was exiled to Switzerland. In his autobiography, published in 2006, Gunter Grass confesses his membership of the Waffen SS during WWII; igniting the debate over personal and collective guilt, the meaning of perpetrator or victim, and what might be considered to have been ‘normal’ conduct for young men at the time. Grass’ novel Crabwalk (2002), written as within the characteristic tropes of postmodernism, moving back in order to move forward, as its title suggests, raises once again the issue of German victimization. The central narrative of the novel recounts the sinking of the German ship Wilhelm Gustloff by a Soviet submarine, killing almost 10,000 lives, mostly women and children refugees as well as wounded soldiers. Interwoven into the plot, however, is the character of a right wing Neo-Nazi whose interest is to use information about the event to raise political fury via a Fascist website. The narrator, furthermore, implicitly draws attention to the preoccupation with German guilt overshadowing that of German suffering. Grass was accused of putting such ‘suffering’ on the same level as the victims of Nazism. Nevertheless, what is interesting here is that Grass’ purpose on writing the novel was to depict the event, seen in retrospect, as a tragic result of war; raising public awareness over the plurality of German historical memory. For an interesting account of the case for retrieving more diverse, ‘smaller’ histories of the ordinary wartime German population and the continuing problems surrounding the German historical memory see Barnouw (2005).
3 See Timm, Uwe. In My Brother’s Shadow. (2003).
4 For a description of German Father Literature see Borowicz. (2011).
5 All citations from Cole Moreton’s work are from this edition.
6 Phrase coined by Studs Terkel (1984). The title is used ironically, however, as Terkel’s collection of oral histories of the American Experience in WWII depicts the brutality and horrors of the ‘real’ war.
7 Carol Shultz Vento, daughter of Dutch Schultz represented in the film The Longest Day (1962), in her postmemoir reveals the true story of her father and the subsequent effects of his PTSD on her family.
8 I address the question as to why the events of 09/11 should influence the emergence of such works in Section II. Theoretical Framework of this thesis.
9 Term originally coined by Tom Brokaw in his bestselling book The Greatest Generation (Brokaw, 2001) for the WWII generation. Brokaw has often been accused of emphasizing the uncomplicated stories without revealing the struggles and agonies that many veterans had in order to reintegrate into society on their return.
10 Quoted in “So You’re Back Then” (Allport, 2009: 67).
11 Sylvia Plath’s well-known poem “Daddy”, in which she concludes: “Daddy, you bastard, I’m through”, is an example. Germaine Greer refers to this poem in her memoir “Daddy We Hardly Knew You”(1989: 7). Greer also seeks to discover her father’s war and her own identity, but, like Plath does not seem to find reconciliation.
12 Furthermore and unexplored in this thesis, are works related to the trauma and subsequent rebelliousness resulting from the loss of fathers during the war. Roger Waters of the band Pink Floyd, for example, wrote the narrative of his well-known musical piece The Wall inspired by his lifelong anguish caused by the loss of his father in the Battle of Anzio, Italy, where 43,000 Allied troops perished. In 2014, 70 years after his father’s death, Waters unveiled a memorial to his father and to all the other “Fallen who have no known grave” in the town of Aprilia, South of Rome (Beckett, 2014).
Interestingly, as a further example of just how much the war resonated in deep culture into the 1960s and 70s, George Harrison of the Beatles once stated, quite casually in an interview with the BBC, that nothing would have been possible without ‘the war’. The reasons are too complex to discuss in detail here, but the ‘sexual revolution’ of WWII, along with women’s emancipation from domesticity during the war years, laid the foundations for post-war permissiveness in child rearing and the sexual liberation movement, (see Section III.I). Furthermore, as John Costello notes, the increasing economic power of the 2nd generation “fuelled the phenomenon of Rock ‘n’ Roll, whose ostentatious eroticism ensured its wide appeal amongst a sexually mature and rebellious younger generation and provided the emotional context for their dating, courtship and generally permissive life-style” (Costello, 1985: 370). Also see Turner and Rennell (1995: 223-224) who also attribute the rebelliousness of 1950s youth to the war and the silence surrounding its effects on the men and women who experienced it.
13 For more detailed information and women’s first-hand accounts of this difficult aspect of demobilization the following three works are the most important to date: Julie Summer’s Stranger in the House,(2008); for a more general overview with detailed personal stories see Turner and Rennell’s When Daddy Came Home: How Family Life Changed Forever in 1945 (1995); and Alan Allport’s Demobbed: Coming Home After the Second World War. (2009).
14 See Section II.1.
15 In this thesis, I employ Morris’ term, postmemoir, to describe memoirs written by children and grandchildren of WWII veterans, rather than purely fictional works; thus integrating Hirsch’s notion of postmemory into family memoirs of the postgeneration.
16 Thomas Childers (2009) narrates how one participant in D-Day (1944) suffered severe PTSD symptoms after watching the film “The Longest Day” (Childers, 2009: 272): “He has not stopped crying to this day” (ibid: 273). Likewise the film “Saving Private Ryan” triggered many cases of veterans’ PTSD, with the US Veteran’s Association opening up telephone help lines.
17 Jacques Lacan’s notion of the Real, is that which “resists symbolization absolutely” (Crosthwaite, 2009: 29). The Real is also unrelenting, as Crosthwaite citing Lacan notes “‘whatever upheaval we subject it to, [the Real] is always and in every case in its place; it carries its place stuck to the sole of its shoe, there being nothing that can exile it from it’” (ibid). The Real defies symbolization or spoken language and is inherently traumatic in its confrontation. Catherine Belsey states: “the real [...] is that silent or silenced exteriority which is also inside us, and which we cannot symbolize, delimit, specify, or know” (Belsey, 2005: 14). The Lacanian concept of the Real in its confrontation ties in with Freud’s notion of Nachtraglichkeit, or belated return, as the delayed realization of an earlier traumatic occurrence. In other words, the origin of earlier trauma is what Lacan terms the Real.
18 As psychoanalysts, Davoine and Gaudillere researched the causes of psychosis and found that in certain patients, this could be traced back to the experience in WWII of the patients’ parents.
19 The Social Link refers to the way stories and experiences are passed on in the social environment, by means of stories, songs, myths and so on, through which people understand these experiences.
20 The postmemoirs mentioned in Section I. Introduction, such as those by Leila Levinson, Julia Collins, Tom Matthews or Germaine Greer seem to be clear examples of this, but also authors such as McEwan, Swift or Pynchon confront the “unresolved legacy of WWII” (Crosthwaite, 2009:71). Also see (Alden, 2014. Crosthwaite, 2009 and Torgovnick, 2005).
21 See How to Do Things with Words (Austin, 1975) for a more detailed description of Austin’s theory of performative and constative speech acts in language. However, to illustrate this theory here, I cite Winter’s examples: “You swept me off my feet” as the performative utterance compared to its constative “I remember the moment I met you” (Winter, J.M, Tilmans Karin, Frank van Vree, 2010: 11).
22 My italics
23 Tim O Brian points out that the truth is sometimes “just beyond telling” (O’Brian, 2009: 68) and that “Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can't remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story” (ibid: 36). Melvyn Bragg similarly justifies his preference for fictional narrative mode over memoir in his semi-autobiographical postmemorial work The Soldier’s Return (Bragg) because the latter “wouldn’t get at the truths I [Bragg] am interested in finding out” (Writers at Warwick Archive); mistrusting the “total recall” (ibid) of memoirs. Bragg intended to represent the emotional, inner life of his characters “where nobody talked about the most important things [...] what you are relying on is the imagination” (ibid).
24 Familial postmemory is that memory shared between parent and child (intergenerational), and affiliative is memory shared between the child and other contemporaries, (intragenerational), (Hirsch, 2012: 36).
25 See Hirsch, Marianne. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. (1997) for a more detailed analysis of the function of photography in postmemorial works of the Holocaust. Also Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. (1981), and Sontag, Susan. On Photography. (1989). Barthes and Sontag form much of the basis for Hirsch’s framework of photographic analysis in the field of Holocaust Studies.
26 See Section II.1.
27 Torgovnivk (2005) suggests that “trauma-like” symptoms would be a better term than “trauma” when discussing the work of postmemory, as it filters and reverberates down the generations. I would side with this viewpoint. However, I believe that even “trauma-like” may neither describe the phenomenon, but rather ‘anxiety’ or ‘angst’. Indeed the strength of this angst varies in different works, and contexts, but might simply imply a kind of ‘consciousness’ causing an obsession to ‘know’; particularly relevant to third generation works. Hirsch refers to ‘received memory’, (in Theoretical Framework). See Davoine and Gaudillere (2004) for an interesting psychotherapist’s perspective.
28 Frank McCourt’s biography Angela’s Ashes (1996) depicts McCourt’s impoverished childhood and early adulthood in Ireland, launching a trend for the publication of similar memoirs. Ben Yagoda (2009) suggests McCourt’s book falls into the genre of ‘Misery Lit’ in which writers confess their ‘miserable’ childhoods and difficult family backgrounds.
29 Torgovnivck mentions that “Post-Vietnam war films often show the needless expenditure of war and the anonymity of large-scale death. But, to preserve narrative drive, they generally focus on at least some developed characters” (Torgovnivk, 2005: 913). Taking, Oliver Stone’s Platoon. (1986), and Stanley Kubrick’s Metal Jacket. (1987) as further examples of such films, she also argues that juxtaposing “relative safety and absolute danger, anonymous and sympathetic deaths” (ibid: 919) becomes a “theory of war”; the sacrifice of the individual to the efficacy of the anonymous masses of the Army. Indeed, as Torgovnivk so aptly states: “Only the loss of identity enables men to kill and to die under orders. When depersonalization falters, the casual brutalities of war become less thinkable” (ibid: 970).
30 See Section below on the role of Photography.
31 See Theoretical Framework for Lacan’s conceptualization of the Real.
32 See Allport (2009) Demobbed: Coming Home after the Second World War for an interesting and detailed account of the realities behind the mythologized story of demobilization in Britain after WWII.
33 Common vernacular name for an electrician.
34 See Section III.3.
35 See Angus Calder’s The People’s War (Calder, “Blitz: September 1940 to May 1941”), particularly the chapter Blitz: September 1940 to May 1941 and The Myth of the Blitz (Calder, The Myth of the Blitz) for further details. However, Calder explains that part of the myth lies in the fact that the authorities had not planned for the “real nature of the Blitz” (Calder, 1969: 165). The East Enders, who lived in squalid conditions in poorly built housing had been worse affected by the air-raids, and thus flooded the rest centres and shelters. These shelters had not been designed for such mass usage, having no facilities for living in “night after night” (ibid). Calder points out that “they did not revolt nor, truly speaking panic. Explaining this phenomenon, some journalists of the period created a myth of the Cockney wisecracking over the ruins of his world, which is as famous as the myth of the Few soaring into battle with laughter on their lips, and equally misleading” (ibid: 165166). Nevertheless, the bombings of British cities did aid political change through the intermingling of classes and a “shift of values which Priestley had exhorted [...] implicit in shared disaster and danger” (ibid: 178).
36 See Section II.
37 Alden describes Graham Swift as “the second-generation writer par excellence of the baby boomer authors” (Alden, 2014: 30). Born in 1947 to an ex-serviceman, his novels, represent the “ways the unimaginable dead, the war itself, still haunts us now” (ibid: 32), rather than purely historical fiction. Also Swift’s concern, as a writer, with the difference between his father’s life and his own, of experiences outside his own imagination, seems to be common to many of these writers, including Cole Moreton.
38 See section I: Introduction and III.3: Fathers and Sons as Agents of Transmission. Also see Penny Summerfield’s interesting account of Silences and Censorship in her paper The Generation of Memory: Gender and the Popular Memory of the Second World War in Britain, published during the course of writing this thesis (Summerfield, 2014: 21-34).
39 I address this point in more detail in the section III.3.
40 Gunter Grass’ narrator was born moments after his mother was rescued from the sinking ship, Wilhelm Gustloff; Grass explores the generational repercussions of the disaster upon three generations. Further similarities to Gunter Grass’ Crabwalk also reside in the questioning of boundaries between perpetrators and victims of war. I explore this issue elsewhere in this thesis.
41 Notice, here, that the text incorporates an element of self-consciousness and irony. As Arthur, in his urgency, contributes to the archival impulse in which personal stories “function as correctives and additions [...] to the historical archive” (Hirsch, 2012: 228) in the same way as Moreton’s own work. Furthermore, Arthur seems able to listen to other families’ stories and record their history, but is not able to break through the barrier of silence with his own father.
42 For a detailed portrayal of the changing role of fatherhood during WWII and its aftermath, the difficulties of masculinized or traumatized returning servicemen, their expectations of family and home on demobilization see Allport, Alan. Demobbed: Coming Home after the Second World War. (2009) and Barry Turner and Tony Rennell’s work on how family life was affected by WWII: Turner, Barry and Tony Rennell, When Daddy Came Home: How Family Life Changed Forever in 1945. (1995). For a thorough investigation of the changes brought about in masculinities by war see Leo Braudy’s work: From Chivalry to Terrorism: War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity. (2003).
43 See Matthews, Tom. Our Father’s War: Growing up in the Shadow of The Greatest Generation. (2005), and Childers, Thomas. Soldier from the War Returning: The Greatest Generation ’s Troubled Homecoming from World War II. (2009).
44 See Section III.1. for an exploration of the grandfather’s German Lover plot.
45 Furthermore, childcare experts and social workers at the time also blamed lack of parental supervision for high levels of juvenile delinquency. According to John Costello this accusation led many mothers to feel guilty for not attending properly to childcare. This guilt complex, along with new post-war theories, such as those by Dr. Spock, encouraged women to take up domesticity in order to devote more time to children (Costello, 1985: 369).
46 Juliette Pattinson (2014) points out how these narratives were nearly all about men, women being depicted as wives or girlfriends, with the exception of films about the Secret War of the SOE. This “contrasted sharply with wartime films such as The Gentle Sex (1943) and Millions Like Us (1943), in which women were depicted as playing a crucial role” (Pattinson, 2014: 135). This would certainly have contributed to the gendered influence on girls’ play in the post-war period.
47 For a discussion of the warrior image as a British masculine ideal see Paris, Michael. Warrior Nation: Images of War in British Popular Culture, 1850-2000. (2000).
48 See Section II.
49 See Section III.1 and III.3 for an exploration of the female historical viewpoint in the immediate post-war period.
50 Rt. Hon. John Enoch Powell, MBE (1912-1998), was MP for the Conservative Party, upholding strong political views on anti-immigration and Euro-scepticism. For further details of his speeches and bibliography see the website: http://www.enochpowell.net/.(“Enoch Powell: Life and Views”)
51 See Hirsch (2008: 185) for the significance of this book in Dr. Arthur Kessler’s concentration camp survivor memoir. Kessler’s son finds objects in a box, including photographs of the camp and also his father’s memoir. Hirsch suggests that the memoir should be read for “silence and absence as well as presence” (ibid); suggestive of the need for imaginative recreation of events.
52 See Section II. Theoretical Framework for details of Barthe’s Punctum.
53 Samuel Hynes, however makes the important point that soldiers didn’t see themselves as victims. He writes: “Every narrator believes himself to some degree as an agent in his personal war, and agents aren’t victims. The victim-view is a later reaction to wars by persons who were not there; understandable and humane, but wrong” (Hynes, 1999: 219). Hynes also emphasizes that the combat soldier does not view the atrocities he witnesses with horror, but “with astonishment” (ibid), which might also justify, what to a third generation noncombatant, seems a callous or cold account of events.
54 My italics
55 Torgovinck, writing from a contemporary perspective, discusses the controversies surrounding the Eichmann trials: was he a willing evil perpetrator or victim of the pressure of Nazism? See Torgovinck, The War Complex: World War Two in our Time (2005: Chapter 2). Adolf Eichmann (1906-1962) was accused of aiding the mass deportation of Jews to concentration camps. He was captured in Argentina by the Israeli Intelligence Service, tried in Israel and found guilty of war crimes. He was executed by hanging in 1962.
56 Hirsch refers to “meta-photographic texts” (Hirsch, 1997: 8) which would accurately define the context of photographs in Moreton’s work. These are photographs embedded into a narrative “either by reproducing them or by describing them” (ibid).
57 The wearing of a pork-pie hat and winklepicker shoes, which has very pointed toes, is culturally associated with the Hipster movement of the 1960s and 1970s, and foregrounds the slightly later Mod movement.
58 The program, recounting its guests’ life story, was originally conceived by General Omar Bradley after WWII in order to “do something to help returning World War II veterans, especially paraplegics. He said they were depressed and reluctant to see anyone, including their families”. Ralph's [Ralph Edwards was the presenter] ingenious solution was to profile a returning hero on his radio program, which created a "voice" for all veterans” (“Thisisyourlife.com”). The first ‘Returning Hero’ was ex-serviceman, Lawrence Tranter, a leg amputee. The program had various international versions, including one in Britain, presented by Eamonn Andrews. For its debut program, a young man of 17 was chosen, also a victim of WWII, who had lost two legs and a hand when he found an unexploded bomb as he was playing. Interestingly then, both the first British guest and Arthur had both been victims of the Blitz, one physically wounded, but the other psychologically.
59 These mechanisms emerge from several theories which I briefly outlined in Section II, but for convenience, I list them here: Freud’s theory of Nachtraglichkeit; Davoine and Gaudillere’s psychoanalytical theory of received memory; the influence of films and commemorative documentaries; the events of the 11th of September 2001; and the passing of the war generation.
60 Vento’s website, Daughters of D-Day, invites readers to contribute the stories of their fathers and grandfathers, and how their war affected their families.
61 BBC. “WW2 People’s War. An Archive of War Two Memories - Written by the People, Gathered by the BBC.”
62 See Summers, Julie. Stranger in the House: Women’s Stories of Men Returning from the Second World War. 2008, for some examples of these narratives.
63 An example of a Vietnam postmemoir is Tom Bissell’s The Father of All Things: A Marine, His Son, and the Legacy of Vietnam. (2009).
- Quote paper
- Christina Howes (Author), 2014, Third Generation Engagement with World War Two. Postmemory in Cole Moreton's "My Father was a Hero", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/468165