The Spectral Evidence of Photography in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room: An Album of Fractured Lives

María Jesús Martínez Alfaro

Abstract

This article focuses on Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room (2001), which I place in the context of what Froma I. Zeitlin (2006) regards as an emerging trend in Holocaust literature: fictional stories that move away from the victims and focus instead on the victimisers, as well as on the impact and legacy of the Nazi period on average Germans. The Dark Room consists of three independent but related stories, entitled after each German protagonist, and taking place in Germany at different moments of the 20th century. It is my aim to analyse the themes that connect these three stories —loss, guilt, shame, secrets and deception, traumatic awakenings and the fall from innocence, the crisis of identity, etc.— and to relate them to the motif already suggested by the work’s title: photography. Pictures recur insistently throughout the book’s pages and, like the past, they constitute a spectral presence in Seiffert’s novella triptych, where photographs emerge as a vehicle for exploring the problems posed by photographic evidence. Thus, I argue, the thread that ultimately weaves the stories together has to do with each protagonist’s negative epiphany, that is to say, his/her painful discovery that, in spite of all that a picture can be said to capture or show, the truth turns out to be disturbingly absent, lying in an unreachable elsewhere, always beyond the frame.

Keywords

Seiffert, Rachel; The Dark Room; Holocaust literature; Photography; Pictures



DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2013.26.18

Copyright (c) 2013 María Jesús Martínez Alfaro

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.