Stef Craps and Gert Buelens
Transcultural Negotiations of Holocaust Memory. Ed. Stef Craps and Michael Rothberg. Spec. issue of Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts 53.4 (2011): 569-86.
Publication year: 2011

Michael Chabon’s novella The Final Solution (2004), which first appeared in the Paris Review in 2003 with the subtitle A Story of Detection, lends itself to being interpreted as an allegory of man’s futile quest for understanding of the Holocaust. In this reading, the detective story that the novella recounts against the background of the Nazi extermination of the Jews illustrates the inaccessibility of the unspeakable horror of the Holocaust to rational inquiry. The Final Solution can thus be seen to abide by the demands of what Gillian Rose has called Holocaust piety; that is, devotion to the idea that the Nazi genocide is a radically unique event outside of human history, ineffable, beyond comprehension, and impervious to analysis. Our reading of The Final Solution, however, supplements and complicates the standard interpretation of the novella as an exercise in Holocaust piety by focusing on an “impious” subtext that appears to contradict some of the text’s more overt assumptions. We argue that the novella challenges the dominant conception of the Holocaust as an incomprehensible, ineffable, sacred event by returning the Nazi genocide to the realm of history – more specifically, the history of a colonizing Western modernity. The Final Solution breaks with Holocaust piety, we contend, through the proliferation of mirroring effects that suggest continuities and parallels between the Third Reich and the European colonial empires and between the plights of their respective victims.