Son of Saul: Harrowing and Focused

And Every Single One Was Someone is a 1,000 page-long book that has only one word in it; reproduced more than 6,000,000 times throughout its thin, harrowing pages is the word “Jew.” As an elegy to those who lost their lives to the Holocaust, it imbues the detached, abstract notion of “six million deaths” with a palpable intimacy — a literal weight that physicalizes the immensity of what is arguably humanity’s darkest chapter. I’ve never held a physical copy of the book, but those who have claim that they felt unable to stop turning its pages, encountering the same word repeated over and over, as if the dead were pleading for our remembrance. To represent the Holocaust is to bear witness to an atrocity that eludes any sense of holistic representation. The implicit argument of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, a nine-hour documentary constituted entirely of survivors’ testimonials, is that art — despite its beauty and nuance as a means of describing the indescribable — is unable to account for a total representation of murder on such an industrialized scale. It instead posits that the only way we can somewhat comprehend the barbarity of what occurred is by allowing those who endured it to recount their suffering: that the closest we can get to an “objective” understanding is to weave together a tapestry of subjective experiences.