Oliver Nassar

Closer to waking up

I got a little closer today to accepting the reality: that those before did exist.
They were bashful.
They propped their legs up on stools.
They found beauty in sunsets and colour and aroma.

The way we do.
However inspite of my "knowing" this, I have so much trouble accepting it.


"Can you imagine it?"
His question unwittingly struck at the problem which faces all newcomers to this place. It is not that what occured here passes comprehension - which it does - but that it is distanced even from imagination; which is perhaps why the writing of Primo Levi conveys more reality to us than the artifacts of Auschwitz, the actual terrifying evidence that yes, it all happened just as we have always been told. So the surviving gas chamber in the original Auschwitz camp, the crematorium with the name of its Erfurt manufacturers still displayed on the oven, the roomfuls of human hair, the medical experiment block, the piles of spectacles, the Birkenau railhead, the execution wall, the mass gallows, all serve to authenticate the accounts of Borowski or Levi rather than as evidence in their own right - because evidence can only be applied to imaginable things.
 
Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation. New York: Nation Books, 1990. Print

I've spent many hours reading biographies and stories of the Holocaust, in part to try to understand what life was like for those who came before me.

I presume, perhaps falsly, that I'll get closer to this understanding by attempting to take in the "bad", rather than the "good". That somehow I'll be woken up by horror.

But something about these photos of early 1900s Paris get me a little closer.

Maybe it's the casualness of day-to-day Paris they hint at, or that they allow me to recognize the same blues and reds and greens.

Maybe evidence of simple truths, mixed with colour, will get me closer to reconciling that those who came before me breathed just as I do.