As the maker of the nine-and-a-half hour film Shoah (1985), Claude Lanzmann created a work of major and enduring historical importance. Through its electrifyingly tense interviews with victims and perpetrators, it opens an indispensable, if harrowing, dimension to our understanding of Hitler’s Final Solution. A work that unrelentingly has as its subject death rather than survival, it will always confront and resist any temptation to forget the terrible specificity of the concerted extermination of millions of European Jews, or to repress the knowledge that this was the work of human beings. Towards the end of The Patagonian Hare, a hundred or so pages are devoted to the genesis and making of Shoah. We find here a Lanzmann driven by passion and determination, criss-crossing the world in the service of his all-consuming idea, part detective, part spy, as he tracks his witnesses, and persuades, cajoles, or tricks them into taking part in his project. It is a story full of adventures and mishaps, of funding setbacks, brushes with police, moments of disappointment or uncertainty; the story of more than a decade of research and labour, carried out with the urgency imposed by the awareness that the people he most needed to reach could die before he got them on film. It is riveting reading.
The Patagonian Hare
The Patagonian Hare: A Memoir
by Claude Lanzmann
Atlantic Books, $35 pb, 532 pp, 9781848875760
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Colin Nettelbeck is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, where he held the A.R. Chisholm Chair of French. He taught previously at the University of California (Berkeley) and Monash University. He has written extensively about twentieth-century and contemporary French literature, cinema, and cultural history, with special focus on the French experience of World War II. His most recent book is Dancing with de Beauvoir: Jazz and the French, published by Melbourne University Press in 2004. His essay ‘Kneecapper: a Trip to Happiness’ (published in the Autumn 2011 Meanjin Quarterly) was shortlisted for the 2010 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay. He was awarded second prize in the 2012 Calibre Prize for ‘Now They’ve Gone’.
By this contributor
- Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'A History of Modern French Literature: From the sixteenth century to the twentieth century' edited by Christopher Prendergast
- Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'The Némirovsky Question: The life, death and legacy of a Jewish writer in 20th century France' by Susan Rubin Suleiman
- Colin Nettelbeck reviews 'Les Parisiennes: How the women of Paris lived, loved, and died in the 1940s' by Anne Sebba
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