I stood at Flossenburg recording the silence at the grounds of the former concentration camp, like I’ve slowly been doing all along. After I was done, in the distance, I heard the sound of children playing. I didn’t make much of it, until I realised that many post war houses are built literally on the former camp grounds here. Families. Life going on. The camp is of course monument, remembrance, as it should be. But those houses are maybe the single most powerful statement to be made in light of this all: here is life, and it chooses to go on. The simple act of living being the deepest ‘acte de défi’ possible to what this camp represented: the act of destructing life.
But indeed, on to lighter thoughts.
As per your advice I started reading “Tokyo Year Zero” by David Peace, and – the heavy topic aside – I’m very much taken by the style in which he writes. He seems to capture things that I’ve encountered many times on my travels to Japan, in a very unique and refreshing way. His novel also made me think of Watabe Yukichi’s wonderful book “A criminal investigation”, which verses the same subtleties of post-war Japan, but through images.
And of course, my mind now makes connections between the two… How can I not see Yukichi’s investigator as Peace’s detective Minami. Both set in Tokyo. Both about a criminal investigation in post war times. Both are crucial to better understanding a reality. That relentless inner voice.
Understanding becomes vividly different when actually immersed in the reality of what one wants to understand. And oddly enough, virtual reality is an incredible tool for this. How it feels to stand in a refugee camp with no context other than you’re running from a war. How it feels to be led into a concentration camp to be worked to death without hope. How it feels to walk through the ruins of a firebombed city in search of sanity.
Most probably I myself can’t help categorising either. But maybe simply knowing I’m doing this is enough?