Narrating the Holocaust: in pursuit of poetic representations of health

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Abstract

This paper considers the scope of poetic representation for exploring notions of health and wellbeing in the testimony of Holocaust survivors. The paper is based on the representation, through poetic form, of testimony derived from multiple in-depth interviews with a Holocaust survivor, Anka, in south-east Wales. This paper concentrates on two of those interviews, the first a life story and the second an interview focusing on health, illness and wellbeing. Two poetic representations, one derived from each interview, provide examples of the principal investigator’s response to the oral testimony, and the authors explore how these forms can present authentic and rigorous data distillates without detracting from the emotive, contextualised and powerful messages of the original text. The poetic representations offer an analysis of the survivor’s life experiences, especially in Auschwitz concentration camp, and her personal perspective on her health and wellbeing. The authors discuss the value of poetic representation as a methodological approach, consider the poetic form for working with survivor stories and suggest how others might judge these pieces, to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of these alternative forms of data representation. They also consider the role of the researcher and Anka in creating the final product and the effect of Anka’s voice on the researchers’ work.

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