As the Holocaust recedes as lived memory, both artists and historians struggle with ways to depict this event in a world where no one directly lived the memory.
And the Rat Laughed by Nava Semel tries a variety of methods to capture the unimaginable. There is straight out interviewing, fanciful myth, a Christian diary, even science fiction and legendary accounts. Semel is trying to find a way to create a language about the Holocaust as it moves from living reality to shared memory. In the process, she creates a new language of remembrance.
This novel is gripping, strange, dramatic. Just when you think you have figured out Semel’s narrative strategy, she changes things up , giving pleasant and unpleasant surprises.
And the Rat Laughed is experimental novel writing at its best. This is not a game played with words, but a real attempt to gain new ground in literature, while at the same time, creating a lexicon of memory that is difficult to grasp.