From Victim to Perpetrator: On the Blurring of Identities in Soazig Aaron’s Le Nom de Klara (2002)

Helena Duffy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The metafictional Holocaust novel, Le Nom de Klara [Refusal], which has known considerable critical success yet so far attracted little academic attention, is the work of an author who has no personal relationship to the Holocaust and who is not even Jewish. Soazig Aaron’s choice of a penname, which incongruously combines a Breton female Christian name with a Jewish–sounding surname, finds reflection in the story told by her debut novel: on her survival of Auschwitz–Birkenau a woman born to a Jewish mother and a German father who subsequently becomes a Nazi, rejects her pre–war identity of a German Jew, a mother and, ultimately, a woman. Having adopted a ubiquitous English name, Klara emigrates to America to become a photographer. In one of the few scholarly responses to this potentially controversial take on the Jewish tragedy Lucille Cairns accused Aaron of de–Judaizing the Holocaust by downplaying Klara’s ethnic/religious identity, and, by creating a survivor who, as a result of her trauma, becomes violent herself, offending the victims’ memory. Conversely, this paper proposes to read Le Nom de Klara as a challenge to the conceptualisation of the Holocaust in terms of a Manichaean opposition between innocent victims and evil perpetrators. More broadly, I will construe Aaron’s novel as a feminist critique of the patriarchal society that nurtured fascism and whose values the Nazis keenly exploited. Finally and correlatedly, I will interpret Klara’s story as a rejection of essentialism in favour of a constructivist position advocated by, among others, Judith Butler.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationVictims, Perpetrators and Implicated Subjects
Subtitle of host publicationRethinking Agency at the Intersections of Narrative and Memory
Publication statusIn preparation - 28 Jul 2019


  • Holocaust perpetrators
  • gender
  • Soazig Aaron

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