Israel Today: When memory overwhelms— The Memory Monster with Yishai Sarid

by | Oct 21, 2021 | What’s Happening

Monday, November 8, 12 pm, Online

When collective memory and trauma becomes overwhelming, what does one do? What happens when someone becomes too immersed in the history of the Holocaust, or any dark part of history? This is the primary question tackled in Yishai Sarid’s novel, The Memory Monster.

Sarid will join the community online from Israel as part of the Israel Today series presented by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, Simon Family JCC, Embassy of Israel and Community Partners in partnership with the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival.

In his recently translated book, Sarid explores the experiences of the unnamed narrator as he recounts his experiences working as an expert in the field of Holocaust studies, and how that dark part of history has impacted his overall psyche.

Written as a report to the chairman of Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the narrator recounts his own undoing. Hired as a promising young historian, he soon becomes a leading expert on Nazi methods of extermination at concentration camps in Poland during World War II and guides tours through the sites for students and visiting dignitaries. He hungrily devours every detail of life and death in the camps and takes pride in being able to recreate the excruciating last moments of the victims’ lives for his audience.

Despite initial misgivings about the job, the narrator decides to pursue a career in Holocaust studies and education, which ultimately proves to overwhelm his sense of self. The job becomes a mission, and then an obsession. Spending so much time immersed in death, his connections with the living begin to deteriorate. He resents the students lost in their iPhones, singing sentimental songs, not expressing sufficient outrage at the genocide committed by the Nazis. Even more alarming, he begins to detect, in the students as well as himself, a hint of admiration for the murderers—their efficiency, audacity, and determination. Force is the only way to resist force, he comes to think, and one must be prepared to kill. Eventually the readers learn of the narrator’s meltdown and how his behavior begins to impact the people he interacts with.

An accomplished lawyer and the author of several novels, Yishai Sarid takes a critical look at the current model of Holocaust education throughout the world, but especially in Israel where he grew up. His last name, Sarid, means survivor in Hebrew, a reflection of the fact that only the part of his family to survive the Holocaust were those individuals who left Poland prior to World War II. Sarid explores the push and pull of how the Holocaust continues to impact Israeli culture, and how Jews of different backgrounds interact with the legacy of the Holocaust.

Hear from the author about what inspired him to write this captivating book that reflects on the question of how to honor the past—without being consumed by it.

Free and open to the community. For more information or to RSVP (required), visit