Contextuality and the transmission of trauma: Nightfather by Carl Friedman
“Context” plays an important role in any discourse about trauma. Not only does it serve as a precondition for the manifestation of trauma in the first place, but also determines the way in which trauma is received, interpreted and represented. The sensitivity of the reception context towards the represented traumatic events also determines whether only knowledge about the events are mediated or whether the uncanny nature of trauma is transmitted. If the latter occurs, a secondary trauma manifests itself as result. In the Dutch novel Tralievader (translated as Nightfather) by Carl Friedman the transmission of the Holocaust trauma within a particular family is represented. This transmission can be seen as the result of the impact of one context on another—that of the parent on that of the child. With the complex issue of the transmission of trauma kept in mind, specific dangers in the interpretation and transmission of trauma in a collective sense are identified. Suggestions are also made on how to deal with trauma in a productive way.
Keywords: contextuality, Holocaust, mediation of trauma, narrative.