Rue Ordener, Rue     Labat      by Sarah Kofman {   By: Sowmya Balusu, Stephanie Sollanek, Grace Hartman,     Alex Majeau
About the AuthorSarah Kofman is a renown French philosopher and Holocaust survivorwho is primarily famous for her philosop...
Writing StyleKofman’s writing style in ‚Rue Ordener, Rue Labat,‛ is characterized hersimplicity in description. She leaves...
Background on HiddenChildren  “Theirs was a life in shadows, where a careless remark, a denunciation, or  the murmurings o...
“In hundreds of cases, rescuers refused to release hidden children to theirfamilies or Jewish organizations. Some demanded...
Significance of theTitle:Rue Ordener, Rue Labat The title of the memoir itself describes the inner conflict that Kofman un...
Freudian Impact Kofman’s philosophical work beyond Rue Ordener, Rue Labat focuses primarily on the writings of Nietzsche a...
‚Maybe all my books have been the detours *voies de traverse] required to bringme to write about ‘that’ *‘ça’+.‛ (3)On the...
‚Four in the afternoon. Someone knocks. My mother opens the door. A copwith an embarassed smile asks, ‚Rabbi Bereck Kofman...
‚The testimonys first transformation of Freuds theory of fetishism appears inthe scene above. Reading the language and ges...
After reading other background sources on Kofman’s memoir, it is apparent thatRue Ordener Rue Labat criticizes Freudian co...
Gender   The majority of Kofman’s relationship in her memoir were with other    females. Although she does not outwardly ...
Maternal ConflictKofman’s relationship with both maternal figures in her life were abusive to some extent.Her biological m...
(1) ‚I had my mother all to myself for whole days at a stretch.‛ 28(2) ‚It was especially hard for her to endure Meme’s te...
(1) ‚But very soon Meme declared that the food of my childhood was unhealthy; I was pale, ‘lymphatic,’ Imust change my die...
ReligionKofman was brought up with a strong Jewish background since her father was arabbi. Her beliefs changed when she we...
Impact As a MemoirThe biggest difference in Kofman’s memoir in comparison to otherHolocaust memoirs is the fact that Kofma...
“Jewish children who lived in hiding generally were treated well by theirrescuers. But not all youngsters had such experie...
Evidence‚She punished me by going out for a walk with Jeanine and leaving meat home alone. It was a well crafted punishmen...
‚Our reunion was idyllic. We knew we had only a little time together.Despite an undercurrent of anguish, our joy was inten...
Schor, Naomi. "Female Fetishism: The Case of George Sand." Poetics Today        2nd ser. 6.1 (1985): 301-10. JSTOR. Duke U...
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  1. 1. Rue Ordener, Rue Labat by Sarah Kofman { By: Sowmya Balusu, Stephanie Sollanek, Grace Hartman, Alex Majeau
  2. 2. About the AuthorSarah Kofman is a renown French philosopher and Holocaust survivorwho is primarily famous for her philosophical writings, most of whichfocus on the analysis of both Nietzschen and Freudian theories. She had asuccessful career as a professor of philosophy along with her numerousliterary publications. Kofman was raised in hiding during the Germanoccupation of Paris. She was the second youngest of six children, herfather, a Jewish rabbi, was deported from Paris and died a brutal death inAuschwitz while her siblings and mother went into hiding.‚Rue Ordener, Rue Labat,‛ is different from the majority of her writingbecause it is an autobiographical memoir. Kofman dedicated her memoirto Philipe Cros, her doctor and therapist, someone she saw ratherfrequently due to her faltering health and physical state. ‚Rue Ordener,Rue Labat,‛ was the Kofman’s second to last work, because she committedsuicide shortly following the publication of this memoir. The date ofKofman’s suicide, Nietzsche’s 150th birthday, is seen by many writers as asignificant date due to her intensive analysis of Nietzschen theories.
  3. 3. Writing StyleKofman’s writing style in ‚Rue Ordener, Rue Labat,‛ is characterized hersimplicity in description. She leaves much of the interpretation up to the reader,it’s not expressly verbose as Levi or Kluger. Kofman’s writing is alsocharacterized by her transition between ‚I-character,‛ and the ‚I-narrator,‛personas. Unlike the other memoirs that we have read in class, ‚Rue Ordener,Rue Labat,‛ is a short memoir that does not provide the reader with muchinformation.We drew parallels between Kofman and Kluger’s memoirs due to the femaleperspective that the memoir presented readers with. Both Kofman and Klugerhave troubled relationships with their mothers, which encapsulate much of thememoir. Kofman’s memoir is centered around her relationship with her twomothers, and her struggle in loyalties.
  4. 4. Background on HiddenChildren “Theirs was a life in shadows, where a careless remark, a denunciation, or the murmurings of inquisitive neighbors could lead to discovery and death”- USHMM Thousands of Jewish Children were able to survive the Holocaust by disguising their identities and concealing themselves from the outside world. Many of these children were protected by institutions and persons of other faiths. Catholic convents in Germany took in Jewish youngsters, Belgian Catholics hid children in their homes and orphanages, in Albania and Yugoslavia, some Muslim families concealed Jewish children, and French Protestant townspeople sheltered thousands of Jews. In order to support their newfound identities children had to learn their new names, religion and places, and refraining from any actions that were, ‚too-Jewish‛.
  5. 5. “In hundreds of cases, rescuers refused to release hidden children to theirfamilies or Jewish organizations. Some demanded that the child be “redeemed”through financial remuneration. Others had grown attached to their chargesand did not want to give them up. In the more difficult cases, courts had todecide to whom to award custody of the child. Some rescuers defied courtdecisions and hid the children for a second time.”- USHMMAfter the end of the war, parents who came to reclaim the children oftenencountered resistance. For some children, after years of concealingtheir identity they did not identify themselves as Jewish. Many hiddenyoungsters associated Jewishness for persecution and Christianity forsecurity and maintained their newfound Christian faith. Some childreneven grew more attached to their rescuers then their parents. Theauthor, Sarah Kofman also became detached from her own mother andinstead clung onto Meme. Kofman’s mother underwent a bitter trial inorder to reclaim Kofman from Meme’s care. Kofman in turn accused hermother of physical abuse and Meme was entrusted with Kofman’s care. Background continued…
  6. 6. Significance of theTitle:Rue Ordener, Rue Labat The title of the memoir itself describes the inner conflict that Kofman undergoes throughout the novel. She is constantly in between two crossroads, Rue Labat and Rue Ordener. Rue Ordener is the street on which she lived before the war began and Rue Labat was the street in which she was hidden with her rescuer, Meme. Throughout the novel Kofman is at crossroads between her old Jewish life and the new life that she has with Meme. We believe that Rue Ordener symbolizes her old traditional Jewish life with her mother, and Rue Labat symbolizes her new life in which she is detached from Judaism and her mother, with Meme.
  7. 7. Freudian Impact Kofman’s philosophical work beyond Rue Ordener, Rue Labat focuses primarily on the writings of Nietzsche and Freud, with much of her works running counter to those of Freud in the realm of female fetishes and fetishism. Freud’s works posit that fetishism is strictly reliant on the male ego, and that any degree of female fetishes are a result of women thinking like men. Kofman argues that female egos may be splintered in the same way male egos are, and are just as vulnerable to sexual fetishes. However, this is not done as a way to ‚harden herself in the conviction that she does possess a penis and may subsequently be compelled to behave as though she were a man‛ (Schor 306) as Freud posits, but rather for women to deal with the ‚paradigm of un-decidability‛ that comes with sexual understanding. Female fetishes are – according to Kofman – just as natural as male fetishes, and are not the result of women adopting a ‚masculinity complex‛ and trying to be a man or reconcile their frustration with not having a penis – a common thread in Freud’s works. Such feminism and mental independence comes through in Rue Ordener, as Kofman’s intimate interactions with others are restricted primarily to women.
  8. 8. ‚Maybe all my books have been the detours *voies de traverse] required to bringme to write about ‘that’ *‘ça’+.‛ (3)On the very first page of Kofman’s memoir she uses French idioms that thetranslation was unable to render. Her true meaning behind her words was lost intranslation. The Freudian term ‚ça,‛ was inappropriately translated as ‚id,‛ todescribe her past years. Kofman wonders if her books are ‚paths of traversal,‛not ‚detours,‛ as the incorrect translation states.‚Kofman insinuates that this book does not expose what happened ‚in reality‛but is one portrayal—a paraphe. Like her other works, the memoir functions notas an exposure but a traversal of this past, which is skimmed by, but alsowithdraws from, the interpretative nets the testimony casts.‛ (Rizzuto, 2006) Freudian Impact
  9. 9. ‚Four in the afternoon. Someone knocks. My mother opens the door. A copwith an embarassed smile asks, ‚Rabbi Bereck Kofman?‛ ‚He isn’t here,‛ says my mother. ‚He’s at the synagogue.‛The cop doesn’t insist. He gets ready to leave. Then my father comes out of theroom where he’d been resting and says, ‚Yes, I’m here. Take me!‛ ‚You can’t, I have a babe in my arms who isn’t two yet!‛ says my mother,showing him my brother Isaac. Then she adds, ‚I’m expecting another baby!‛ And she thrusts out her stomach. My mother is lying! My brother had just turned two on 14 July. And she wasn’tpregnant, as far as I knew! I couldn’t be as certain on this point as on the first, butI felt very ill at ease. I didn’t know yet what a ‘white lie’ was, < and I didn’tunderstand very well what was happening: the idea that my mother could liefilled me with shame, and I said to myself, anxiously, that perhaps after all I wasgoing to have another little brother. (6) Freudian Impact cont…
  10. 10. ‚The testimonys first transformation of Freuds theory of fetishism appears inthe scene above. Reading the language and gestures of the mother and childshows that the text articulates an instance of a possible female fetishism, whichFreud structurally precludes in his 1927 paper ‚Fetishism.‛ Fetishism is theeffect of castration anxiety, Freud maintains. Since a girl, according to Freud, isalready castrated because she lacks a phallus, she cannot become a fetishist.Kofman restages Freuds theory first, by displacing castration anxiety with afear of feminine fecundity. The passage suggests that the mothers (supposed)dissimulation of pregnancy produces a fetishistic reaction in the child. Butinstead of witnessing what Freud calls ‚lack‛—female genitals in place of thephallus—the narrator gazes at the mimed fullness of her mothers belly, andfinds it unsettling and therefore takes it away from her in the subjunctive mode.Perhaps this is because she imagines a competitor for her mothers love, a‚brother,‛ who might take the fathers place and become yet another rival.When her mother thrusts out her stomach, the narrator claims to know there isnothing (in) there, but then, feeling ‚very ill at ease,‛ makes her knowledgeundecidable. She responds ‚anxiously,‛ and gives her mother a baby, perhaps.Instead of a phallus, Kofman makes pregnancy the apotropaic defense,rearticulating the concept of fetishism, and rerouting the pathway to sexualmaturity.‛ (Rizzuto, 2006) Continued…
  11. 11. After reading other background sources on Kofman’s memoir, it is apparent thatRue Ordener Rue Labat criticizes Freudian concepts and narratives by indicatingthat they fail to describe the psychic experience of Jewish women and girls wholived through the Shoah and occupation. Not only is this memoir a autobiographyof Kofman’s childhood during the war, it is also a display of her traumatizedmemory. The beginning scene of the memoir revises the elements and fetishismand Oedipal narrative.I didn’t know yet what a ‘white lie’ was, < and I didn’t understand very well whatwas happening: the idea that my mother could lie filled me with shame, and I saidto myself, anxiously, that perhaps after all I was going to have another little brother.(6)From our readings we have learned that women writers use lying as a narrativestrategy in order to reformulate the discourse of an autobiographical confession. Freudian Impact cont…
  12. 12. Gender The majority of Kofman’s relationship in her memoir were with other females. Although she does not outwardly declare her feminist views, the only instances of intimacy in her life involved other women. The only relationships with men she ever referenced in ‚Rue Ordener Rue Labat,‛ were with her father and in her later years, her professors. In Kofman’s other literary works, she writes to defy the anti- feministic theories of philosophers such as Freud and Nietzsche. While reading ‚Rue Ordene Rue Labat,‛ we drew parallels to Kluger’s memoir, ‚Still Alive,‛ due to the female perspective of both memoirs. Both Kluger and Kofman had difficult relationships with their mothers and as a result their memoirs centered around this conflict.
  13. 13. Maternal ConflictKofman’s relationship with both maternal figures in her life were abusive to some extent.Her biological mother physically abused her to exert her power and control over Kofman.There were many instances when Kofman references the evidence of physical abuse. (1) ‚My mother welcomed me with shouts and blows. And she shuts me up for several hours(or days?) in the bathroom.‛ 73 (2)‚If I stayed away a minute too long, she would beat me with a strap. I was soon coveredwith bruises and began to detest my mother.‛ 59Kofman’s relationship with Meme was also abusive, however, more mentally thanphysically. She constantly criticized Kofman’s upbringing along with the Jewish cultureand religion. (4) This could be evidence of mental abuse that caused Kofman to questionher own worth, her heritage, and her love for her mother. (3)‚She punished me by going out for a walk with Jeanine and leaving me at home alone. Itwas a well crafted punishment. She knew perfectly well that my greatest pleasure was to do errands withher, to hear her pass me off as her daughter to the salespeople, and to carry bottles of beer back to theapartment.‛ (48) (4)‚She never stopped repeating that I had been badly brought up: I obeyed ridiculousreligious prohibitions but had no moral principles.‛ (47)
  14. 14. (1) ‚I had my mother all to myself for whole days at a stretch.‛ 28(2) ‚It was especially hard for her to endure Meme’s tenderness towards me; she thought it excessive.‛ 40(3) ‚And my mother had other things on her mind: first of all, to reclaim me from the woman who wanted to‚steal‛ me on the pretext that my own mother had more than enough to handle with five other children andwasn’t looking after my best interests- which were, according to Meme, not to be raised by my own motherbut rather to be brought up by Meme herself.‛ 58(4) ‚I was soon covered with bruises and began to detest my mother.‛ 59(5) Mother’s Day at the Store: ‚I hesitate a moment, and then I choose the first for Meme. Of the two, it is theone I find more beautiful. I’m ashamed and feel myself blushing right there in the shop. My choice hasundeniably just been made, my preference declared.‛ 45(6) ‚Overnight I had to take leave of the woman I now loved more than my own mother.‛ 58Kofman’s relationship with her mother and with her protector Meme changed drastically over the course ofthe book. In the beginning of the story, Kofman was extremely attached to her mother. (1) However, aftermoving into Meme’s house her attachment shifted away from her mother. We believe her experience onMother’s Day marks the point at which her love for Meme becomes stronger than her love for her mother.(5)Kofman’s relationship with her mother greatly deteriorates as the story progresses, especially after herforced separation from Meme, (3)(6) proving to be a constant interior battle of guilt and loyalty for Kofmanduring her childhood year. Relationship with Mother
  15. 15. (1) ‚But very soon Meme declared that the food of my childhood was unhealthy; I was pale, ‘lymphatic,’ Imust change my diet. From then on it was she would take care of me.‛ 40(2) ‚Bit by bit Meme brought about a real transformation in me. ‚ 41(3) ‚When I was sick, Meme, unlike my mother, never showed any sign of panic.. On that day I feelvaguely that I am detaching myself from my mother and becoming more and more attached to the otherwoman.‛ 44(4) ‚Knowingly or not, Meme had brought off a tour de force: right under my mother’s nose, she’dmanaged to detach me from her.‛ 47(5) ‚She had saved us, but was not without anti-Semitic prejudices. She taught me that I had a Jewish noseand made me feel the little bump that was the sign of it.‛ 47(6)‚For several years I cut off all contact with Meme: I can’t stand to hear her talk about the past all thetime or to let her keep calling me her ‚little bunny‛ or her ‚little darling.‛ 84Kofman viewed Meme as more of a supportive maternal figure than her mother during her stay on RueOrdener. (1) (2) (3)Her attachment became so strong that in the trial for custody at the French tribunal, shesided with Meme over her own mother. Although Meme cared greatly for Kofman, they had a somewhatabusive relationship and Meme was very critical of Kofman’s Jewish heritage, religion, and lifestyle.(4)(5)Following the liberation of Paris, Kofman continued to visit Meme despite her mother’s insistencethat she discontinue all contact. In her later years, she avoided communication with Meme. We believe thismay have been a result of her maturity, or possibly the sexual abuse during their time together. (6) Relationship with Mémé
  16. 16. ReligionKofman was brought up with a strong Jewish background since her father was arabbi. Her beliefs changed when she went into hiding, due to the Catholicbackground of her rescuer. Kofman found herself becoming detached fromJudaism and began to question her religious beliefs and heritage.‚One day during my last year, I drank so much milk at recess that I vomited inthe middle of class. I was put in a corner, on my knees. This incident was all themore upsetting to me because my family had always forbidden me to kneel: itwas too Christian a posture.‛ 21‚On Rue Labat I had to ‘restore my health’ by eating raw horsemeat in broth. Ihad to eat pork and ‘acquire a taste’ for food cooked in lard.‛ 42‚Right under my mother’s nose, she’d managed to detach me from her. And alsofrom Judaism. She saved us, but she was not with-out anti-Semitic prejudices.She taught me that I had a Jewish nose and made me feel the little bump thatwas the sign of it.‛ 47
  17. 17. Impact As a MemoirThe biggest difference in Kofman’s memoir in comparison to otherHolocaust memoirs is the fact that Kofman was a hidden child. ManyHolocaust memoirs depict the author’s time spent in concentrationcamps and the aftermath. We believe that Kofman’s memoir did notgarner as much attention as other Holocaust memoirs such as Night, orStill Alive, because the way the memoir was marketed and the fact thatshe was a hidden child. No where on the front or back sleeve of thememoir does it mention the Holocaust. Readers can view this memoiras a ‚coming to age,‛ or ‚traumatic,‛ memoir. The major focus of thebook is not on the Holocaust it is about her childhood and herrelationship with Meme and her mother.We also believe that most memoirs about hidden children might notgarner as much attention because other Holocaust survivors might viewthe experiences of hidden children as less than their own.
  18. 18. “Jewish children who lived in hiding generally were treated well by theirrescuers. But not all youngsters had such experiences. Because they couldnot turn to local authorities for help or were afraid of being turned out,some children had to endure physical or sexual abuse by their “protectors.”Studies conducted in the Netherlands estimate that more than 80% of thehidden children interviewed were treated well by their rescuers, while 15%were occasionally mistreated, and some 5% were treated badly.”- USHMMBased on our readings of Rue Ordener Rue Labat, we theorized thatKofman was subjected to sexual and mental abuse by Meme. This iswhy in her later years, she did not go and visit Meme and cut offcontact with her.Theory
  19. 19. Evidence‚She punished me by going out for a walk with Jeanine and leaving meat home alone. It was a well crafted punishment. She knew perfectly wellthat my greatest pleasure was to do errands with her, to hear her pass meoff as her daughter to the salespeople, and to carry bottles of beer back tothe apartment.‛ (48)‚We slept in the same bed. Meme got undressed behind a big mahoganyscreen, and I, curious, watched as she emerged. Back on Rue Labat, to theamazement and irritation of my mother she routinely walked around theapartment in pajamas, her chest uncovered, and I was fascinated by herbare breasts. I have no memory of that night in the hotel, save of thatundressing scene behind the mahogany screen.‛ (55)‚Meme was accused of having tried to ‚take advantage‛ of me and ofhaving mistreated my mother. I didn’t understand the expression ‚takeadvantage,‛ but I was convinced my mother was lying.‛ (59)
  20. 20. ‚Our reunion was idyllic. We knew we had only a little time together.Despite an undercurrent of anguish, our joy was intense, and during thatwhole period, about one moth, we slept in the same bed, in her room, inorder to not be separated at all this time, day or night. I rememberespecially the first night, when me emotions and excitement were verygreat. Just to feel so close to her put me in an ‚odd‛ state. I was hot, I wasthirsty, I was blushing. I kept mum, and I really would have been hard putto say anything about it, since I had no idea what was happening to me.‛(67)‚For several years I cut off all contact with Meme: I can’t stand to hear hertalk about the past all the time or to let her keep calling me her ‚littlebunny‛ or her ‚little darling.‛ 84‚She knew very well that this woman adored children (she was indeedkeeping another little girl during the daytime- Jeanine, of whom I quicklygrew jealous), and that also took in stray cats to feed and pet, but still!Why did she kiss me so often? In the morning, at bedtime, on the slightestpretext!‛ 41 Evidence continued…
  21. 21. Schor, Naomi. "Female Fetishism: The Case of George Sand." Poetics Today 2nd ser. 6.1 (1985): 301-10. JSTOR. Duke University Press. Web. 2 June 2012.<http://www.jstor.org/stable/1772136>.http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/hiddenchildren/index/Rizzuto, Nicole. ‚Reading Sarah Kofman’s Testimony to Les Annees Noires in Rue Ordener Rue Labat.‛ Contemporary French and Fancophone Studies, 10(1), 5-14. (2006) doi:10.1080/17409290500429137 Reference

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