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Posted Saturday, August 18, 2007

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Garnet's meta-textual and inter-textual weaving of inflammatory neo-Nazi texts is, for the most part, effective in fuelling X's rage and his story.
The Globe and Mail

Toronto, Saturday, August 18, 2007


X versus Z(ündel)


August 18, 2007

LOST, Between the Edges
By Eldon Garnet
Semiotext(e), 300 pages, $15.95
Ernst Zündel in a German courtroom
Photo: Ernst Zündel in a German courtroom, where he was sentenced
to five years in jail for statements on a California-based website

TORONTO writer Eldon Garnet's second experimental novel, Lost: Between the Edges, features X, a doctoral student in the University of Toronto philosophy department, who is spurred to thwart notorious Holocaust denier Ernst Zündel. Zündel's infamy emerged in the 1980s, in Toronto, when he published the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die?

click for origin

David Irving comments:

WHAT appalling, barely-literate tripe. What is a newspaper of the caliber of The Globe and Mail doing, devoting space to reviewing such a novel? I suppose they need to pander to their major advertisers.
   One thing in the novel is true: radical left-wingers torched Ernst Zündel's Carlton Street house in Toronto; not mentioned is that they also sent him a bomb, which was detected by the Canadian security authorities, and which they cynically and deliberately allowed Canada Post to forward to him.
   Not enough that our tortured friend Ernst Zündel, whatever his literary shortcomings, is now condemned to serve five years on top of the four years he has already sat in German, American, and Canadian jails awaiting trial, he now has to realise that from the safety of the free world pea-brained authors like this Canadian novelist and the subsequent newspaper reviewer are at liberty to taunt and defame him, without his being able to strike back.

The reviewer says incidentally that my opinion is that "Hitler was disconnected from the reality of a systematic Jewish genocide." Where does he find that kind of Martian gibberish in my books?
   I state quite bluntly: There is no evidence Hitler knew about Auschwitz. Nor that he knew what Heinrich Himmler was secretly up to. Nobody has proved me wrong. And no amount of jail time will persuade me to change that opinion. Only wartime documents, hard and genuine, will do that. And I have yet to see one that does.
  I had troubles of my own with the Canadian Anti-Racist Action group which features in this novel. They sent a gang of thugs wielding baseball-bats to smash up the restaurant I spoke in, Stephanie's in West Fullerton Avenue, in 2000. The ARA group boasted about it on their Canadian website afterwards. Several members of my audience meeting for dinner that evening, including no fewer than five university professors, were injured by broken glass.
  So although my London home was never burned down (an outrage for which we were very prepared ), I know full well what Zündel is feeling; thanks to my website I am not entirely defenseless.

There is something a bit Kafkaesque about Lost, especially in terms of characterization, or lack thereof. Beyond the consonant name, and the fact that they are harassed by authority, Garnet's X and Kafka's Josef K. do have a few significant differences: Unlike Josef K., whose only crime is his very existence, X incites trouble by torching Zündel's Carlton Street "headquarters of hate." Still, both Joseph K. and X are anonymous, allegorical characters, who represent ideas rather than people.

The idea of doing something destructive to Zündel's HQ first occurs to X when members of his Anti-Racist Action group (ARA) inveigle their way into Zündel's office under the pretense of making a CBC documentary (and a documentary of the documentary) on free speech: "The prospect of this video was exciting to the entire group: a way to both discover and reveal Zündel's world of hate."

Still unsatisfied with this abstract and modern mode of critiquing Zündel, X decides to take action by way of matches and gasoline. In terms of story, what follows is X's attempt to evade police capture, his slow physical deterioration and his growing disillusionment with the act he has committed.

Interspersed with the slim chapters of the novel's action are various lengthy documents that deny the extent of the mass extermination of the European Jewish population during the Second World War. These documents include sections of Fred Leuchter's notorious gas chamber report, which Zündel commissioned in order to deny the existence of the chambers.

Structurally, this documentation serves as neo-Nazi agitprop; it's a counterpoint that fuels X's growing obsession with destroying Zündel. As well, the documents are obviously examples of the kinds of literature in Zündel's tendentious library: They are the very texts X seeks to raze, texts like Zündel's Did Six Million Really Die?

Garnet's meta-textual and inter-textual weaving of inflammatory neo-Nazi texts is, for the most part, effective in fuelling X's rage and his story. Less effective sections include documents regarding Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, which seem curiously out of place. At the end of the novel, Garnet splices in a dense section from the online Nizkor Project, excerpts from the Nuremberg Trial, and a massive interview section devoted to controversial "historian" David Irving, who stated that Hitler was disconnected from the reality of a systematic Jewish genocide.

In terms of style, the author's very clinical prose is reminiscent of Camus's and Sartre's detached manner of writing, and is pointedly unnatural. For example, like his enemies, X thinks in the didactic language of propaganda: "It has to be done, what can't be expressed in written text can be revealed in action," X tells himself on the eve of his arson.

Clearly, Garnet's book is an ideological novel and therefore cannot really be judged by the usual literary standards. Unfortunately, no one, not even po-mo experimentalists, can be excused for such an overwhelming number of spelling mistakes and punctuation problems. It is a shame Garnet's book was not edited or proofed properly, as this sloppiness undermines a complex book.

Ibi Kaslik is the author of Skinny. Her new novel, The Angel Riots, will be out next spring.


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