Jean Ame´ry: Resentment as Ethic and Ontology C. Fred Alford

pg 230 – Yet, this is by far the single most common and influential claim about the experience of trauma: that it destroys the trauma victim’s ability to narratively account for his or her experience. In this modal account, the trauma victim cannot offer a coherent explanation of the experience that has rendered him or her traumatized. ‘‘Coherent’’ is generally defined as producing a story with a beginning, middle, and end, one in which the narrator does not imagine that he or she is experiencing the trauma at the moment he or she is recounting it.

pg 230 – Trauma and forgiveness are both about rage, a subject that gets mentioned infrequently when talking about either. Why is this rage so difficult to know? Because coming too close to this rage seems to risk self-destruction.

Ame´ry (1980, 68) wrote that ‘‘it did not escape me that ressentiment is not only an unnatural but also a logically inconsistent condition [Zustand]. It nails everyone of us onto the cross of his ruined past.’’ Sometimes called the Zustand passage, it reveals ressentiment to be a violent occupation of the will and the time sense of the person. The result is to so preoccupy Ame´ry with the wish to undo the past, and the equally impossible wish that his tormentors would wish this as much as he, that there is no exit to the future. A future that Ame´ry called the genuinely human dimension (1980, 68).

pg 232 – The sources of ressentiment for Ame´ry are not entirely clear. Sometimes Ame´ry wrote as if his ressentiment began only a couple of years after the war, when he became aware that the Germans were trying to overcome their past by ignoring it, forgiving themselves, and moving on, looking only to the future. His ressentiment, a clinging to the insults and injuries of the past, was a protest against a new Germany that acted as if the Holocaust had not happened, or had happened a long time ago, and it was time to move on. Germans call this Vergangenheitsbewältigung.

PG 233 – In Ame´ry’s history of victims and executioners there is a moment in which a tiny utopian crack opens, and the light of reparation comes through. It is a light of an impossible wholeness. Not just because time can never be erased, but because even when they both deeply regret the past, victims and offenders can never see the world, and want the same thing in the same way

PG 234 – Edith wanted, I believe, that her tormentors understand her suffering as she understood it, and the only way that could happen is if they felt the same thing, for hers was a suffering beyond words. This is what Ame´ry meant when he said he couldn’t explain the experience of torture without inflicting it on others, which would be immoral


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