Welcome to the Massachusetts Review's Working Titles! Working Titles are e-publications of prose too long for our print pages. Working Titles will be published semi-annually.
Working Titles are made possible with the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Five Colleges, Inc., and the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, as well as private donors.
Almost eighty years have passed since Jean Améry was taken by the gestapo and interrogated at Fort Breendonk in Antwerp, and yet the world today may not seem much different. In Emory Klann's new translation, Améry's experience and insight into the human condition under duress captures the horrors of the Nazi while also sculpting the process of perseverance and stoic strength. Torture is both a documentation of the act as witnessed by Améry, but also an accounting of the anguish and realizations of the mind in a physically and emotionally oppressed body.
"With its lines about how the tortured person irrevocably loses an elemental 'trust in the world,' and how easily torture effaces mental capacities that take years and great effort to build up, reducing people to masses of squealing flesh, Améry’s essay 'Torture' can read like a suicide note. And yet the precision of its language, brilliantly on display in Emory Klann’s new translation, has provided generations of readers with solace, even uplift."
—Paul Reitter, from the Introduction
Essayist and philosopher Jean Améry was born as Hans Meier in Vienna on October 31, 1912. Despite his family’s Jewish origins, Améry was raised Roman Catholic by his mother after his father’s death in 1916. He studied literature and philosophy in Vienna during the time the Third Reich came to power in Germany. Although he felt lost between his Christian and Jewish identities, he knew he was strongly against Nazism and became an active member of the resistance against the Nazi occupation of Belgium.
In July of 1943, Améry was arrested for spreading anti-Nazi propaganda to German occupation forces in Belgium and taken to Fort Breendonk, where he was interrogated and tortured by the Gestapo for several days. Once they realized he was not a political prisoner but instead, a Jew, he was deported to the Buna-Monowitz labor camp, Auschwitz III. A year later, he was evacuated to Buchenwald and then transported to Bergen-Belsen. After being liberated in 1945, Améry settled in Belgium, where he wrote several renowned works, including: At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (1966), On Aging (1968), and On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death (1976). On October 17, 1978, Jean Améry tragically took his own life in a Salzburg hotel room.
Emory Klann is a graduate of The Ohio State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in biology. Alongside her major coursework, she also completed minors in German and international studies, through which she took courses in translation.