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Literature and Aging - Epic Adventure

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Two novels and a diary shed light on the possibility of heroism in our times. The novels come to different conclusion. Ernest Gaines's A Gathering of Old Men (1983) takes place in Louisiana in the 1970s. It chronicles the resistance of a group of elderly African American men to white supremacy. In contrast, Aharon Appelfeld's The Iron Tracks (1991) suggests that for some Holocaust survivors heroism is not possible. The depressed survivor finally tracks down the elderly SS officer who killed his parents. He shoots him, but vengeance brings no pleasure. He resolves to return to the place of his liberation, to burn the town down. Grandiose as his plan is, he entertains no hope of mastering the crippling shame, which has ruined his life.

Real life, however, sometimes offers surprising opportunities. Victor Klemperer and his wife Eva undertook a heroic journey at the end of World War II. His diaries describe the daily life of Jews whose marriage to Aryans spared them from a concentration camp. He and his wife were in their late fifties when the war broke out. Stubborn Germanophiles, they had refused to leave Dresden for possible emigration to the United States. For them the American bombing of Dresden was fortuitous. The Nazis were about to deport the last remnants of the Jewish community to a concentration camp, hoping to exterminate as many as possible in the waning moments of the war. Eva, who in her early sixties was not in robust health, masterminded their escape. She encouraged Klemperer to remove his Jewish star. The two elderly, half-starved survivors took trains, hitched rides, and walked from Dresden to Munich. Going from friend to friend, they sought refuge until the American forces entered Munich. As soon as the Allies declared victory, the Klemperers began the long trek back to Dresden to reclaim the house and job they had lost during the Nazi terror. One can only admire the intrepidity of this aging couple for undertaking so perilous a journey in the closing years of their lives.

ANNE M. WYATT-BROWN

NOVELS AND DIARIES

AMIS, K. The Old Devils. New York: Summit Books, 1986.

APPELFELD, A. The Iron Tracks. Translated by Jeffrey M. Green. New York: Schocken Books,1998.

AUSTIN, M. Gabriel Churchkitten. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company, Inc., 1942.

BROWN, M. W. The Runaway Bunny. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1942.

BROWN, M. W. Good Night Moon. New York: Harper & Row, 1947.

BURNETT, F. H. Little Lord Fauntleroy. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1886.

DANICAT, E. Breath, Eyes, Memory. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 1994.

DE BRUNHOFF, J. The Story of Babar: The Little Elephant. 1933. Translated by Merle S. Haas. New York: Random House, 1960.

DOUGLAS, E. Apostles of Light. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1973.

DRABBLE, M. The Witch of Exmoor. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1996.

FORSTER, E. M. A Passage to India. 1924. London: Edward Arnold, 1978.

GAINES, E. A Gathering of Old Men. New York: Vantage Books, 1983.

GALSWORTHY, J. The Man of Property and Indian Summer of a Forsyte. 1918. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969.

GALSWORTHY, J. Swan Song. 1928. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1969.

GARCIA, C. Dreaming in Cuban: A Novel. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

GODWIN, G. The Good Husband. New York: Ballantine Books, 1994.

HASSLER, J. Simon's Night. 1979. New York: Ballantine Books, 1992.

HOBAN, R. Bedtime for Frances. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.

HORNER, J. That Time of Year: A Chronicle of Life in a Nursing Home. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1982.

IBSEN, H. "The Master Builder." In Six Plays by Henrik Ibsen: A Doll's House, Ghosts, An Enemy of the People, Rosmersholm, Hedda Gabler, The Master Builder. New York: Modern Library, 1892. Pages 429–510.

ISHERWOOD, C. A Single Man. 1964. New York: Bard, 1978.

ISHIGURO, K. The Remains of the Day. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989.

JOHNSTON, A. F. Little Colonel Series. 1895. Boston: The Page Company, 1921.

KLEMPERER, V. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1933–1941. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1995.

KLEMPERER, V. I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, 1942–1945. Translated by Martin Chalmers. New York: Random House, 1995.

LANGTON, J. Good and Dead. New York: Penguin Books, 1986.

L'ENGLE, M. The Summer of the Great Grandmother. San Francisco: Perennial Library, Harper & Row, 1974.

L'ENGLE, M. A Severed Wasp. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982.

L'ENGLE, M. Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988.

LIVELY, P. Spiderweb. New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998.

LODGE, D. Therapy. New York: Viking, 1995.

LURIE, A. The Last Resort: A Novel. New York: Holt, 1998.

MARSHALL, P. Praisesong for the Widow. New York: Plume, 1983.

MCCLOSKEY, R. Burt Dow: Deep-Water Man. New York: The Viking Press, 1963.

MICHENER, J. A. Recessional. New York: Random House, 1994.

MILLER, N. K. Bequest and Betrayal: Memoirs of a Parent's Death. New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.

MINARIK, E. H. Little Bear. New York: Harper & Row, 1957.

MONTGOMERY, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. 1908. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1935.

MORRISON, T. Jazz. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

MORTIMER, P. The Handyman. London: Allen Lane, 1983.

PHILIP, C. E. "Lifelines: A Journal and Poem." Journal of Aging Studies 9, no. 4 (1995): 265–322.

PRØYSEN, A. Little Old Mrs. Pepperpot and Other Stories. Translated by Björn Berg. Harmondsworth, Middlesex England: Puffin Books, 1961.

PYM, B. Quartet in Autumn. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1977.

ROTH, H. Call It Sleep. 1934. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1991.

ROTH, H. Mercy of a Rude Stream: A Star Shines Over Mt. Morris Park. Vol. 1. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994.

ROTH, H. Mercy of a Rude Stream: A Diving Rock on the Hudson. Vol. 2. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

ROTH, H. Mercy of a Rude Stream: From Bondage. Vol. 3. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996.

ROTH, H. Mercy of a Rude Stream: Requiem for Harlem. Vol. 4. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1998.

ROWLING, J. K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1998.

SARTAN, M. Endgame: A Journal of the Seventy-ninth Year. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1992.

SARTAN, M. Encore: A Journal of the Eightieth Year. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1993.

SARTAN, M. At Eighty Two: A Journal. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1996.

SCOTT, M. F. The Measure of My Days. New York: Penguin Books, 1968.

SCOTT, P. Staying On. London: Granada, 1977.

SHIELDS, C. The Stone Diaries. New York: Viking, 1993.

SPYRI, J. Heidi. 1880. Translated by Eileen Hall. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Puffin Books, 1956.

STEGNER, W. Crossing to Safety. New York: Random House, 1987.

TAYLOR, P. "In the Miro District." In In the Miro District and Other Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. Pages 159–204.

WIESEL, E. The Forgotten. Translated by Stephen Becker. New York: Schocken Books, 1992.

YEZIERSKA, A. Bread Givers. 1925. New York: Persea Books, 1975.

YEZIERSKA, A. Arrogant Beggar. 1927. Durham: Duke University Press, 1996.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BERMAN, H. J. Interpreting the Aging Self: Personal Journals of Later Life. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1994.

DEATS, S. M. "The Dialectic of Aging in Shakespeare's King Lear and The Tempest." In Aging and Identity: A Humanities Perspective. Edited by Sara Munson Deats and Lagretta Tallent Lenker. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1999. Pages 23–32.

FUCHS, E. "Making an Exit." In Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations. Edited by Kathleen Woodward. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. Pages 340–348.

GULLETTE, M. M. Safe at Last in the Middle Years: The Invention of the Midlife Progress Novel: Saul Bellow, Margaret Drabble, Anne Tyler, and John Updike. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.

GULLETTE, M. M. Declining to Decline: Cultural Combat and the Politics of the Midlife. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

GULLETTE, M. M. "Age Studies as Cultural Studies." In Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Edited by Thomas R. Cole, Robert Kastenbaum, and Ruth E. Ray. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2000. Pages 214–234.

MANGUM, T. "Little Women: The Aging Female Character in Nineteenth-Century British Children's Literature." In Figuring Age: Women, Bodies, Generations. Edited by Kathleen Woodward. Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1999. Pages 59–87.

MANGUM, T. "Literary History as a Tool of Gerontology." In Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Edited by Thomas R. Cole, Robert Kastenbaum, and Ruth E. Ray. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 2000. Pages 62–76.

RAY, R. E. Beyond Nostalgia: Aging and Life-Story Writing. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000.

ROOKE, C. "Old Age in Contemporary Fiction: A New Paradigm of Hope." In Handbook of the Humanities and Aging. Edited by Thomas R. Cole, David D. Van Tassel, and Robert Kastenbaum. New York: Springer Publishing Company, 1992. Pages 241–257.

WAXMAN, B. F. To Live in the Center of the Moment: Literary Autobiographies of Aging. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.

WYATT-BROWN, A. M., and WAXMAN, B. F. Aging in Literature, Brief Bibliography: A Selected Bibliography For Gerontological Instruction. Washington, D.C.: Association for Gerontology in Higher Education, 1999.

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