Most of the research on Charlotte Delbo has remained within the realm of Holocaust studies, and her writing, in particular, has been seen as a means of witnessing and preserving memory. Labeled solely as a “Holocaust survivor” and subsequently overshadowed by male writers of the Holocaust, Charlotte Delbo has not been adequately read and appreciated as a writer of the 20th century. Although her experiences in Auschwitz are one of the main subjects of her writing, I do not focus explicitly on her experiences, but rather on the methods and literary devices that Delbo uses to (re)construct and articulate these experiences. Delbo breaks the traditional template that labels her as a survivor by using a combination of two or more literary genres, known in general as generic hybridity, to create a unique literary form that captures her struggles with the social and cultural demands of post-World War II France. My dissertation will attempt to convey salient aspects of this unique literary form which I will call doubling.
In this study, I investigate the various ways that identity, narrative settings, literary characters, time frames, and narrative forms are doubled. Doubling, I believe, is a result of Delbo’s gendered experience in the camps and in France after the war. Not only do we witness the experience of Delbo trying to maintain a unified self in the camps as the Nazis relentlessly strip away her humanity, but we also follow Delbo’s experiences of trying to understand her own duality as she resettles back in France- homeless, jobless, and a widow. As a woman, writing about women, in a women’s camp, Charlotte Delbo gives us a unique perspective, not yet explored, of what is was like for her and the 230 women in her convoy to experience, and for a few- to survive Auschwitz.