The Voice in the Closet by Raymond Federman (part I)

(***to read my complete piece on The Voice in the Closet, go here***)

There was that inevitable knock announcing doom at their door.  Raymond Federman's mother, Marguerite, swept up her little boy in her arms, the youngest of her three children, and told him to be quiet no matter what he heard, to just trust her and do what he was told, and secreted him inside a third story closet.  He was twelve years old:  Small enough to fit inside that cramped closet, but big enough to understand too well the horror, to know the fear and feel the loss he'd never forget. From the pitch black confines of his impromptu hideout, he listened without a sound as the nazis stormed his parent's house, and as they forced his family out, Federman forced himself not to cry, to obey his dear mother, and fought back his tears.  A year later, Federman was the only surviving member of his family, an orphan among millions of other orphans, thanks to the Holocaust.  But he lived to tell a story, thanks to his resourceful mother, who saved his life as she lost hers.  The Voice in the Closet (1979) recounts this tragic story in a remarkable (and uniquely revolving) poetic way.

  Double or Nothing

The early, unimaginable experience of Raymond Federman's grief-ridden childhood, needless to say, seared his imagination, already a bit whimsically bent to begin with, forever, and became the rawest source of raw material he'd construct every innovative novel he ever wrote out of, whether it was the concrete poetic hijinks of his two most acclaimed (and most "experimental") books, Double or Nothing: A Real Fictitious Discourse (1972), or Take It or Leave It: An Exaggerated Second-hand Tale to be Read Aloud Either Standing or Sitting (1976), or the more conventionally constructed and "normally" narrated (though no less imaginative) novels, The Twofold Vibration (1982) or Smiles on Washington Square: A Love Story of Sorts (1985). Federman, whichever novel he wrote, spent his entire career writing from the discombobulating repercussions of that childhood closet; from that dark and lonely refuge whose walls bordered certain death and doubtful life.

Take It or Leave It The Two-Fold Vibration
In part II of this piece on The Voice in the Closet, I'll examine in depth the intricate text of Federman's long short story that has no punctuation period.  It's a story, in a sense, that never begins and never ends --disembodied-- its concerns identity, memory and consciousness, as its words both rebirth its content while canceling respective content out-- a literary tactic/trick Federman feasted on whether in fiction, poetry, or prolific Samuel Beckett criticism (five books in all of it), throughout his career, that served both symbolic and deeply personal functions in his unapologetically cathartic craft, as he unrelentingly reentered (while simultaneously exiting) that real and become confabulated closets of memory from which his literary voice --his great creative outcry of grief and release and eventual laughter-- was born, nurtured, and in the parentless wilderness, allowed to daily wander and roam, feral, where it finally found its true home in fiction.


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