Item Details

The Unreliable Narrator: A Literary Study of Traumatic Experience through Chava Rosenfarb’s Rella Character

Issue: Vol 40 No. 2 (2021) Special Issue: Canadian Jewish Women Writers

Journal: Religious Studies and Theology

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies Islamic Studies Biblical Studies

DOI: 10.1558/rst.21472


“Edgia’s Revenge” is ostensibly the story of a symbiotic relationship between Rella and Edgia, two women who were inmates in Auschwitz during World War II. The narrative is written in retrospective, a kind of suicide note that the protagonist prepares before taking the coloured pills on her bedside. It is the telling of the story of an unrepentant female kapo, the term for Jewish guards who supervised the forced labour of other Jews in the heinous concentration and forced labour camps. The reader serves as listening witness as Rella remorselessly absolves herself of her own behaviour, refusing responsibility even for the act of taking her own life. “Edgia’s Revenge” is an unsettling short story; its disquieting tone is created in no small part by the use of unreliability in the narrative voice and Rella’s unrepentant account of her life. Her self-centredness and twisted perception is chilling, particularly as it is dressed in the beautiful clothes of kindness and culture; this outward beauty covers, hides, a Jew who participated in carrying out the activities of the death camps. “Edgia’s Revenge” presents the undressing, the revealing, of a woman who, because she survived, was forced, ultimately unbearably, to live with herself and her own behaviour.

Author: Catherine Caufield

View Original Web Page

References :

Booth, Wayne. 1983 [1961]. The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Caruth, Cathy. 1996. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Drumbl, Mark A. 2016. “Victims who Victimise.” London Review of International Law 4(2): 217–246.

Mortgentaler, Goldie. 2019. “Biography about Chava Rosenfarb.” Chava Rosenfarb.

Paris, Erna. 2001. “Prelude.” Long Shadows: Truth, Lies and History. 1-7. Toronto: Vintage.

Pirozhenko, Ekaterina. 2010–2011. “Gendered Experience in the Concentration Camp and the Construction of the Kapo Identity in ‘Edgia’s Revenge’ by Chava Rosenfarb.” Canadian Jewish Studies 18–19: 179-206.

Rabinowitz, Peter J. 1977. “Truth in Fiction: A Reexamination of Audiences.” Critical Inquiry. 1(Spring): 121–141.

Ravvin, Norman. 1997. A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity and Memory. Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Rosenfarb, Chava. 1992. “Feminism and Yiddish Literature: A Personal Approach.” Gender and Text in Modern Hebrew and Yiddish Literature, edited by Naomi B. Sokoloff, Anne Lapidus Lerner, and Anita Norich, 217–226. New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America.

Rosenfarb, Chava. 1997 [1989]. “Edgia’s Revenge.” Found Treasures: Stories of Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Frieda Forman, Ethel Raicus, Sarah Silberstein Swartz, and Margie Wolfe, 243-310. Toronto: Second Story.

———. 2003. Chava Rosenfarb: The Yiddish Woman Writer in the Post-Holocaust World.” Canadian Jewish Studies 11: 37-51.

Schneider, Helga. 2001. Let Me Go. London: Vintage.