David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King appeared trailing clouds of hagiography when published in 2011. References to his suicide were frequent but circumspect, usually alluding to his use of anti-depressant medication, of which Foster Wallace himself was reportedly too ashamed to speak.
In English it’s called the right to be forgotten, but the French, who were the first to legislate it, call it le droit à l’oubli – the right to oblivion – evoking not just the state of being forgotten but also forgetting, not merely being overlooked but also ceasing to be.
Why, then, do Romani victims of the Holocaust remain peripheral to historical memory? Part of the answer is that majority populations in Europe continue to use Roma as a racialised scapegoat. In contemporary Australia, it is rightly considered offensive to refer to Jewish people by the derogatory terms used by the Nazi regime.
The history of the world is surely the story of dispossession and displacement. The two foundational moments of our economic system are rooted in dispossession, with the colonial expropriation of South American riches by the Spanish conquistadors and the enclosure of British common land at the behest of the landed gentry.
Literature’s magical power has always been in its ability to name. This power – from Les Murray’s ‘This country is my mind’ all the way through to critiques of stereotyping – is a common ground over which conservatives and radicals quarrel, and it’s what has been done with these shared assumptions that I want to explore below.