Vicissitudes of Listening

Dori Laub

The testimony to the trauma thus includes its hearer, who is, so to speak, the blank screen on which the event comes to be inscribed for the first time. The listener, therefore, has to be at the same time a witness to the trauma witness and a witness to himself. That the speakers about trauma on some level prefer silence so as to protect themselves from the fear of being listened to—and of listening to themselves. That the speakers about trauma on some level prefer silence so as to protect themselves from the fear of being listened to—and of listening to themselves. That while silence is defeat, it serves them both as a sanctuary and as a place of bondage. Silence is for them a fated exile, yet also a home, a destination, and a binding oath. To not return from this silence is rule rather than exception. The listener must know all this and more. He or she must listen to and hear the silence, speaking mutely both in silence and in speech, both from behind and from within the speech.

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