Reading Germaine Tillion’s Operetta Le Verfügbar aux Enfers as a ‘Testimony’ of the Women’s Differential Experience in Ravensbrück

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Abstract

Le Verfügbar aux Enfers is an operetta written by Germaine Tillion, an ethnologist and French political prisoner, in Ravensbrück, in October 1944. Tillion’s purpose, immediately expressed in the operetta’s title which alludes to Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers, is to represent, in a comical way and through an exercise of ironic distance, some aspects of her own and other prisoners’ experiences in the camp which she continually ‘observed’ between 1943-1944. These two levels of the text are the main focus of this article. More specifically, I regard and explore the operetta as a montage of ‘ethnographic’ material and music-theatre sources, like quotations of couplets, songs or other music numbers from well-known operettas, and also as a possible ‘testimony’ to a specific female vision and experiences of bodily decline.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-131
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music
Volume48
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017

Keywords

  • Germaine Tillion
  • testimony
  • Ravensbrück 1943-1944
  • body concentrationary experiences
  • operetta
  • prisoners categories
  • Jacques Offenbach
  • French musical sources
  • caricature and ironical distance
  • Orphée aux Enfers
  • observation

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