50th gate

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History and Memory are complex representations of the past influenced by different perspectives. History is based on documented facts, historical research and formalised written records of past events. Memory is based on personal recollection, it is subjective and experiential. When considered together, history and memory combine to give a more complete picture of the past than is possible when considering either one independently. History and memory are complementary. History validates memory, while memory adds depth to history. These complex notions are effectively portrayed in the award winning non-fiction text ‘The Fiftieth Gate’ by Mark Raphael Baker. Similarly, these notions are also explored in the film ‘Schindler’s List’ directed by Steven Spielberg. History and memory lead to cultural knowledge and appreciation. In ‘The Fiftieth Gate’, a sense of resolution is reached. Both history and memory work together to reconstruct the past in a way that affects our present. Baker deliberately emphasises this through his documentation of his parents’ memories and this allows him to resolve his identity as a second generation Australian Holocaust survivor. This is highlighted in the appropriation of Descartes’s quote “He remembers, therefore I am”. Likewise, the ‘fifty’ gates symbolise Baker’s journey through his parents’ stories and synthesise the narrative. All of the forty nine gates expose a personal discovery at a particular moment during Baker’s journey, however the fiftieth gate represents the enlightenment and knowledge gained as a result of Baker’s quest. The Roman numerals at the start of each chapter give the text a historical tone and authenticity. Furthermore, Genia is representative of individual memory as for her “there are no witnesses to interview” and all she possesses is “Memories. Just memories. Nothing more”. Baker doubts her personal testimonies in their interviews and the validity of her childhood experiences which are reliant on her own...
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