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Two kinds of White Shadow

My book called Incarnations of Evil is taking shape. It is a complex piece addressing several interconnected issues simultaneously, hence a real challenge to write well. During discussions with several friends, it became apparent to me that the idea of White Shadows, that is, events from the past that are kept secret across generations because they are, in some sense, "unspeakable", are not always necessarily traumatic. We tend to focus on traumatic incidents, but some subjects may be kept secret for other reasons. Hence, for example, with regard to the Second World War, following the end of the war, many aspects of German, Japanese or Italian daily life as experienced during the war were suppressed, including sources of joy, social cohesion, or just plain fun. Hence, for example, although songs that circulated among the Allied troops are still played, songs that circulated among the Axis troops are still shrouded in some form of taboo, although the emotional and visceral reasons for this taboo have long since faded. Hence the notion of White Shadow includes so-called "positive" aspects of culture and personal and family experience, and not just elements we think of as "negative".

Another aspect of the White Shadow I've been thinking about is that fiction (or even poetry) may provide powerful means of expressing the shadow when confession and memoire are still problematical. Particularly for the descendants of people who made ambiguous or amoral decisions during WWII, revealing this information to the light of day is still highly problematical. However, recasting these stories into fiction can be more readily done than direct confession, and the fiction is often more gritty and authentic when it is grounded in events that actually occurred. So we may need to find opportunities for writers to collaborate with individuals with stories to tell who want to remain anonymous, for our efforts to bring White Shadows to the surface of contemporary life.

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