The Silent Voices of Witness Literature. Refugee Crisis in Danish Children’s Literature since 2015
In 2015, Europe experienced the most massive refugee crisis since World War II. This crisis has been reflected in different kinds of art from poetry to picturebooks. In Denmark as well as in other countries, a number of children’s books has been published about the war in Syria and Syrian and other ... [Show full abstract] war refugees. These books have a common ground in sharing knowledge about violence, escape and death. Although fleeing is a known topic and the death of a child character is not an unusual event in children’s books (Clement and Jamali), it may be difficult or even controversial to address traumatizing war experiences and death in works for relatively young readers. Very few refugee children are able to tell their stories themselves since they are either
too small, displaced in language, traumatized or even dead (Nel). These children’s stories tend to be represented by others (authors and illustrators) who strive to imagine and bear witness to their situation in an artificial language. In this article, three Danish children’s books by widely acknowledged authors and illustrators are chosen as examples of fictional interpretations of refugee children’s experiences. The texts are diverse in genres and target groups and the stories are told with different levels of realism and fantasy, but they are all
connected to the same theme and context. What and how do these contemporary authors and illustrators tell us about refugees and their experiences, and how are they able to represent or bear witness to the experiences of the child victims who are silenced? The theoretical background of this study is Giorgio Agamben’s theory about witness literature and lacunas in language (Agamben; Engdahl ”Philomelas tunge”).