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History and Memory in Word and Art

            History and memory are intertwined as one cannot exist without the other, yet it is the representation of the past, which can influence our personal perspectives and ideas. The relationship between the two is evident within Mark Baker's novel Fiftieth Gate and Pablo Picassos painting Guernica, through their exploration of the flexibility and bias within the representations that history and memory provide, and their relationship between them. Baker employs a personal tone with factual documentation and his parents memories to reconstruct the events of the past. The integration of both history and memory is needed, shown by his pledge; "I would give them my knowledge of history; they would give me their memories", the reconstruction begins, inviting the audience to join him on the quest for 'truth', where in the epigram, and integrated throughout the text, the symbol of gates are used to represent the ultimate knowledge of the past, opening "the blessing or the curse". Through it, we can respond emotionally to the anguish suffered by the entire family due to "memory's black hole".
             Baker includes specific historical statistics, letters and other texts to offer information about an event, personalities and situations. The Holocaust is personalized in references such as those of "Count Choo-choo". This self titled "interrogator" subverts the conventions typically found in non-fiction texts by using evocative and poetic language in order to draw on emotions of his parents to express their true feelings. This enables the reader to identify with both Baker as author and as a second-generation son of Holocaust survivors. This lends the text an intergenerational focus that makes it more powerfully resonant. The use of italics to document exact recollections of his parent's memories fused with the use of explicit historical documents validate each other and authenticate the resultant representation of the event.

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