The rise of Nazism in Germany and annexation of Austria led to the flight of Jewish (and some non-Jewish) writers, among them Stephan Zweig and Joseph Roth from Austria and Irmgard Keun from Germany. Much later, leaving Germany as a child, W.G. Sebald reflected on his experience as an emigrant, and the forgetting rather than remembering characteristic of the German reaction to the destruction of cities by air warfare in 1942–1943. This could raise a question as to how extreme experience can, or cannot, be represented. I note Theodor Adorno’s assertion that to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, but argue that writing by emigrants and survivors indicates instead a necessary fracturing of language as a metaphor for dislocation. The voice may be detached but not devoid of humane feeling, as is evident in Vassily Grossman’s account of the battle of Stalingrad in Life and Fate (1980). Grossman also wrote of Treblinka, leaving descriptive prose to carry the burden of the unrepresentable. The question, then, is not whether literature can cope with extreme experience but how it does so when its subject matter is the destruction of meaning.