Showing 191 - 200 of 352 annotations tagged with the keyword "Abandonment"

Fragments

Wilkomirski, Binjamin

Last Updated: Aug-21-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Note, entered 12/99: The authenticity of this account has been called into question. Legal documents and school records contradict the author’s claim of being a Holocaust survivor. The author, however, maintains that his story is true. News accounts of this controversy first appeared in Weltwoche, a Swiss publication, in an article written by author, Daniel Ganzfried, who researched Wilkomirski’s background (August 27, 1998). Among later reports are those in The Times of London (Sept. 8, 1998), and The New York Times (Nov. 3, 1998). In October, 1999 (Oct.,14, 1999 NY Times report) the German publisher, Suhrkamp Verlag, withdrew from stores all hardcover copies and Schocken Books suspended publication on November 1, 1999.

My Summary and Commentary below were written under the assumption, which appears to be false, that Fragments is a memoir, and not fiction. All indications are that Wilkomirski believes his story to be true. Readers might consider the metaphoric significance of the Holocaust in ongoing individual suffering.

Note, entered 10/01: Interestingly, in relation to my final comment of 12/99 above, a recent article places Wilkomirski’s book within the context of scholarly work on trauma, memory, and testimony. See "Beyond the Question of Authenticity: Witness and Testimony in the Fragments Controversy" by Michael Bernard-Donalis (Proceedings of the Modern Language Association, 116/5, October 2001: 1302-1315).

Note: 2/02: The recently published book, A Life in Pieces, by Blake Eskin (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) tells the story of Wilkomirski, Fragments, and the research into Wilkomirski’s claims, and places the affair into sociohistoric context.

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Subtitled "Memories of a Wartime Childhood," this Holocaust memoir unveils the memory "shards" of a childhood spent in the Nazi death camps of Poland. The author, now a musician living in Switzerland, believes himself to have been born around 1939, in Riga, Latvia. He can’t be certain because his father was shot by militia as young Binjamin watched; later he was separated from his brothers; he remembers his mother only from one brief, forbidden visit with her in Majdanek concentration camp when they were both confined there.

Because the memoir is narrated primarily in the present tense, from the perspective of a confused, frightened child, in disjointed flashbacks, the reader viscerally experiences the bewilderment, physical hardships, the viscious cruelty of the guards, the sickening realities of existence (rats, lice, beetles; standing barefoot, ankle-deep in excrement), the fear and guilt [yes, guilt!--for inadvertently betraying another child]. But there was kindness as well--the wise older child, Jankl, who taught Binjamin survival techniques; the women inmates who hid Binjamin and other children under cloths in the laundry room--for weeks on end.

Near the end of the war, camp guards deserted and the surviving inmates staggered out--Binjamin was literally dragged along, against his will, by a camp inmate who recognized him. Somehow he ended up in an orphanage in Krakow, Poland. Here, there was fear of a different kind--distrust of all adults, fear of being "discovered" as a camp survivor (to be held responsible for another child’s death, and for abandoning his mother), total unfamiliarity with the habits of "normal" life.

Wilkomirski’s memoir begins and ends in Switzerland, where he was placed in foster care. In Switzerland there are other nightmares. Spastic attempts to verbalize his experiences are ridiculed, disbelieved, squelched. Not until a high school teacher--a German who fled to Switzerland during the war--shows documentary footage of the allied liberation of Mathausen concentration camp, does Binjamin realize that HE was never liberated. "Where was I when everyone else was being freed? . . . nobody tended us . . . the way it happened in the film. Nobody ever told me that the camp was . . . finally, definitely over . . . that . . . I could go forward without fear or threat into a new time . . . Not even later."

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The Doctor's Wife

Moore, Brian

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Forty-something, a surgeon’s wife, Mrs. Sheila Redden of Ireland arrives in Paris en route to the south of France for a second honeymoon. She has booked the same hotel room as the first honeymoon. Her husband, Kevin, is delayed by his surgical obligations, and promises to join her, but she knows that he is not keen on the trip.

While in Paris she meets Tom, an American at least ten years younger who follows her to the south. They begin a love affair that overwhelms her with its emotional and sexual power. Kevin stays home, at her urging, but he becomes suspicious and uses a fake illness in their teenage son in an attempt to lure her back. Then he flies to the resort to confront her. His brutal manner convinces Sheila to leave him.

Tom wants her to return with him to Vermont. She consults a priest for advice. In desperation Kevin appeals to Sheila’s brother, also a physician. They medicalize her love for Tom as a symptom of early menopause and try to bring her home. Allowing Tom (and the reader) to believe she will go with him, she finally decides for a job in London and solitude in modest rented rooms.

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Dialogues with Madwomen

Light, Allie

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Dittrich, Lisa

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

This documentary presents a pastiche of illness narratives, the stories of seven women (including the filmmaker and the associate producer) who have struggled with mental illness, including depression, bipolar disorder, and multiple personality disorder. Intercut with the interviews are reenactments of key events in the women? lives; vivid depictions of sometimes frightening, sometimes exhilarating mental states experienced by the women; films and still photographs from the womens' childhoods, and archival film footage. In the process of exploring their illnesses and recoveries, the women discuss experiences that hurt them (rape, misdiagnoses, racism) as well as those that helped them heal (creativity, caring, therapists, and spirituality).

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

Frears presents a stark portrayal of London’s underbelly, a place where everything is for sale--at a price. It is a world in which most people tend to ignore or overlook: prostitution, illegal immigrants struggling to survive, illegal activities, humiliating circumstances, and most centrally, black market organ transplantation. "We are the people you don’t see." Information age technologies mix with greed and desperation to depict an engrossing and sordid narrative about real-life events occurring in places beyond the ordinary purview. This modern day thriller brings audiences to the edge of their seats as they witness harrowing and very believable accounts of marginalized members of society deprived of basic human dignities.

The story is complex but two characters dominate, a doctor from Nigeria (Chiwetel Ejiofor) now reduced by harsh circumstances to several menial jobs including taxi driving and hotel clerking, and an illegal chambermaid from Turkey (Audrey Tautou) whom he befriends and assists. She lives in constant danger of humiliation, exposure, deportation. Their paths cross in a hotel where both work, where "johns" are served by prostitutes, and where illegal and sloppy surgical procedures are employed to harvest kidneys from desperate donors.

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Summary:

This is a complex and, at times, very amusing story about modern life in an affluent Mexican family. Generational differences--and similarities--between a physician-grandfather (Xavier Masse) and his children and grandchildren, are important to the story, but the relationship between the wise grandfather and his most charismatic grandson, Rocco (Osvaldo Benavides), is central. Family issues concern money and greed, but also surprising expressions of love.

The story begins in a lovely Mexico City home where family members feud and fuss continuously. After the grandfather’s sudden death during a heated dinner table outburst with his selfish adult son, Rodrigo (Otto Sirgo), two grandsons kidnap the old man’s ashes and head to Acapulco in a "stolen" car so as to dispose of them according to their beloved grandfather’s request. Their journey is funny and full of adolescent shenanigans. In Acapulo, a secret is discovered about the grandfather that gives the story a wonderful twist.

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Dungenessque

Charach, Ron

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Summary:

This is the sixth collection of poems by Ron Charach, who is a psychiatrist in Toronto, Canada. [See annotations in this database on Past Wildflowers and Petrushkin!] Charach explores his interior landscape with insight, wit, and a prodigious ability to tell a good story. In this collection the poems hone in on the rough, crab-like appendages of mid-life--failed relationships, maturing children, and the existential confrontation with an "uncaffeinated life."

The book begins in the deep waters of outrage, "You are the last objective correlative / the great depression / at once receptive and forbidding . . . " ("Words with the Mariana Trench") Many of the book’s early poems deal with isolation and failure--"YOU NEVER FELT MY PAIN FOR TEN SECONDS." ("Squeezing the Barbarians")--the special angry detachment of love gone sour ("Could my charms have dried up so quickly?" in "Burn Ward.") Later in the book, the poet speaks of friendships ("Rocks and Ages"), life events ("Courtesy of Plastic"), and the larger social and cultural context of his life ("Appelfeld").

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The Endless Search: A Memoir

Ray, David

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In this memoir the poet David Ray describes his troubled childhood and adolescence. Born into a poverty-stricken Oklahoma family, David and his sister lived in a succession of foster homes, after his abusive father walked out and his mother, a needy and often preoccupied woman, found it difficult to care for them. As an adolescent, David was sent to live in Arizona with John Warner, a war veteran who became his "guardian."

From the beginning, Warner sexually abused the troubled adolescent, who spent several years attempting, ineffectually, to escape from his abuser. After graduating from high school in Tucson, Ray accepted a scholarship to the University of Chicago, much against the wishes of his mother, who appeared occasionally in the picture, as well as those of Warner. In Chicago Ray finally freed himself from the abusive pattern.

The memoir provides a heartrending portrait of a succession of dysfunctional relationships, in most of which Ray, or his sister Ellen, emerge as victims or scapegoats. One of these is an intense experience with a sadistic writing instructor named Lowney Handy, who ran a writers’ colony in Illinois, and who may (or may not) have tried to murder David Ray. The book ends with a tension-filled reunion in 1966 between Ray and his biological father, after the young man had successfully completed graduate school and begun his career as a poet and teacher. The old man was just as hurtful as ever, and, reflecting on that last visit and his relationship with his father, Ray recalls some lines from Rilke: it was "so cloudy that I cannot understand / this figure as it fades into the background."

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Dr. Haggard's Disease

McGrath, Patrick

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In this first person narrative, Dr. Edward Haggard addresses his story to James, the son of his former lover Fanny Vaughn. Haggard, once a surgical registrar at a major hospital in London, has isolated himself in a coastal town, where he serves as a general practitioner. The "present" of Dr. Haggard’s story is the early stages of World War II, when James Vaughn, a Royal Air Force pilot, lies dying in Edward Haggard’s arms.

The story’s "past" has multiple dimensions. The outermost, framing story recounts the relationship between James and Edward that began several months before the war and a year or so following Fanny Vaughn’s death from kidney disease. James sought out the reclusive Dr. Haggard to discover the "truth" about Haggard’s relationship with his mother.

The inner story consists of Haggard’s description of his reckless and passionate love affair with Fanny, an ultimately hopeless liaison between a young registrar and the wife of the hospital’s senior pathologist. Their few brief months of happiness ended when Dr. Vaughn learned of the affair, and Fanny made the realistic choice to remain with her husband and adolescent son. In a confrontation between the two men, Vaughn knocked Haggard to the floor, causing a leg injury that resulted in chronic pain and permanent disability.

Haggard resigned from the hospital and withdrew to a solitary life, in which "Spike" (the name he gives to his deformed and painful leg) is his only companion. He must constantly "feed" Spike with intravenous morphine to quell the emotional, as well as physical, pain. The situation only worsens when Haggard learns of Fanny’s death from kidney failure.

The obsession worsens further still after James Vaughn shows up at his door. As Haggard treats the young pilot for a minor wound (he has become the local RAF surgeon), he notices that James has a feminized body habitus--gynecomastia, lack of body hair, broad hips, narrow shoulders, and pre-pubertal penis. He interprets this as "a pituitary disorder" and attempts to convince James that he needs treatment. James is repulsed by these advances, which eventually escalate.

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Doctor Faustus

Mann, Thomas

Last Updated: Aug-17-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The full title of this novel is "Doctor Faustus: The Life of the German Composer Adrian Leverkühn as Told by a Friend." Mann wrote it during the latter part of World War II when he was living in exile in the United States. The Faust character in this story is a German composer named Adrian Leverkühn (1885-1940), whose biography is recounted by his childhood friend, a schoolmaster named Serenus Zeitblom. Zeitblom presents the tale in his own voice--in essence, the novel is an extended reflection on the composer’s life (the past) set into the context of the deteriorating military situation in Germany (the present) as he is writing; i.e. the same period that Mann is actually writing the novel.

Adrian Leverkühn starts out as a student of theology, but succumbs to his passion for musical composition. His early pieces, though technically skillful, lack energy and imagination. However, all this changes when the young man experiences himself as having made a pact with the devil. In a confession written years later, Adrian recounts that he "voluntarily" contracted syphilis in an encounter with a prostitute, an episode that he believed was emblematic of this Faustian bargain.

In the confession he recreates his dialog with Satan, who promises the composer an artistic breakthrough, if he agrees to forego human love. As a result of the pact, Leverkühn sets off on a brilliant 24-year career, becoming the greatest German composer of his time. Throughout the novel Serenus intersperses technical details of Leverkühn’s many compositions, culminating with his masterwork, an oratorio called "The Lamentation of Doctor Faustus."

Adrian Leverkühn had been a self-centered youth who failed to reciprocate the friendship and devotion that others, especially Serenus, had lavished upon him. As an adult he leads an austere, solitary, monk-like life. Yet, while he lives only for his music, he also yearns for love. His personal life consists of a series of aborted relationships. Leverkühn becomes attracted to a female acquaintance and asks a friend to court her for him, only to learn that she has fallen in love with the friend.

Toward the end of his career, Adrian’s 5-year-old nephew comes to live with him in the country. The nephew ignites in him another spark of love, only to be snuffed out when the boy suddenly dies of meningitis. Finally, just as he is in the process of "unveiling" his great composition to a select group of friends, Leverkühn experiences a "stroke" and lapses into a coma from which he recovers physically, but not mentally. He survives for another decade in a demented, childlike state, and cared for by his mother.

The larger theme of this somber work relates to the decline of German culture during the decades before the onset of the Nazi era. Mann explores the collapse of traditional humanism and its replacement by a mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism. In "The Story of a Novel" (1949),

Mann wrote that "Dr. Faustus" was about "the flight from the difficulties of a cultural crisis into the pact with the devil; the craving of a proud mind, threatened by sterility, for an unblocking of inhibitions at any cost; and the parallel between pernicious euphoria ending in collapse with the nationalistic frenzy of Fascism." In Zeitblum’s narrative comments, Mann subtly relates the composer’s personal tragedy to Germany’s destruction in the war. Mann also claimed a "secret identity" between himself, Leverkühn, and Zeitblom.

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The Death of the Hired Man

Frost, Robert

Last Updated: Aug-16-2006
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

In this domestic epic, a man and woman converse on the porch of their farmhouse. The man is just coming home in the evening; his wife meets him at the door to warn him that Silas, the old ne’r-do-well hired hand, had returned that day. She found him "huddled against the barn door, fast asleep, / A miserable sight, and frightening, too--"

Silas looked terribly ill, yet he didn’t ask for help. Instead, he told her he would cut the upper pasture, and he kept inquiring about the college boy he worked with on the farm a few years back. He and the boy argued all the time; now the old man wants to "make things right."

The husband shakes his head. No, he will not take Silas back. The old man walked away one too many times. You can’t depend on him to stay and finish the job when someone comes around offering him a little "pocket money" to go elsewhere. Indeed, Silas’s brother is the president of a bank; why doesn’t he go to his brother for help? At last the husband quiets down and goes in to see the old man, who is presumably asleep beside the stove. A few moments later, he returns to the porch. To his wife’s query, "’Dead,’ was all he answered." [175 lines]

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