One of life's many truths is that we're each the sum of our parts. It's not usually only nature or nurture that plays a role; it's both. Yet, what if you don't know one of the essential blocks of your character, you don't know who your parents are? It is this central question of identity that haunts a psychotherapy patient in Ellen Ullman's novel, By Blood
Ullman uses an interesting story-telling device to narrate the patient's gradual exploration of her past. A professor of Classics, placed on administrative leave by his university, sets up his office next door to the therapist's. Coming in with significant baggage of his own, the troubled professor can't help but eavesdrop on the conversations between the therapist and the patient. The story, set in '70s San Francisco, is narrated by this professor.
When the patient first comes in, her primary problem is...
Beyond the Book
Shortly before the Second World War ended and the horrors of the Holocaust slowly came to a close, Jews from all over Europe were housed in "displaced persons" camps. These camps gave refuge to Jews who no longer had a place to call home - not Poland, not Austria, not Germany, and not even the new home state created for them, Israel.
One such camp, Bergen-Belsen, was originally established in 1940 as a POW camp, but in April 1943 was converted into a concentration camp by the SS Economic-Administration Main Office. On April 15, 1945, British forces liberated Bergen-Belsen and "British occupation authorities established a displaced persons camp that housed more than 12,000 survivors."
Just a few days after liberation, a BBC reporter visited the camp on a Friday -...