The History of History: A Novel of Berlin
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2002. A young American woman stumbles one morning from the forest outside Berlin - hands dirty, clothes torn. She can remember nothing of the night. She returns to the life she once knew, but soon an enigmatic letter arrives from an unknown doctor claiming to be 'concerned for her fate'. Shortly after, the city of Berlin transforms. Nazi ghosts manifest as preening falcons; buildings turn to flesh. This is the story of Margaret's descent into madness and her race to recover her lost history - the night in the forest and the chasm that opened in her life as a result. Awash with guilt, Margaret finds her amnesia resonating - more and more clamorously - with two suppressed tragedies of Berlin's darkest hour. Harrowing and provocative, beguiling in its lyricism and sensuality, "The History of History" tells a tale of obsessive love, family ruptures, and a nation's grief. And it is an elegy to 'the history of history' - the role of the German past in the psychic life of the present age. With this first novel, third-year-old Ida Hattemer-Higgins establishes herself as as bold, inventive and gifted writer.
would like to thank my first readers both for their insightful notes and also for their enthusiastic admonitions to continue: Mozhan Marnò, Claudia Herr, and James Kennaway. Once it was a finished draft, this book was saved by Bill Clegg. He not only recognized its potential but also stayed by me through an arduous year of revisions before it sold. I am unsure what to say about Bill except that he is a leuchtender Stern—a shining star. He is agile, brilliant, and true: a blinding talent. No one
banister, looks down, and sees whatever it is, maybe something the size of a fist, a little red and grey on the blue-and-white tiles.” All of this Margaret had remembered that very afternoon, while she was fretful in bed. “You have no idea where this came from?” Benjamin asked. Margaret considered. “I think I probably made it up.” Her eyes were closed, she felt like sleeping now. Benjamin spoke again, but his tone had changed. “Margaret,” he said, “there’s someone I want you to meet.”
then it scratched at the ground twice, rustled its wide wings, flapped frantically, and was gone. Margaret drifted back into sleep. When she woke up the next morning, Benjamin was still out. Margaret found the story of the whale ducks fresh in her mind, even fresher than when she had read it. She reached down beside the bed. She thought she would read the story again straight through from the start. She searched, but she didn’t find the book about the whale ducks. And it was only after she
copied the letter of complaint in its entirety into her notebook. She moved into the records of February and March. These were mostly concerned with the police seizure of apartments recently “abandoned” by Jewish families. There were entries concerning the looting of Jewish homes, many reports of calls from neighbors complaining that the loot had not been equally divided. Also many entries concerning Jewish suicides. The suicides coincided with the mass deportations, the period when Berlin was
now that Jews weren’t permitted to emigrate, the best way was camouflage. I trusted Mother. Mother promised she would never let them take away any of us like they had taken away Berthe and her mother. She didn’t care what anybody said and she fixed the collar of my coat so that I could wear it so the star didn’t show when I wanted, and we would go to the pictures or look at the fabric in a fancy store. Father always said that nothing bad would happen if we would just learn to follow the new