Friday, January 30, 2009

A Family Failure

The novel A Family Failure (Orion Press, 1970) by Renate Rasp (translated from the German by Eva Figes) is described by the publisher as "a macabre fable of a son's obedience instilled by educational means where the victim sees himself deprived of his own will for his own good. It is a story that has been acted out many times in recent history, and its unemotional tone shows how far we have accepted that an individual life should be moulded in the service of a higher, abstract ideal that goes unquestioned."

As a junior in high school working as a "page" (student book-shelver) at the Peabody Institute Library in Danvers, Massachusetts, I discovered this book and was drawn to the cover art as well as the description on the fly-leaf which reads: "This story of a human being who is maimed for life by the deliberate attempt to force him to become something he can never become is a thoroughly absorbing tale of great strength and originality." I was so moved by the story that I ordered my own copy of the book (which I still have today) from Lauriet's. As a young adult I identified with the narrator's disfunctional life where, denied personal freedom by a will stronger than his own, he is powerless over taking control of his own destiny.

There are two reviews of the novel on Amazon. One review reads, in part: "The book works on two levels. On the one hand, it is the most realistic portrayal of a family suffering under the domination of a psychologically abusive and controlling patriarch that I have ever encountered and, on the other, it is a brilliant allegory illustrating the very real damage done to children whose parents refuse to accept them as they are and try to force them to be something they are not."

1 comment:

self taught artist said...

sounds like a book to get for sure, hope our library doles it out :)