Monday, 21 May 2001

Truth and Lies

Listening to:

Brahms, Ein Deutsches Requiem:

For all flesh is as grass
and all the glory of man
as the flower of grass.
The grass withereth,
and the flower thereof falleth away.
Be patient therefore, brethren,
Unto the coming of the Lord.

Just read:

Granta 66: Truth and lies.

The main piece in this issue was a story about a man called Bruno Dossekker from Switzerland who wrote a book called Fragments, in which he claimed that his name was really Binjamin Wilkomirski, that he was a Jew, born in Riga in 1939 and that he had survived Auschwitz. He claimed that when he was adopted in Switzerland, he was given another (Swiss) child’s identity.

Initially, his account was well received, seen as a genuine view into the fragmentary memory of a very young child who went through horrible experiences. However, various doubts were expressed about the veracity of the account. This piece is one such expression of doubt, and makes a compelling case: ultimately one can only conclude that Fragments is fiction. The fascinating thing about the whole case is that Bruno Dossekker continues to at least half-believe his own story. (That he doesn’t entirely believe it is indicated by his refusal to take a DNA test that might unambiguously link him to a Swiss uncle.) After a little surfing on the web, I found this very interesting piece about both Dossekker’s case and another wannabe victim.

The rest of the issue is also good, including an appealing extract from Claire Messud’s novel The last life.

To read next:

Graham Greene, Ministry of Fear.