The History of History by Ida Hattemer-Higgins
Knopf • $24.95 • ISBN 9780307272775
21 January 2011
The History of History, a debut from American expat Ida Hattemer-Higgins, is something of a concept novel: Her protagonist, Margaret, awakes in the woods outside Berlin with a large gap in her memory. Two years later, she receives a mysterious summons from a doctor who calls herself a “memory surgeon” and wants to help her remember. The next day, the city is transformed “into flesh”—its internal, repressed history somehow represented in its reality. As Hattemer-Higgins explains, “It can be read either as Margaret’s . . . personal story, or it can be read figuratively as a fable of a nation that wakes up slowly, after two decades of amnesia, to a recognition of atrocities in its past.”
Whether such an ambitious premise can be sustained through the course of the book remains to be seen, but Hattemer-Higgins sets a fairy tale tone in the novel’s evocative opening.
The oceans rose and the clouds washed over the sky; the tide of humanity came revolving in love and betrayal, in skyscrapers and ruins, through walls breached and children conjured, and soon it was the year 2002. On an early morning in September of that year, in a forest outside Berlin, a young woman woke from a short sleep not knowing where she was. Several months of her life had gone missing from her mind, and she was as fresh as a child.
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