Siri Hustvedt « The Sorrows of an American « 2008.
A book of origins and a haunting revisiting of Norwegian ancestors, common both to the author and the hero of this book, Eric Davidson , a Brooklyn psychoanalyst who is in the throes of a huge midlife crisis. Not only is he divorced, lonely, loveless and horny, but he has just lost his father and is wallowing in grief; the load is heavy and so is the book which tackles surely too many plots and subplots as the life of his widowed sister, another deeply troubled New Yorker professor, and his own failed love affair with a Jamaican beauty living next door. The story of the father's life would be enough for one book.
But this book is wonderful and profoundly moving as a tale of the agony of such a personal crisis where everything just about collapses in your inner world.
Thus, we have a powerful and very personal sort of auto biography in the guise of a male hero Eric, who is a part of Hustvedt's personality. In her recent auto biographical work," Plea for Eros" , she reveals her journey to becoming a writer and her extraordinary attachment to her Minnesota family of immigrant Norwegian farmers , and also her recurrent dreams of being a man . These dreams of being a man occur in great moments of self doubt and insecurity .Now, what are specifically the "sorrows" of this one American man, who is obsessed with his parent's plight during the depression and their ruin on the farm. A disappeared life from the landscape of Minnesota is his legacy.
First, in this search for a secure identity, there is the loss of an idealized country life in rural Minnesota, a 19th century model of honesty, self help, austere protestant thrift and virtue where everyone lives in harmony with nature. The great American nostalgia for the small farm re appears here with however a flaw: the hidden drama in the father's life, which is the crux of Eric's search and also his obsession. Whatever happened to Lars Davidsen to make him so secretive and silent; who was the father? Eric, the son, looks through the notes and family archives, enlists his sister's help and flies back to Minnesota to interview aged relatives, relentlessly questioning the past till the secret is revealed. The father had apparently an illegitimate baby daughter with his teen ager sweet heart lisa, , who was still born and buried secretly in the woods. The baby, was in fact not his but , of another boy, but Lars helped the delivery and swore to Lisa secrecy about it .. Poor young Lars carried this terrible shameful knowledge, a lone, and assumed the role of the guilty father all his life being truthful to a whorish ex girlfriend .
This knowledge shatters Eric and his sister, the dream of the wonderful prairie life is gone, but still the father, who appears now as a ghost in his dreams, eludes him as our parents inner life always eludes us when we try to see them as they really were. We all have secrets unrevealed to anyone; Eric must tread the path of his adult complicated life on his own, admitting the past mixing with the contemporary: his patients, his new lover, his sister and niece.. This demanding puzzle is what we all have to deal with everyday of our lives