The History of History
By Ida Hattemer-Higgins
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307272775, 336pp.)
Publication Date: January 18, 2011
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A ferociously intelligent debut novel about a young amnesiac’s descent into madness in contemporary Berlin, and a country wrestling with its dark past.
A young woman named Margaret stumbles one morning from a forest outside Berlin, hands dirty, clothes torn. She can remember nothing of the night in the woods, nor—she soon realizes—anything of the previous months. She returns home to her former life.
Two years later, she receives a letter from a mysterious doctor, who summons her to an appointment, claiming to be concerned for her fate. Margaret keeps the appointment, but when she leaves the doctor’s office, the entire city is transformed. Nazi ghosts manifest as preening falcons; buildings turn to flesh; reality itself wheels.
This is the story of Margaret’s race to recover her lost history—the night in the forest, and the chasm that opened in her life as a result. Awash in guilt, careening toward a shattering revelation, Margaret finds her personal amnesia resonating more and more clamorously with a nation’s criminal past, as she struggles toward an awakening that will lead her through madness to the truth, and to the unanswerable agony of her own actions.
Ida Hattemer-Higgins has written a novel about amnesia—individual, cultural, historical—about memory and oblivion, fantasy and reason, myth and redemption in our time. An unforgettable story from a bold and prodigiously gifted young talent.
Ida Hattemer-Higgins was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. She studied German and Chinese literature in New York, then left the United States in 2001. In the time since, she has lived in Japan, India, and Sweden, and for the past seven years has been a student of literature in Berlin, where she has also worked as a walking-tour guide and translator. She now divides her time between Berlin and Moscow. This is her first novel.