Cover image for A memory of war
A memory of war
Busch, Frederick, 1941-2006.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, [2003]

Physical Description:
352 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Library
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Psychologist Alexander Lescziak savors a life of quiet sophistication on Manhattan's Upper West Side, turning a blind eye to the past of his Polish #65533;migr#65533; parents. Then a new patient declares that he is the doctor's half-brother, the product of a union between Lescziak's Jewish mother and a German prisoner of war. The confrontation jolts Lescziak out of his complacency: suddenly, his failing marriage, his wife's infatuation with his best friend, and the disappearance of his young lover and suicidal patient, Nella, close in on him. Lescziak escapes into the recesses of his imagination, where his mother's affair with the German prisoner comes to life in precise, gorgeous detail. The novel unfolds into a romance set in England's Lake District in wartime, as Busch shows how our past presses on the present.

Author Notes

Frederick Bush's most recent novel is The Night Inspector, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is Fairchild Professor of Literature at Colgate University.

(Publisher Provided) Frederick Busch was born on August 1, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York. Busch graduated from Muhlenberg College and earned a master's degree from Columbia. He was professor emeritus of literature at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York from 1966 to 2003. He won numerous awards, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award in 1986, the PEN/Malamud Award in 1991, 1999 National Book Critics Circle Award Nomination for "The Night Inspector", and 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalist, for "The Night Inspector".

His works include "A Memory of War", "North: A Novel", and "Rescue Missions".

He passed away on February 23, 2006 in New York City.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In his nineteenth work of fiction, Busch, a versatile writer of consummate skill, dramatizes the unexpected legacies of war and complex questions of power and duty. Alexander Lescziak is a New York City psychologist in dire need of therapy as he succumbs to a long-brewing depression connected to his mother's heretofore inexplicable despair. Alex never understood Sylvia's unrelenting sorrow until William Kessler, a historian who turns out to be a smug Holocaust revisionist, appears in his office claiming to be his half-brother, the son of a German POW with whom their mother fell in love while toddler Alex and his parents were living in England during the war. This shocking revelation triggers vividly erotic scenes of Sylvia and Otto's dangerous trysts, intense passages that seem to be relayed through Sylvia's point of view but which are actually streaming through Alex's faltering consciousness as he slips into elaborate, self-punishing fantasies. He also obsessively imagines his wife in bed with his best friend, and grows frantic with fear over the fate of Nella, a potentially suicidal, now missing patient with whom he's been having a terribly irresponsible and compulsive affair. Is every relationship a power struggle? Are sexual fascination and marriage ultimately imprisoning? Does a war ever end, or do war babies inherit a world of guilt and sorrow? Busch's ravishing, near-thriller novel, one that should earn him the larger readership he so richly deserves, places the most private of emotions within the context of a cruel and chaotic world, and reveals the oceanic depths of our capacity and penchant for both pain and pleasure. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The legacies of betrayal, illicit love, guilt and loss haunt the protagonist of Busch's powerful new novel, a meditation on the long reach of history, and its aftermath of alienated souls. The son of Polish immigrants who escaped the Nazis by fleeing to England and then to the U.S., Alexander Lescziak is a successful Manhattan psychoanalyst, well trained in eliciting the secrets of the heart. Now middle-aged, long married to Liz, a painter, he becomes aware that his own life's secrets are threatening to overwhelm him. During his childhood, his mother's mysterious neurosis damaged Alex, rendering him distant and aloof. His marriage is slowly dying of desiccation, and it's possible that Liz is being unfaithful with their best friend. Alex himself has committed the ultimate moral and professional sin by commencing a passionate affair with a suicidal patient, Nella Grensen, herself a child of Holocaust survivors. Nella disappears, and a distraught Alex is simultaneously faced with another dilemma, the challenge of a smarmy man who claims he's the illegitimate son of Alex's mother and a German POW with whom she had a clandestine relationship during the family's stay in England's Lake District. Moreover, the purported half-brother, William Kessler, is a spokesperson for a group claiming that the Holocaust is a myth invented by Jews to vilify innocent Germans. (The novel is set in 1985, with the furor over President Reagan's visit to SS graves in Bitburg providing historical context.) Almost overcome with depression, Alex retreats into his imagination, conjuring up vivid scenes of his mother's adultery and his father's secret sacrifices. While the novel's emotional landscape is bleak, Busch's portrait of a man trying to surmount his demons is masterful. The author of The Night Inspector and 18 other richly insightful novels again explores the human condition with precision and compassion. 5-city author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Contented psychologist Alexander Lescziak finds his life turned upside down when a new patient announces that he is Lescziak's half-brother, the result of their Jewish mother's affair with a German prisoner of war. From the author of The Night Inspector, a PEN/ Faulkner and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.