Once I Lived by Natascha Wodin
(Masks)

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Synopsis

In the form of a letter to her unborn child, a young woman delves into her past. Through her narrative she resurrects spectres that still haunt her life: her mother, who wandered into a river and never returned; her violent, domineering father; and the chaos of post-war Germany. Born in 1945 to Russian parents, she and her family had fled from the famine zone of the war-ravaged Ukraine and ended up in Germany. Always an outsider, the girl's perspective on the tyranny of society and of language, and on the adolescent's desperate need to belong is clear-eyed, moving and unspoiled by self-pity. As the post-war West German economic miracle gains momentum and the culture of America - 1950s nylon blouses and blue jeans - infiltrates her provincial town, her status as an alien becomes increasingly oppressive. A testament to the human ability to survive, Once I Lived is the story of a child's life moved by the forces of the twentieth century. It perfectly captures the essence of the outsider in a country that is becoming increasingly intolerant of aliens.
 

About Natascha Wodin

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Published June 1, 1994 by Serpent's Tail. 210 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Once I Lived

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The protagonist of this novel (winner of 1989 Brothers Grimm Prize in Germany) parallels so many aspects of the author's life that it's difficult to escape autobiographical references: The unnamed narrator was born in Russia and transported to Germany in the 1940s, whereas the German-born Wodin s...

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In a series of fragmented, dreamlike reminiscences scattered throughout the novel, the narrator resurrects her memories of every conceivable horror: her family's flight from famine-torn Ukraine at the end of WW II, her mother's haunting silences and mysterious suicide by drowning, her father's ph...

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