The Belgian Jewish author Lydia Flem explored her family’s heritage in 2004’s “How I Cleared Out My Parents’ House” (Comment j’ai vidé la maison de mes parents) from Les éditions du Seuil. Holocaust survivors, Flem’s parents never spoke of their wartime sufferings. Flem, spared the horror of her family’s history, writes that her generation “had to struggle to live its own existence, its own history, distinct from [her parents’] traumatic memories.” Of her family’s silence about the Holocaust, she adds:
What I knew, I was not supposed to know, they had not wanted me to know. It was forbidden knowledge. Stained with ghastliness, shame, denial, knowledge frozen in ice, petrified.
On February 3, Flem published a more recent element of her own history, an autobiographical novel, “Queen Alice,” (La Reine Alice) with Les éditions du Seuil inspired by a real-life bout with breast cancer. Describing chemotherapy sessions of Alice (herself), Flem evokes a looking-glass world where a White Rabbit (her oncologist) is as bafflingly ambiguous as in Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece.