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Showing posts from January, 2014

Life After Life - The Reluctant Psychoanalyst Reflects on Kate Atkinson's Novel About Reincarnation

A Palimpsest is a document that has been written on a surface - usually vellum - that has been previously written on - and erased.   Occasionally scholars discover that what has been erased is more interesting than the most recent thing written on the page.  In her book Life After Life, Kate Atkinson lets us look, with her protagonist Ursula, at a life - a life that Ursula lives over and over until she gets it right.  We get to see the things that Ursula "knows" and that lead her to head off various bad things that occur (frequently death, often her own but sometimes others) in her next life ant the life after that.

Ursula is born into upper middle class paradise; Fox Corners, a home in suburban London, in 1910.  Her entry into life is precarious.  She is born with an umbilical cord around her neck in the middle of a snowstorm and sometimes things happen so that she survives, and sometimes not.  From this precarious start, she grows up with a boorish older brother - in ever…