by Nechama Liss-Levinson

Ghosts in the Nursery

Remembrance of generations past

As I read two extraordinary new memoirs, At Home with Andre and Simone Weil, by Sylvie Weil, translated by Benjamin Ivry (Northwestern University Press, $24.95) and An Exclusive Love, by Johanna Adorjan, translated by Anthea Bell (W. W. Norton & Company, $24.95), I kept thinking of the paper written years ago by the psychoanalyst Selma Fraiberg, titled “Ghosts in the Nursery.” Fraiberg’s thesis was that the spirit of uninvited guests from the parents’ past hover in the newborn’s bedroom, unconsciously affecting the personality development of the infant, as well as his or her later relationships. In these two books, the authors explore the long-term impact that the life — and death — of certain family members have on their own developing sense of self.

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