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FISSION by Helga Königsdorf

FISSION

By Helga Königsdorf (Author) , Susan H. Gillespie (Translator)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8101-1763-0
Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

A graceful 1986 meditation on ethnic identity, the mixed blessings of scientific discovery, and the nature of disability, written by a former East German novelist and teacher of mathematics and science. Its narrator tells the story of (historical figure) physicist Lise Meitner, a Jewish woman partly responsible for the discovery of atomic fission, forced to leave her increasingly intolerant “Fatherland,” and thereafter crippled by the same illness that afflicts the narrator (whom her predecessor “visits,” in hallucinations caused by her medication). The story’s complex premise effectively minimizes its discursiveness, and Königsdorf patiently assembles even its most contradictory elements into a moving affirmation of the perfectly rational (and perfectly human) realization that “The purpose of life is life itself . . . . [and that] We are immortal, as long as continuity is vouchsafed to this life”