COMING TO TERMS WITH A CHILD
Black Moss Press
REVIEWED BY ROB MACLEOD
This outstanding book, about the author's childhood, reveals an incomprehensible era in a demonic and alien place, Nazi Germany, where retired Concordia Professor and noted author, Henry Beissel was raised, and indoctrinated into the ethos of that time.
The Rhine and Ottawa Rivers serve as bookend metaphors for Beissel's life from youth to the present, and encompass the two continents that shaped him; continents where, as Beissel eloquently states: "At the edge of the abyss he learnt / there are no edges, only transitions, / the river runs on relentlessly and returns the rain to the sky." Here is a book of dark but truthful poems, linked by poetic prose, providing the reader both context and commentary for a time that will live in infamy.
One horrible irony was that after being denounced as a Jew, because a childhood accident had destroyed his foreskin, Beissel's family had to prove his Aryan ethnicity for him to escape the fate his fellow Aryans were delivering to Jews and other "impure" races, (often the people Beisel most admired.) Also ironically sinister, is that these murderers might well be lovers of music and literature who could listen, with pleasure, to / Ode to Joy / after releasing cyanide into a gas chamber filled with children. This collection questions how this could happen in a land famous for philosophers and theologians: a land where people believed in a God of love and peace.
This book is painful to pick up and impossible to put down, but Beissel's voice must be heard and / Coming to Terms with a Child /is a book that must be read.
Rob MacLeod is a freelance translator, copy editor and proofreader. He has published a number of poems in the past few years as well as a few short profiles of artists and writers. He was the associate editor of Anthos, Journal of the Arts, during the mid-1980s. Also, for the last several years he has published regular poetry reviews for Canadianbookseller.