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BLOG: Writers of the Lost Arc

"Saving Mr. Banks," and the psychic burdens children carry

Oh, the things you'll tell a blogger you've never met that you wouldn't tell your mother or friend.

Deborah Kalb asked how I came to write about a certain character in my novel. Here's what I answered. " Then there’s Mustafa, an Arab janitor on the Temple Mount with a horrible case of torticollis – his neck twists permanently over one shoulder. Somehow this man so different from myself wandered into my creative unconscious and I had no idea why.

But then I recently saw the wonderful movie, "Saving Mr. Banks," and it touched so many chords in me. It becomes clear that Travers wrote Mary Poppins to save her talented drunk of a father. She carries the psychic burden of her father’s failures and it weighs heavily on her. My father’s life, his struggles, also weighed heavily on me. Like Mustafa, he suffered from a strange physical deformity – he was missing an ear from a car accident as a child. He was often hospitalized for one thing or another. What's more I bore the heaviness of the doomed marriage between him and my mother and the humiliating jobs he had.

In my eyes, his struggles made him a mythic character. With every tale he told, I couldn’t help but hear not just his stories but his Story, of all his life struggles, and to me they became one. Always I felt a scorching pity. I carried the pain he didn’t want to feel. But that’s what children do. Their consciousness exceeds that of their parent. We know the part they don’t want to or can't own up to. And a novelist's knowledge of his characters will invariably exceed their knowledge of themselves.

People who have read the book often ask me: How did you slip into the mind of someone so radically different from yourself?

I too had thought it would be impossible and so I put off writing about this Arab man who for years stalked my imagination. How strange, how wonderful to discover then, as soon as I began to put words down on paper, that I felt so close to Mustafa. He was as painfully close and tender to me as my own father.

To read the rest of Deborah's interview, you can go here: http://deborahkalbbooks.blogspot.com/2014/01/q-with-author-ruchama-king-feuerman.html
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