The Suitcase

Frances Stonor Saunders at the LRB:

Of course, I had seen, next to the Gentleman’s Relish, the box of finely dusted Turkish delight, the halva, the packets of rosti; I had been with him to his birthplace in Romania and seen the places of his childhood, not once but twice; together with Alexander, I had been in the ancient forests with him, had picked wild raspberries and cracked open hazelnuts with a stone. I had helped him fill the box of Christmas gifts for our cousins stuck behind the Iron Curtain: chocolate, vitamins, medicine, Marmite, jam, tinned sardines, winter gloves and hats, stockings. But these things had featured only in the margin of my map of my father. At least, until that day when my friend asked: ‘Where’s your father from?’ More than thirty years have passed, and still I hover in the same state of postponed understanding, like the delayed response after the turning of a ship’s wheel or the pulling of a bell rope. Where was he from? Why do I need to know? Will I feel better if I do?

more here.