Sera Anstadt's touching story of her son's schizophrenia and autism was published in Holland in 1980 and soon went through numerous reprinting and became a minor classic.
Raf (short for Rafael) was a sensitive, intense child who grew into a seriously disturbed adolescent. It is the mid 60s, and his mother feels that the social workers and medical professionals are blaming her for his condition. The theories of R.D. Laing are widely accepted and she is made to feel guilty for her son's illness and only learns the diagnosis by accident when she is chatting with her GP at a party.
Raf's schizophrenia becomes progressively worse; he hallucinates and hears voices. In The Netherlands he cannot be hospitalised unless he gives his permission, but he is making life unbearable for his mother. He wanders around the country but usually comes home in a confused state and is unsure where he has been. Foreign travel is predictably disastrous. Over the years he enters various mental institutions, where the policies vary from extreme laissez-faire to trial-and-error experiments in medication. To schizophrenia is added autism. He tends to feel better at each hospitalisation only to slip back to a worse state after the novelty wears off. Sometimes when he is feeling better he goes back to live with his mother for a time. At length he finds a clinic where he seems to be reasonably happy and the management is not wedded to any rigid theory. He achieves a certain equilibrium, and the story ends when he makes a brief visit back to his family and remarks that... "all my friends are crazy".
This is a brave and honest book which provides the reader with a well-balanced account of what it means to love someone deeply and to support him on his journey through an imaginary world that dictates his reality.
About the Author
Serafina 'Sera' Anstadt was born in Lvov, Ukraine in 1923, when the city was still in Poland. She and her parents and older brother Milo emigrated from Poland to The Netherlands in 1930, where she has lived ever since. As Jews, they had to go into hiding after the Nazi invasion of The Netherlands. This is Sera's first book, originally written in 1980, over the past 25 years she has written a further eight books - both fiction and non-fiction. She has also worked as an actress.
Raf is now 30 years old, a withdrawn, seriously disturbed young man who sometimes thinks about the past with a melancholy smile. Until he was 15 he was cheerful and easy-going, although he could also be troublesome and now and then even strikingly hot tempered. He was good looking: tall with curly black hair, big dark eyes, and broad shoulders. If he was told something he could listen with great concentration, as though he wanted to feel just what the other felt.