Mathias was kind enough to let me interview him. After reading the interview, make sure to scroll down and see the book, which is available on Amazon!
I am not usually inspired to write anything. I sense a feeling or a constellation of felt-truths, often a gift, and I am serious about this, from my unconscious mind. What we do each day is really a thin patina that covers the engine that drives us. I count upon these surreptitious feelings I get and then I move on to express them. I have done this with all of my books. Having been a psychotherapist also comforts me in that to write is to express the inner self.
What was your writing process like? Did you need to do a lot of research?
Sometimes I garner facts like a rolling stone. At 74 that is a life time of collection. If I don’t know the name of a movie star, of course, I look that up. In the pride I have I try to accomplish what I have to say by falling back – deeply so – on who I am. I have written stories about the concentration camps and survivors of those camps. What can you fall back upon except one’s compassion, sensibility and intuitive sense, the writer’s palette if you will. Facts are only appurtenances. I once wrote that fearlessness leads to authenticity in writing. I struggle to take no prisoners, to be graphic, honest, blunt if need be to advance the story I am working on.
If you were describing this book to a friend, what would you say
Feel it rather than shy away from whatever truths I could manage to compose. I see too much of Holocaust aversion on the part of reviewers, as if the Holocaust is a hot coal. Like the Odyssey, the Holocaust should be read by each generation, for it is mankind’s newly minted original sin. Read the book knowing it is the author’s attempt to comprehend the ineffable.
Can you tell us a little bit about the man behind the book?
Like Freud who said he was a godless Jew, I subscribe to that; the impact of being Jewish has been intense for me. I have worked as a teacher, and I practiced as a psychotherapist and while all that was going on, I wrote when I could. It took me thirty years to have a book of short stories published, Down to a Sunless Sea. I think of myself as the tortoise in Aesop’s fable. I don’t quit and redeem myself through perseverance. I did not go to school to write; I put in my 10,000 hours. I follow no rules, mostly breaking rules.
How long have you been writing?
46 years. I have paid my dues. So the man goes to the green and plays his rounds. What does he remember? His swing, his birdies. I can’t comprehend that. I write not for posterity, except for my children. I write for personal clarity. Like Kazantzaki’s epitaph, “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.” I struggle for that existential experience.
What's next for you?
TESSESRAE, now being edited, a memoir of two summers, ’68,’69 , in Woodstock, describing how a man-child became a man by opening myself to feelings and relationships.
Out of this entire book, what is your favorite paragraph?
“Slave”: The most appalling defeat in the camps was the absence of beauty. Regimentation was all, an artist without a palette.
Animal life had fled. Occasionally an errant bird chirped tis creed and flew away. Butterflies stayed away, no flora to cling to. If you think rats, vermin, maggots, and roaches are beautiful, it was Eden. Uniformity in everything was the rule. Barracks laid out in grids, barbed wire in rectangular enclosures. Even the circle was barred from the camp, for it was elusive to the German mind. Everything was squared off, nothing rounded. We lined up for morning roll calls, the appell (italics). The guttural voices of the German guards barked out the same repetitive orders. Geometry was God, diversity Satan’s whore, opinion a mother’s bastard, and questions a whore’s tease. Order above all. To my ears, the German gutturals obeyed in aural allegiance the mind-set of their speakers. When I fill the ice cube tray, I pause, knowing how well the Germans viewed us, frozen cubes all lined up.
Genres: Literary Fiction, Holocaust Fiction, Short Stories
“…Freese’s haunting lament might best be explained (at least to me) by something Nathaniel Hawthorn wrote about Herman Melville’s endless search for answers to questions that perplexed him all his adult life. Melville was incessantly obsessed with what one might call the why of it all — life, death, metaphysical mysteries. Similar to Freese, Melville was repeatedly afflicted with a dark and depressive state of mind.” –Duff Brenna, Professor Emeritus, CSU, San Marcos
Praise for I Truly Lament:
I have read many books about the Holocaust as I find the subject very interesting from a psychological standpoint. I have to say though, that Mr. Freese has placed an entirely new twist on the subject. I will admit to being perplexed at first, having expected something a bit different. As the collection unfolded, I was drawn into the raw emotion. I particularly enjoyed the story, “Cantor Matyas Balogh.” Matyas found love so late in life, only to have it ripped from him. Freese does not just tell a tale, he creates a basis for reflection. I believe that he is completely correct when he states that someone can never truly understand the Holocaust. We can write about it, but the lasting impact on the people that survived can never be put into words. I Truly Lament is a remarkable collection that will leave the reader speechless. – Heather Osborne for Readers’ Favorite
At a social distance from me now, as exact and
regulatory as a geometric theorem, I see the Jew as a
thing rather than entity. He is foreign to me.
The Disenchanted Golem
IN MY LATEST INCARNATION I was a golem for a few months in
Poland. Invoked by the mumbo-jumbo Kabalistic rites of a Hasidic
tzaddik, I was raised from nothing. Of course, Jews have no idea where
I come from or how I exist when not on call. They know nothing
of the fabric of my being. They believe, or at least this Hasid did,
that prayer—and demands—bring me forth. Rubbish! My directive
comes from a different source and one that’s not accountable to me.
I cannot explain my existence. I’m in the dark much like the rabbi.
And when I wake to a call and go about my tasks, which are often to
tear out legs and arms of Poles, in this instance, I find it a necessary
evil of which I’m a significant part. I’d rather rest in soil from which
I come, or at least that is the matter that forms my lumpish shape.
Going way back to 1492, Señor Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor
who was of Jewish descent, cursed me for dismembering a fellow
priest whom I’d beaten with a candelabrum until he curled up in a ball
and died. Spry Torquemada fled from my presence and I lumbered
after him, finally grabbing the wily old bastard by his caftan. I can’t
speak, which is problematic, for I’ve seen or experienced so much
about death and dying that I’ve a lot to say. Sometimes I would like
interrogate the victim to see how he responds not only to his imminent
death but to my physical presence: which is more terrifying?
Anyway, I scared the shit out of the Grand Inquisitor but let him
live. I really don’t know why. Before I left his home I peed in his
private chapel, the piss laced with mud and twigs, an earthy aroma
to it, like asparagus, essentially all the parts of my makeup. Basically
I am mud.
I like to do a good job. Different golems act differently. We’re all
of the same construction. Quite simply, as a golem I need no compass
for finding a malicious Gentile. I just know his whereabouts and I
intuitively seek him out—unnerving, if you’re a Gentile. Jews mistakenly
think I act for them; well, yes and no, basically more no than yes.
I’m an independent slayer, like the angel of death. I definitely don’t
act out of religious reasons or because Jews need me at this time or
another. It’s all so complicated as to my origins and purposes.
About the Author:
MATHIAS B. FREESE is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. His recent collection of essays, This Mobius Strip of Ifs, was the winner of the National Indie Excellence Award of 2012 in general non-fiction and a 2012 Global Ebook Award finalist. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions.
Connect With The Author:
Win a print copy of I Truly Lament by Mathias B. Freese on the tour and giveaway! This giveaway will run – 1/1/15. Open to residents of Canada, Australia, Great Britain, and the USA. Enter at Goodreads.