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What Remains: The Suitcases of Charles F. at Willard State Hospital
Ilan Stavans | Jon Crispin, Photographer
SUNY Press / Softcover / Jul 2020
9781438478906 (ISBN-10: 1438478909)
Of General Interest / Consumer/Survivor
price: $42.95
128 pages
In Stock (Ships within one business day)

Combining photography and essay, presents a speculative portrait of a Jewish immigrant living out the end of his days in New York's midcentury mental health system.

After the closure of Willard Psychiatric Center on New York’s Seneca Lake in 1995, more than four hundred abandoned suitcases were discovered in its attic, containing thousands of personal possessions belonging to former patients. Three of the suitcases were owned by Charles F., an eighty-four-year-old Russian Jewish immigrant arrested at a Brooklyn subway station in 1946 and institutionalized at Willard State Hospital (as it was then known). An extraordinary collaboration between image and text, What Remains pairs Jon Crispin’s gripping photographs of Charles’s belongings with Ilan Stavans’s intriguing, speculative portrait of a patient and institution at odds with one another. Anxious, isolated, and senile, Charles strikes an unexpected friendship with a young doctor whose empathy accompanies him through a sudden spiritual awakening. As the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that Stavans, himself an immigrant from Mexico whose family history is marked by bouts of mental illness, approaches his character as a surrogate of his own personal journey. Crispin’s photographs of Charles’s possessions—including clothing, household tools, and Jewish ritual objects—are haunting in their ability to compel the reader to imagine a distant man’s life. A moving blend of fact and fiction, photography and prose, What Remains reflects on questions of mental health, spirituality, and the Jewish immigrant experience in midcentury America.

Table of Contents:

What Remains Ilan Stavans
The Angel Who Relates
Man Digging
This is the End
The Suitcases of Charles F. at Willard State Hospital Photographs by Jon Crispin
Memory is a Box Without Edges: A Conversation between Ilan Stavans and Jon Crispin
Acknowledgments

About the Author:

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College and the author of many books, including Borges, the Jew and On Self-Translation: Meditations on Language, both also published by SUNY Press.

Jon Crispin is a photographer living in Pelham, Massachusetts.

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