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Book details
  • SubGenre:Personal Memoirs
  • Language:English
  • Pages:200
  • eBook ISBN:9781626753822

After The Barn

A Brother's Memoir

by Richard Pollak

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On that fateful day in the barn, Richard Pollak angrily shouted down to his parents, “Tell him you’ll punish him if he doesn’t stop hiding!” Moments later he was sucked into a maelstrom of hot straw. He has no memory of how he managed to extricate himself and get down from the loft, or of anything else on that summer day, when his 11-year-old mentally disturbed brother, with whom he had been playing hide-and-seek, slipped through the same hole and fell thirty-five feet to his death. Only a few months later, the author, then fourteen, lost consciousness and also fell: down a flight of stairs, awakening to learn that he suffered from the “falling sickness,” epilepsy. Twenty-five years on, he was still coping with the unnerving disorder and the depressive side effects of anticonvulsant medication, when his mother fell through a hole and nearly died much as his brother had.


After the Barn is a gripping account of this traumatic family history, at once a penetrating exploration of the medical, psychological and literary worlds of epilepsy, mental illness, and early death, and a deeply personal rumination on grief, sibling guilt, and the elusiveness of memory. Richard Pollak has given us a memoir that concludes with redemptive revelations that will likely surprise the reader as much as they did the author. 

About the author

Richard Pollak’s previous books include The Creation of Dr. B: A Biography of Bruno Bettelheim; The Colombo Bay, an account of his five-week voyage on a container ship after the 9/11 terror attacks; Up Against Apartheid: The Role and the Plight of the Press in South Africa, and The Episode, a novel that deals with epilepsy. From 1979 to 2004, he was variously an executive editor, literary editor and contributing editor of The Nation. He has written for that weekly, and for Harper’s, The Atlantic, The New York Times Book Review and other major magazines, and he co-founded and edited More magazine, the monthly journalism review that published in the 1970s. He was an associate editor at Newsweek, a political reporter at The Evening Sun in Baltimore, and a Poynter Fellow at Yale University, where he created and taught a course in “The Politics of Journalism,” which he also taught for several years at New York University. He lives in Portland, Maine, with his wife, the pianist Diane Walsh.