1,000 Camels for Your Gazelle: Narratives and Psychiatry

Daniel Rosen

16 March 2022

1,000 Camels for Your Gazelle: Narratives and Psychiatry

Daniel Rosen

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The stories in Daniel Rosen’s A Thousand Camels for Your Gazelle: Narratives and Psychiatry amount to a chronicle of the imagination during the first year of the Corona virus pandemic by a New York psychiatrist from Paris and Jerusalem. Psychiatry and the pandemic play an explicit part in only a handful of the stories, including one written in the form of an essay on the use of fictional narratives as a coping mechanism. In that story, the narrative itself is used as a therapeutic tool to master an anticipated trauma. In several of these sometimes intertwined stories, the memory of the past and the anticipation of the future are merged in an in-the-moment internal dialogue with varied styles and voices: A high school teenager enjoys his confinement in the beginning of the pandemic and imagines its end with both touching humor and gravity. A priest officiates a virtual mass during the holy week in his empty church and reflects on human contradiction and ambivalence about reenacting the Passion of Christ. An internal dialogue in a synagogue blurs the gender boundaries between humans and with an androgynous (or non-binary) God, the Master of the Words. A secular painting echoes religious texts on the concealment of sexuality. An appetizing reflection on what is truly essential, a colorful communal quilt of tenderness, a grandiose woman and an abused little girl. Some of the stories may be all that remains to connect with others. The story can replace a lost heirloom or a therapeutic ritual, preserve an act of kindness toward a stranger, or reveal a stormy sexuality. Wordplays are woven throughout those stories, often crossing languages. Ultimately, stories about crossing boundaries question the separation between the narrator and the narrated which can become itself the narrator in a circuitous loop. Each story is neatly separated by a colorful artwork reconstructing the cover of the book; however this artwork becomes itself the basis for the last story, questioning again the structure of the book. The cultural settings of the stories are various. Most of the religious references are Jewish, but some are drawn from Christian, Muslim or Buddhist traditions, rituals or mythology. There are several mentions of French and Hebrew, but also occasionally of Arabic and Greek. Although each story in this book can be read independently, they interconnect as a whole and one story could fill in the blanks left by another, inviting the reader to reinterpret the text. As Owen Lewis commented on Doctor Rosen’s previous book, Butterfly Words: Relationships, A Psychiatrist’s Narrative:

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