Bruno Slept Here is a memoir of 89,000 words about the hidden life of my Latvian father.
The spellbinding story begins in Nazi-occupied Riga, in 1942, when Bruno joined a clandestine yoga club whose teachings went beyond headstands to include astral projection. He was conscripted into the Latvian regiment of the Waffen SS at the age of seventeen and, with a Vedic mantra as protection, was pitched into the madness of the last year of war. In the conflicting silences of my father’s life I find teenage romance, a live radio orchestra, a burning synagogue, underground torture chambers, battles, desertion, captivity, and a passionate correspondence amongst yogis from Riga to Rishikesh and Los Angeles.
My writing combines deep research with a fictionalized version of Bruno’s life and my own confrontation with death. I begin my side of the story as a child on a road trip across 1970s Germany and return to Europe as an adult to map my father’s escapes and imprisonments from Poland to Belgium.
As I work my way through my father’s disasters, the world around me darkens and the pandemic takes over. I ask, how do we endure, let alone bounce back from, catastrophes? Bruno knows how.
When the woman cried out, they’re coming they’re coming I hear them, Harijs raised his hand ever so slightly. "You will feel better very soon.” The guru talked a little slower, his voice a little deeper, oozing through stories about faraway islands where bananas grew on trees and miracle doctors reached into stomachs.
The frightened woman fell asleep, and as soon as she did, Harijs stopped talking. Bruno felt all the energy drain from him as if he’d been running as fast as he could and crossed the finish line. “So, this was hypnosis,” he thought.
Yes, it is, he heard a voice say, though there was only silence.