Survival is an underlying metaphor. This novel is about the nature of survival, of living through and beyond a horrible experience. It is about the legacy that such survival brings to those who continue to live. The narrator first survived his childhood, an unhappy time that he recalls vividly: five years at the boarding school; being sent to visit religious country relatives; being educated by his father. He learned at the boarding school how to survive institutional authoritarianism, which is not only a matter of physical survival. His childhood, such as it was, ended abruptly when he was sent away to a concentration camp at the age of fifteen. After a year in the camps, he emerged. Ironically, becoming ill may have improved his chances for survival because he was sent to the camp hospital where he received better care than well prisoners received.