Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Whipping Boy

Whipping Boy by  Allen Kurzweil
HarperCollins: 1/20/2015
eBook, 304 pages

ISBN-13: 9780062269485

The true account of one man's lifelong search for his boarding-school bully
Equal parts childhood memoir and literary thriller, Whipping Boy chronicles Allen Kurzweil's search for his twelve-year-old nemesis, a bully named Cesar Augustus. The obsessive inquiry, which spans some forty years, takes Kurzweil all over the world, from a Swiss boarding school (where he endures horrifying cruelty) to the slums of Manila, from the Park Avenue boardroom of the world's largest law firm to a federal prison camp in Southern California. While tracking down his tormentor, the author encounters an improbable cast of characters that includes an elocution teacher with ill-fitting dentures, a gang of faux-royal swindlers, a crime investigator with "paper in his blood," and a monocled grand master of the Knights of Malta. Yet for all its global exoticism and comic exuberance, Kurzweil's riveting account is, at its core, a heartfelt and suspenseful narrative about the "parallel lives" of a victim and his abuser.
A scrupulously researched and richly illustrated work of nonfiction that renders a childhood menace into an unlikely muse, Whipping Boy is much more than a tale of karmic retribution; it is a poignant meditation on loss, memory, and mourning, a surreal odyssey born out of suffering, nourished by rancor, tempered by wit, and resolved, unexpectedly, in a breathtaking act of personal courage.
My Thoughts:

Whipping Boy: The Forty-Year Search for My Twelve-Year-Old Bully by  Allen Kurzweil is a very highly recommended account of a man ostensibly searching for a bully. What he finds in his search  is much more interesting and satisfying.

When Kurzweil was 10, he attended Aiglon College, a British-style boarding school located in the Swiss Alps, above Geneva.  When there one of his roommates, Cesar Augustus, took delight in tormenting him. Kurzweil shares several incidents that traumatized him during this one year of his childhood and how the specter of Cesar loomed large in his adult life. He still remembered the verbal and physical  torment Cesar put him through and his emotional pain was still present.

As an adult, Kurzweil decided to do some research to try and discover what happened to Cesar and what he did with his life. There was, also, always present the idea of payback, or confrontation of Cesar for what he did to Kurzweil.

What Kurzweil discovers is far more interesting than even he could have imagined. Cesar was part of a huge global banking scam that swindled millions of dollars from unsuspecting clients. It was run by the Badische Trust Consortium and Cesar was part of the group of scam artists, many posing as European aristocrats, who ran the con. Several members, including Cesar, had been imprisoned for their felonious deceit. "The consolidated rap sheet of the Badische gang included embezzlement, racketeering, arson, forgery, fraud, extortion, perjury, check kiting, probation violation, grand larceny, assault and battery, and domestic abuse."

In the end this is less a book about searching for Cesar, the bully, and more the story of researching Cesar and the members of the Badische Trust Consortium. There is a satisfying meeting/discussion with Cesar. Kurzweil ends with an enlightening revelation/discovery about freeing himself from the memories of his bully.

This well written, detailed account, while partially a memoir, is most certainly an engaging true crime thriller as Kurzweil researches the Badische scam artists and their crimes through the court records, etc. he is given access to use in his search. Even though his research began as a search for his bully, he found a much more interesting story in which Cesar is a bit player. Yes, he is a scam artist, but he is not the most interesting character in the search. I found myself hoping he would be able to find and confront his bully, but what Kurzweil discovers is so much more and made for a fascinating, intriguing nonfiction account of his search.
Whipping Boy includes 16 pages of black-and-white photos and  83 images.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of
HarperCollin for review purposes.

New Yorker Article


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