What do we learn about Rolf's past?  

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In the short story “And of Clay We Are Created” by Isabel Allende the reader experiences foreshadowing of Rolf Carlé’s past at the end of the first paragraph.

And every time we saw her on the screen, right behind her was Rolf Carlé,who had gone there on assignment, never suspecting that he would find a fragment of his past, lost thirty years before

Rolf grew up in Europe where he was exposed to the atrocities of war. He saw evidence of his mother being abused and was forced to bury the dead in concentration camps. Ultimately, his mother sent him away, abandoning his sister.

The parallel to Azencia’s plight occurred when he was a young child. His father was an abusive man who used his belt as punishment on the young Rolf, and who locked him in a dark armoire for hours for deeds he did not commit. Those hours spent in the darkness with his eyes closed and his ears covered, so that he could escape the sound of his heartbeat, were torture. In addition, he had a sister, Katharina, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. She was a disappointment to her father but Rolf sheltered and protected her to escape their father’s outrage. Only when Azucena, who was buried in clay, released her fear of death was he able come to terms with his darkest days. Her plight allowed him to release the pain of his youth.

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