Book review: ‘Memory’
Vail CO, Colorado
It’s relatively simple to be drawn in by awards, especially when they litter the cover of a book so small and meek. Even if those awards are French, and you have never heard of them before, there is something impressive about them. The Prix Goncourt, The Prix Wizo, they just sound prestigious and impressive. Then again, being unaware of what they are, they could be the French equivalent of a Razzie for books for all we know. But if you take one minute to look into it you’ll find out that, in fact, those are some of the most sought after accolades a writer can garner in France. The Prix Goncourt is the equivalent of the French Nobel Prize in literature, and with the newly-translated “Memory,” author and psychoanalyst Philippe Grimbert shows just why he deserves such praise.
A speedy, yet profoundly impacting, 152-page novel doesn’t offer a lot of space for an author to introduce characters or much of a setting, yet Grimbert not only does that, he manages to create two worlds into which the reader falls into with no hope of escape until Grimbert decides it is time.
What you have is the slightly altered, yet shockingly true story of the author, a feeble and sickly boy who grows up in Paris in the shadows of World War II, with two physically flawless parents who seem to lack a past and subsequently, a strong connection to their only child. Grimbert’s response was to withdraw to the friendship of the family’s neighbor, Louise, and his make-believe older brother, who after a violent outburst in school one day, he comes to find out really did exist.
Grimbert takes the horrors of the Nazi invasion and makes them so personal and so vivid in their vague painfulness that even though he, as a narrator, wasn’t involved in the actual events because he wasn’t born yet, the story commands the readers respect from the second his childhood neighbor and confidant Louise begins to relate it. What starts as the story of a boy who is trying to understand himself morphs into the story of a family torn apart, and a young man who longs to find a way to not necessarily bring them together, just to make sure they don’t all crumble helplessly as they grow older.
Simple, flowing writing, with a beautiful message, Grimbert manages to tackle some of the most personal disasters that his and millions of other families were forced to experience, with grace and courage. Whatever the American equivalent may be, the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, Grimbert surely deserves it, and once you read this book, a place in your heart as well.
Andrew Fersch writes weekly book reviews for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments about this review to email@example.com. This book is available for purchase at the Bookworm of Edwards.
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