Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Memory by Philippe Grimbert
Memory is an interesting book. It apparently is the fictionalized true story of the author (a psychoanalyst) who was born in post WWII France and raised by his parents there. The parents had a small shop and in the same building was their good friend Louise, who was like a close aunt to the boy. The first line of the novel is “Although I was an only child, for many years I had a brother.” And so begins the story.
The author’s family history was hidden from him for many years until at age 15, he learned the truth from Louise, who could no longer keep it from him. While reading the book, I kept thinking of collective memory and how at some level this boy knew that there had been another child. When he was young, he had been in their attic with his mother and found an old stuffed toy that he would carry around with him. He must have gotten pretty clear messages from his parents not to ask questions about the past. He invented an older brother while he was young and established quite an imaginary life for the brother, who was all that he was not. And when the truth was revealed, none of the imaginary life was imaginary…it was real.
Twenty years after his mother and father jumped to their deaths from a balcony, Philippe Grimbert has written a gripping novel about the hidden memories that dominated their lives. A colossal bestseller in Europe, Memory is the story of a family haunted by the secret of their past: an illicit love affair, a lost child, and a devastating betrayal dating back to the Second World War.
The day after my fifteenth birthday, I finally learned what I had always known...Growing up in postwar Paris as the sickly only child of glamorous athletic parents, the narrator invents for himself a make-believe older brother, stronger and more brilliant than he can ever be. It is only when the boy begins talking to an old family friend that he comes to realize that his imaginary sibling had a real predecessor: a half brother whose death in the concentration camps is part of a buried family secret that he was intended never to uncover.
A spare, erotic, and ultimately cathartic narrative, Memory is a mesmerizing tale of coming to terms with one's shameful past through the unraveling of a series of dark desires.
--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.
The book only took a couple of hours to read. It is a very small book, but quite intriguing. I recommend it.