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.
In this slim, bleak second novel, French psychoanalyst Grimbert fictionalizes his wrenching family history, hidden for much of his youth. Born a sickly child in post-WWII Paris, Grimbert's narrator, "Philippe Grimbert," develops an obsessive fascination with the lithe, muscular bodies and athletic prowess of his beautiful parents. His fantasy life extends to an imaginary brother who at first offers comfort and protection, but soon becomes a way for the young narrator to vent his frustration with his own weakness and pallor. At 15, a violent altercation with a schoolroom bully over a lesson on Holocaust victims results in the revelation of his origins: Grimbert, the narrator's family's name, was once Grinberg, and the story of his parents' romantic retreat to the country during the war is shattered by a heartbreaking story of betrayal and sacrifice in occupied France. For Grimbert, the aftermath of WWII forced survivors into prisons of their own memories and denial, "bound together by an impossible grief." The story is powerful and gripping, but the juxtaposition between young Philippe's fantasy life and adult wartime realities is underdeveloped. Readers will share in the catharsis of Grimbert's revelations, but may feel a lingering emptiness once his family's secrets have been fully purged.
A fascinating, revealing story about a terrible, unforgivable time.