Memory

Philippe Grimbert, Author, Polly McLean, Translator
Philippe Grimbert, Author, Polly McLean, Translator , trans. from the French by Polly McLean. Simon & Schuster $19.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-4165-5999-3
Reviewed on: 11/12/2007
Release date: 02/01/2008
Paperback - 154 pages - 978-1-4165-6000-5
Open Ebook - 160 pages - 978-1-4165-6041-8
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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. (Feb.)

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