Perla

Frédéric Brun, trans. from the French by Sarah Gendron and Jennifer Vanderheyden. Univ. of Nebraska, $17.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-4962-0102-7
In Brun’s inquisitive novella, a son contemplates his mother’s traumatic life while preparing for fatherhood and pursuing his own aesthetic education. The unnamed narrator’s mother, Perla, was a Jewish Polish émigré to France and Auschwitz survivor, and her death “open[s] new doors” for the narrator, who resolves to explore her secrets and “moments of beauty [that] remain here on earth.” The narrator imagines his mother’s wartime years—her deportation to Auschwitz, her encounters with Josef Mengele—in scenes that are harrowing and restrained. Reeling from his mother’s death and ecstatic over his arriving child, he immerses himself in German Romanticism, specifically in the bildungsroman or coming-of-age novel, looking for some key to his range of intense, contradictory feelings and to a German culture “torn between harmony and dissonance, refinement and barbarity.” In these essayistic sections, the prose aims for the sublime but often seems merely inflated (“A majestic maple tree keeps vigil over my PowerBook, asking only to blossom open like a white flower”) or portentous (“‘I’ is a shadow. Literature is the portrait of shadows.”). Nonetheless, there is an appealing quality to the narrator’s quest to seek out truth and beauty even as he reckons with historical horror. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/07/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
Genre: Fiction
Audio Product - 978-1-4962-0297-0
Portable Document Format (PDF) - 978-1-4962-0298-7
Ebook - 978-1-4962-0296-3
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