The Shadow of Memory

Bernard Comment, trans. from the French by Betsy Wing. Dalkey Archive, $22 (206p) ISBN 978-1-56478-787-3
Comment’s novel, originally published in France in 1990 and now appearing in English for the first time, is a house of cards that collapses before it’s complete. To combat his faulty memory, the book’s unnamed narrator takes to filling his computer with the available documented history of the cultural past in order to better situate himself in the present. While doing research, he meets Robert, an intriguing old man with an expansive and insatiable memory, who, seeing in the narrator a gullible dupe, reels him into an impossible and cruel project of his own, offering in exchange to bequeath his memory to the young man. Frustratingly, the nature of the narrator’s dilemma—namely the absurdity of it—is apparent long before he catches on, and despite Comment’s spry prose, the trip to the inevitable tragic end slows to a crawl before finally arriving. Along the way, the Swiss-born Comment (The Panorama) cleverly looks at the ways in which memory can dominate and distort perceptions of the present, but it’s not enough to keep the book afloat. Agent: Christian Bourgois. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/10/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Paperback - 205 pages - 978-1-56478-843-6
Ebook - 180 pages - 978-1-56478-822-1
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