cover image The American

The American

Franz-Olivier Giesbert, , trans. from the French by Barbara Johnson. . Pantheon, $21 (151pp) ISBN 978-0-375-42367-3

This is "a story I have been careful never to tell myself," says Giesbert, a political journalist and former editor of France's Le Figaro , "for fear I wouldn't be able to stand it." It's the tale of two Americans: the father who suffered the D-Day landing and later made Normandy his home; and his son, the author, born in the U.S. and raised in France. Giesbert's American grandmother remembers her son returning from the war somber and angry after "having survived so many friends he saw dying and had to leave behind." This led, regularly, to wife and child beating. Giesbert, however, remembers "my hatred for him, which, up until his death, ruined everything in me, my lucidity and my humanity, and spoiled all the occasions we had to make up." While deeply moving in passages (e.g., the re-creation of his father's D-Day trauma), the memoir feels claustrophobic. Although Giesbert's exorcism concludes with his decision "to love everyone, even my enemies, and to live every day, every encounter, every conversation, as though it were my last," the palpable taste of hatred lingers even as an odor of regret pervades this work—a sort of love story where the three little words are "I hate you." (Dec.)