Memory by Philippe Grimbert

Although Philippe Grimbert’s book,  Memory, claims to be a novel, the story has the ring of truth.

Although an only child, for many years I had a brother. Holiday friends and casual acquaintances had no option but to take my word for it. I had a brother. Stronger and better looking. An older brother, invisible and glorious.

Grimbert’s novel is the story of a family. The narrator, a sickly child of  athletic and beautiful parents whose “every muscle had been buffed and toned”, recounts the family’s history as it is told to him by, Louise,  a woman who runs a sort of homeopathic consulting business in two rooms in the same building as the narrator’s parents have their whole sportswear business.

It is clear from the beginning that the family is Jewish and that their story has been deeply affected by the Nazi’s.  It is Louise who unspools the narrative for the boy after he discovers  a toy dog in an attic filled with suitcases and furniture.

Memory is a scant 145 pages long, but it packs a punch as, I think, all personal stories about Hitler’s regime do.  It won numerous prizes and was a bestseller in France. Despite its claim of being fiction, it is impossible to deny its ring of authenticity and the knowledge that some (if not all) might have happened gives the book even more emotional heft.

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