Posts Tagged ‘France’
March 27, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
March 8, 2013 | by Mike Duncan and Jason Novak
February 25, 2013 | by Sarah Gerard
To call Marie Chaix’s work autobiographical would be incomplete, though most of her books tell and retell the stories of her life. Her writing is porous and breathes memory, attesting to memory’s transience and the impressions it leaves on the body.
At the age of twenty-six, Chaix read the notebooks her father had kept during his ten years in prison following World War II. Unbeknownst to her family, he’d been the right-hand man of pro-German Fascist collaborator Jacques Doriot and had fought in the Wehrmacht beside him. This was a shock and became the topic of Chaix’s first book, The Laurels of Lake Constance. Like many of Chaix’s works, it hovers somewhere between memoir and fiction. In June, Dalkey Archive Press will publish The Summer of the Elder Tree, translated by Chaix’s husband, Harry Mathews. It concerns her ten-year hiatus from writing following the death of her editor and reincorporates many of the places she visited in The Laurels of Lake Constance and in her second book, Silences, or a Woman’s Life, which Dalkey published late last year.
Chaix spoke to me on the phone from her home in Key West.
As someone who writes a lot of autobiography, do you believe that a story is preexisting—that a writer’s job is to find it, retrieve it, and record it—or is there some invention in autobiography?
Well, I didn’t realize it before writing, but in general I discovered that, even if you have characters that you know very well—even if you write about yourself, about your “life,” your memories—the result is exactly the same as if it was fiction. I think that readers know that it’s autobiographical because writers care when it’s autobiographical, but they read it and think about themselves, which is what happened to me.
But I think writing doesn’t work like that, you know? Of course, you have a motive, you have yourself, you have your family. But they become completely—and even yourself—you become completely part of a larger world, a larger story. Read More »
November 2, 2012 | by Jason Novak
The first European in my mother’s family to set foot in North America was a short, olive-skinned Frenchman from one of the outermost communes of greater Paris. He fled France amidst the turmoil following the revolution of 1848 for the gold fields of California and chased an elusive mother lode all the way up the coast into Alaska before giving up. He was an exact contemporary of the early Impressionists, and a full generation older than Marcel Proust. He spent the final years of his life a broken man, having outlived two of his three children, and subsisting on a homesteaded vineyard in the Santa Cruz mountains long before California wine was a profitable industry.
The only relic of him my family still possesses is a stack of letters spanning thirty years from his sister, Geneviève, imploring him to come home. A Parisian relation visiting his cabin in the 1890s noted that he wept at the thought of his homeland. As far as I know, he shares no direct connection with Proust, but the world he came from is Proust’s world, and seemed to me, as a child, enchanted when contrasted with the drab California suburb I grew up in. Sadness is a condition that can ripple across many generations, and if his was earned through the loss of a time and place, mine was inherited from the ruined family that struggled to make sense of his mournful legacy.
But his still-hopeful departure from Le Havre for the new World in 1852 would have been immediately preceded by a train ride from Paris through Normandy – a train ride through the same countryside that left Proust enraptured on his childhood sojourns to Illiers-Combray. What follows is an illustration of that train ride, as recounted in Proust’s sprawling lifework, À la recherche du temps perdu. This passage occurs in Part Three of the First Volume and constitutes but a few rich, supple pages.
Jason Novak works at a grocery store in Berkeley, California, and changes diapers in his spare time.
August 23, 2012 | by Harry Mathews
In 1970 I was living in France full-time, partly in Paris, partly in a mountain village on the fringe of the Alps. In that year I had the good fortune of becoming friends with the author Georges Perec, who had acquired a modicum of fame when his original first novel, Les Choses (Things), was awarded the Prix Renaudot, one of France’s prestigious literary prizes. Georges had read the French galleys of my own first novel shortly before it was published; he wrote me a short but enthusiastic note about it, which I gratefully answered. After an exchange of phone calls, we agreed to meet one autumn evening at the Bar du Pont Royal on Rue du Montalembert, where we drank five vodkas together, followed by a good dinner nearby. By the end of the evening we were fast friends. And he was the best of friends—smart, sensitive (at once funny and depressive), as loyal as the rising sun.
At the time, Georges was uncertain about what to do next as a writer. An editorial assistant at his publisher suggested he translate my second novel. After the in-house readers of English-language manuscripts had given the book unanimously negative reports, Georges decided to accept the task anyway and did the work on spec. The publisher accepted the novel as soon as he read Georges’s French version. A few years later, for another publisher, Georges produced a brilliant translation of my third novel. He also translated the first poems I published in France.
August 15, 2012 | by Joanna Neborsky
As Catalogued by M. Lemoel on May 20, 1880, Twelve Days after the Writer's Death.