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Memory

Memory

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Twenty years after his mother and father jumped to their deaths from a balcony, Philippe Grimbert has written a gripping novel about the hidden memories that dominated their lives.

A colossal bestseller in Europe, Memory is the story of a family haunted by the secret of their past: an illicit love affair, a lost child, and a devastating betrayal dating back to the Second World War.

The day after my fifteenth birthday, I finally learned what I had always known....

Growing up in postwar Paris as the sickly only child of glamorous athletic parents, the narrator invents for himself a make-believe older brother, stronger and more brilliant than he can ever be. It is only when the boy begins talking to an old family friend that he comes to realize that his imaginary sibling had a real predecessor: a half brother whose death in the concentration camps is part of a buried family secret that he was intended never to uncover.

A spare, erotic, and ultimately cathartic narrative, Memory is a mesmerizing tale of coming to terms with one's shameful past through the unraveling of a series of dark desires.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 176 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416560005 | 
  • December 2008
List Price $12.99
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Reading Group Guide

Psychoanalyst Philippe Grimbert has written a fictionalized account of his discovery, at the age of fifteen, of the secret of his parents' past. Growing up in the years just after the Nazi occupation of France, the protagonist, who shares the author's name, lives in a world of secrets and loud silences. Even his last name, changed from Grinberg to Grimbert, conceals a hidden truth -- his family is Jewish. As a teenager, Philippe slowly pieces together the truth about his origins: his father, Maxime, had been married to another woman, Hannah, before his mother. Hannah and Maxime had had a son, Simon. Philippe has grown up unaware of his parents' secret but nevertheless sensing the shadow of these absent others, and haunted by his father's silent comparisons of him to his dead older brother.
Grimbert's richly psychological novel explores the impact of shame and secrecy on Philippe's emerging sense of self. As Philippe imagines different versions of his parents' story, he exposes the complexities of desire and loss, grief and repression that have shaped their lives. Lyrically evocative of both the fear permeating Vichy France and the tense silence of the postwar years, Memory is a powerful statement about the devastation wrought by repression and the liberating power of the truth.

Questions for Discussion
1. Philippe imagines two versions of his parents' story. In both cases many details are supplied by his imagination. What are th see more

About the Author

Philippe Grimbert
O. Roller

Philippe Grimbert

Philippe Grimbert is a psychoanalyst. He is the author of several works of nonfiction and a novel, Paul’s Little Dress. He lives in Paris.

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