Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Philippe Grimbert

From a Q & A with Philippe Grimbert, author of Memory, at the publisher's website:

1. The story depicted in Memory so closely resembles your own -- why did you choose to call it a novel rather than a memoir?

I had no choice! My family history contained so many gaps that the novel (my favorite genre) was the only possible way of overcoming them. If I had been a historian, I would doubtless have chosen another way to explore this secret. And, paradoxically, creating a novel gave me an intimate sense of having re-established the truth of this personal, familial journey.

2. Constructing the narrative of a once-secret past seems to serve an important therapeutic function for the fictional Philippe. Was the process of writing this novel similarly therapeutic for you? How do you understand the relationship between writing and psychoanalysis?

The narrator of Memory does take a journey that one could describe as therapeutic, in so far as he exorcises the ghosts of the past in order to become a proper adult subject, released from a guilt that didn't belong to him but whose weight he was nonetheless carrying. For me personally, it was not the writing of the novel itself that was therapeutic, but the psychoanalytic journey that I undertook as part of my training. My own analysis gave me the opportunity to consign my family history to its proper place, which is probably what allowed me, many years later, to write it with the necessary detachment. My work as a psychoanalyst enriches my writing on a daily basis -- not by drawing on my patients' stories (which I would never allow myself to do), but rather because it familiarizes me with the complexities of the human psyche, and the conflicts and contradictions within all of us.
Read more of the Q & A.

--Marshal Zeringue