COA/P Reading: Swiss Author Bernard Comment on October 29

by Sampsonia Way    /  October 10, 2012  / 1 Comment

The Shadow of Memory

Photo of Bernard Comment: © Mathieu Bourgois

  1. Bernard Comment Reads on October 29
  2. The reading at 330 Sampsonia Way is FREE, but space is limited. To RSVP email Erin Hutton with your name and the number in your party.
  3. Doors: 7:00 PM
  4. Reading: 7:30 PM
  5. Dessert, discussion: 8:30 PM

The Shadow of Memory, the debut novel from acclaimed Swiss author and editor Bernard Comment, is now available in English for the first time. Comment will be coming to Pittsburgh to read at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh on October 29.

The Shadow of Memory brings a fairy-tale premise into the modern world, where information–and its loss–can be a matter of life and death. A young man tormented by his feeble memory meets an elderly man, Robert, endowed with the recall of an elephant. Soon, in exchange for becoming his live-in servant, Robert agrees to allow his young protégé to inherit his prodigious memory upon his death. While this might seem a fair, if absurd, exchange, Robert’s demands become progressively macabre until the narrator is forced to decide what he is truly willing to sacrifice for the ability to remember.

Bernard Comment was born in Switzerland. He now lives and works in Paris, where he directs the prestigious Fiction & Cie imprint at Éditions du Seuil. He is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction, including the story collection Tout passe, which received the Prix du Goncourt de la nouvelle in 2011. He is Fiction Director for the noted French cultural radio station, France Culture, and was decorated by the French government in 2010 as an Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters.

Comment remembers the origins of The Shadow of Memory:

“At heart, memory has been the obsessive theme of my oeuvre, ever since my first novel, The Shadow of Memory, born from a long-lived suffering. It happens that when I was about twelve, I tripped on acid (LSD) several times, which literally left holes in my brain and my ability to remember. I felt then as if I were living on shifting sands, or rather on a beach, where footprints disappear with the next tide. For years I lived in mourning for my memory; it was, for example, impossible to memorize anything by heart. So writing, for me, was this stubborn regaining of the past, and of the ability to engrave time somewhere.

I remember the evening when the idea for this novel came to me, like an epiphany. I was driving back along Tuscan country roads from a dinner at the home of an old writer who was equipped with a phenomenal memory (he had all of Dante memorized), I was a bit demoralized, and suddenly this fictional idea came into my mind: an amnesia-stricken young man who inherits the memory of an old scholar. Like that. Suddenly. It’s the old dream: that memories wouldn’t disappear along with death. What justification for writing is there other than this ultimate dialectization of death?”

About the Author

Sampsonia Way is an online magazine sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh that seeks to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of life.

View all articles by Sampsonia Way

One Comment on "COA/P Reading: Swiss Author Bernard Comment on October 29"

  1. Jocelyne Albrecht October 25, 2012 at 11:49 am ·

    Unable to attend! I am a friend of Bertrand Theubet who collaborated with Bernard Comment in the past. Enjoy your visit in Pittsburgh!

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