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Book of My Mother
     

Book of My Mother

by Albert Cohen, Bella Cohen (Translator)
 

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Shortly after Albert Cohen left France for London to escape the Nazis, he received news of his mother’s death in Marseille. Unable to mourn her, he expressed his grief in a series of moving pieces for La France libre, which later grew into Book of My Mother. Achingly honest, intimate, and moving, this love song is a tribute to all mothers

Overview

Shortly after Albert Cohen left France for London to escape the Nazis, he received news of his mother’s death in Marseille. Unable to mourn her, he expressed his grief in a series of moving pieces for La France libre, which later grew into Book of My Mother. Achingly honest, intimate, and moving, this love song is a tribute to all mothers. Cohen himself expressed, "I shall not have written in vain if one of you, after reading my hymn of death, is one evening gentler with his mother because of me and my mother."

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Book of My Mother is a sturdy in guilt, an act of contrition, for in mourning his mother he grieves for his own lost childhood… It is an achingly honest, autumnal book, generous in its humanity, composed with art but without guile, the sincerest tribute of a neglectful son. —David Coward

You must read this extraordinary testimony. —Le Figaro

This book made me cry and taught me one of the truths of writing: the most successful book is the one that cuts to the heart of the fragility of the writer, and of Man. —Alain Mabanckou

Brilliant . . . A miracle of patience and suppleness. —London Review of Books

I do not think anyone has ever written anything more beautiful, more deeply and soberly moving, about a mother and the feelings of tenderness, regret, and even remorse that she can inspire. —Le Voix du Nord

A masterpiece. A unique book that will endure. A most beautiful love story. —Marcel Pagnol

That anything so sad can also be witty and sublimely comic makes Mrs. Cohen [the mother] into a triumph of literature. —Nick DiMartino, Shelf Awareness

A gold-plated, cherry-on-top classic in France... Characters [are] rendered with eye-popping, Rabelaisian detail and touching vulgarity... Its unspooling comedy of manners; its first-ideal-then-smothering love affair all lead the reader to still-huger questions: how can we love humans, obsessed as they are with power? How can we reconcile reason and faith? —The Kenyon Review

You must read this book. —Jacques Brenner, Paris-Normandie

One of the most beautiful love stories ever written. —Paris-Match

A most moving and delicate love song..—Le Figaro

I read Livre de ma mere twice. This heartrending book haunts you. I just had to go back to it. —Emile Henriot, Academie Francaise, Le Monde

You must read this extraordinary testimony of a son. Never before has a writer spoken of his mother like Albert Cohen. —Andre Billy, Academie Goncourt, Le Figaro

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Translated by the author's wife almost 50 years after its original French publication, this valediction for the author's mother now appears in English for the first time. Cohen (Belle de Seigneur) begins his memoirs almost reluctantly, telling himself to "whistle softly to imagine things are not all that bad, and above all smile." The resulting portrait is of a passionately devoted mother who sold her jewels for her son's spending-money, but also of an outcast, a "timid child with her over-plump face pressed hungrily against the window of the cake shop of social life." Cohen is by turns reverential (she was "a true saint"), embarrassed ("So awkward, poor darling") and self-pitying ("God loves me so little that I am ashamed for Him"). Although his attitudes toward his dead mother are complex, descriptions of her inner life dwell cartoonishly on motherly devotion: "Like a good and faithful dog, she accepted her humble fate, which was to wait, alone in my flat and sewing for me." In this intensely public forum, Cohen seems to be coming to grips with his mother's death through all the typical stages of mourning--numbness, denial, anger, guilt--with pen in hand. Although this process is not without its bouts of melodrama ("O Maman, my youth that is no more!"), other outbursts powerfully reflect a disgust with mortality and a baffled sense of abandonment. Certain phrases ("My mother's love," "Nevermore") are repeated like incantations, or because, Cohen, says, "that is what ruminating grief is like, its jaws weakly in perpetual motion." This is a heartbreaking little volume, worth reading twice. (Nov.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781935744337
Publisher:
Steerforth Press
Publication date:
03/30/2012
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
180
Sales rank:
1,378,061
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 6.50(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

Every man is alone and no one cares a rap for anyone and our sorrows are a desert island. Yet why should I not seek comfort tonight as the sounds of the street fade away, seek comfort tonight in words? Oh, poor lost creature who sits at his table seeking com- fort in words, at his table with the phone off the hook for he fears the outside, and at night with the phone off the hook he feels like a king, safe from the spiteful outside, so soon spiteful, gratuitously spiteful.

What a strange little joy, sad and limping yet sweet as a sin or a drink on the sly. What a joy even so to be writing just now, alone in my kingdom and far from the swine. Who are the swine? Do not expect me to tell you. I want no trouble with those from outside.

Meet the Author

Abert Cohen was born on the island of Corfu in 1895. He emigrated to France at the age of five on a passport issued by the Ottoman Empire and was raised in Marseilles. Although he chose to become a Swiss citizen after completing law school in Geneva, he claims that his true homeland was the French language. Cohen's tragicomic novels Solal, Mangeclous, Belle de Seigneur, and Les Valeureux attempt to reconnect man to his lost humanity. Belle du Signeur was awarded the French Academy's Grand Prix du Roman.

Bella Cohen was born in London on 1919. During WWII, she worked at the Free French Headquarters and with the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. She met Albert Cohen in 1943 and shared a life with him from 1947 until his death in 1981. Her translation of Book of My Mother was a labor of love.

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