Tales of Innocence and Experience: An Exploration

Tales of Innocence and Experience: An Exploration

by Eva Figes
     
 

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'This is a story of childhood, of innocence and its fragility. Of the particular bond between the very old and the very young, living on the edge, sharing the moment. It is a special kind of love story. The wolf, anyhow, is always part of the plot.'

Tales of Innocence and Experience is a captivating exploration of the relationship between a

Overview

'This is a story of childhood, of innocence and its fragility. Of the particular bond between the very old and the very young, living on the edge, sharing the moment. It is a special kind of love story. The wolf, anyhow, is always part of the plot.'

Tales of Innocence and Experience is a captivating exploration of the relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter as a second baby is about to be born. Alive to the special sweetness of this relationship, Eva Figes also explores the darker side of childhood. How in fairy tales such as 'Snow White', 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'Hänsel and Gretel' difficult emotions like jealousy and anger, fear of death and abandonment are evoked and transformed by the storyteller's art.

When the little girl begins asking innocent questions about her grandmother's own childhood, she unwittingly opens a door into the past. We are told the tale of the author's privileged Berlin childhood, which was brutally shattered when her family escaped from the Nazis to England, leaving her grandparents behind. But now she is so deep in the forest of the past she finds she must confront the demons that have haunted her since, as a thirteen-year-old, she came to understand how those beloved grandparents died.
The relationship between innocence and experience is complex. So while the inquisitive child opens a door into the dark, by doing so she also allows her grandmother the chance we all seek to sneak back into the garden of innocence.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
There's nothing cute about the British writer Eva Figes' account of grandparenthood, however. In a book with a title that echoes Blake, Tales of Innocence and Experience: An Exploration, we find our first serious exploration of grandmotherhood, and it is not recommended for the faint of heart. — Barbara Ehrenreich
The Los Angeles Times
In her latest book, novelist and cultural critic Eva Figes portrays the thoughts, feelings and troubled memories of a grandmother confronting the joyful, all-too-fragile innocence of her very young granddaughter. More memoir than novel, Tales of Innocence and Experience is a lyrical yet reflective meditation on a cluster of recurrent, intertwining themes. — Merle Rubin
Publishers Weekly
In this dark and light book, Figes (Patriarchal Attitudes; Waking; etc.) juxtaposes the misery of escaping Nazi Germany as a child and leaving her grandparents behind with the simple goodness of her relationship with her inquisitive granddaughter. "This is a story of childhood, of innocence and its fragility. Of the particular bond between the very old and the very young, living on the edge, sharing the moment. It is a special kind of love story," she writes. Figes is undoubtedly at her best writing about the unique humility and tremendous joy of becoming a grandparent. Her perspective on the cycle of life is poetic and wise without being preachy: "The earth on which we move is circular, the horizon bends. Time, like memory, is a mystery, and in our beginning is our end. Holding my hand in hers, my child's child completes the cycle, leads me homeward." Her message becomes murky, however, when she recounts the unimaginable torment of a childhood bisected by war. Her handling of that subject is so elliptical it's difficult to understand the events she's describing, beyond understanding that they have been the source of tremendous heartbreak. (Apr. 2) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Novelist and feminist Figes borrows from Blake, the Bible, the brothers Grimm, and Kafka to help frame her lyrical observations about innocence, evil, childhood, and Eden lost. As a child, the author fled from Germany to England in 1939. In this often lovely collection of snippets, ruminations, and lamentations, Figes (The Tree of Knowledge, 1991, etc.) permits that story of her flight (and loss) to emerge gradually as she rediscovers through her young granddaughter the innocence and charms of childhood. The author begins with the little girl’s question, "What was the best Christmas present you ever had?" and ends as grandmother and child look at their reflections in a small lake. In between, Figes reads fairy tales to her granddaughter, with special attention to "Little Red Riding Hood," "Hänsel and Gretel," and "Snow White." The volume appears to be an unexpurgated Grimm: at one point, Figes launches into "The Juniper Tree," then--too late!--realizes the story involves the decapitation of a child and some inadvertent cannibalism. These fairy tales give the author occasions for comment and creation. She wonders why we fashion stories to frighten children, she comments on the varieties of wolves (Nazis qualify) that roam our modern world, she examines the significance of the forest primeval in our imaginations, sees the similarities between Eden and faërie, finds herself attempting to answer unanswerable questions from a curious child. In a few dazzling passages Figes imagines what might have occurred after the stories have ended: a grown Red Riding Hood talks with her bitter mother about Grandmother, who should have known better; Hänsel and Gretel never turn needy children away fromtheir door. She also writes with passion about history, global and personal, as in this description of a postwar Easter egg hunt: "Straight from Dachau, my emaciated father hid chocolate eggs in alien bushes." Limpid, provocative reminders that wolves prowl among us and lamb remains a favored food.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781582342597
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
03/05/2003
Edition description:
1ST US
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.28(w) x 8.16(h) x 1.02(d)

Meet the Author

Eva Figes was born in Berlin and came to London as a child in 1939. She is the author of the feminist classic Patriarchal Attitudes. Her many novels include, Waking, Ghost, and Nelly's Version.

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