Lives Other Than My Own
Lives Other Than My Own
Metropolitan Books, Hardcover, 9780805092615, 256pp.
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
From the acclaimed Emmanuel Carrère, an act of generous imagination that unflinchingly records devastating loss and, equally vividly, the wealth of human solace that follows in its wake
In Sri Lanka, a tsunami sweeps a child out to sea, her grand-father helpless against the onrushing water. In France, a young woman succumbs to illness, leaving her husband and small children bereft. Present at both events, Emmanuel Carrère sets out to tell the story of two families—shattered and ultimately restored. What he accomplishes is nothing short of a literary miracle: a heartrending narrative of endless love, a meditation on courage and decency in the face of adversity, an intimate and reverent look at the extraordinary beauty and nobility of ordinary lives.
Precise, sober, and suspenseful, as full of twists and turns as any novel, Lives Other Than My Own confronts terrifying catastrophes to illuminate the astonishing richness of human connection: a grandfather who thought he had found paradise—too soon—and now devotes himself to helping his neighbors rebuild their village; a husband so in love with his ailing wife that he carries her in his arms like a knight does his princess; and finally, Carrère himself, longtime chronicler of the tormented self, who unexpectedly finds consolation and even joy as he immerses himself in the lives of others.
“Travelling in Sri Lanka in 2004, Carrère becomes close to a couple whose daughter dies in the tsunami. Upon his return to Paris, he learns that his girlfriend’s sister Juliette is dying of cancer. In this moving memoir, Carrère writes as ‘a witness to those two misfortunes,’ constructing an intimate history of each family before and after its loss. His prose is precise and measured, especially in the account of Juliette and her husband, and their ‘always new, always deeply moving’ love. Through interviews with friends and relatives of both families, Carrère creates powerful portraits that celebrate ordinary lives.”—The New Yorker “Gratifying and surprising... It is a book about the texture and resonance of loss, about how we live with and through immeasurable grief. It took me inside the nuances and crevices of experiences and ideas I had never given thought to before: French bankruptcy law, living without a limb, believing a loved one to be dead and gone and then being reunited. Carrère covers a lot of ground with cool honesty and careful humanity. I identified, completely.”—Sally Singer, The New York Times
“In Lives Other Than My Own, Emmanuel Carrère demonstrates that empathy can be the antidote to alienation, if we try for it. With the finely measured assurance of Chekhov, he achieves something altogether unexpected in modern literature: beatitude.”
—Gary Indiana, author of The Shanghai Gesture and Three Month Fever
“Yet again, Carrère has written a masterpiece. With his singular blend of reportage, detective fiction, and autobiography, he has produced an achingly beautiful, wholly unforgettable portrait of lives racked by tragedy and redeemed by love.”
—Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion
—Le Nouvel Observateur