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Coen, S.J. (2009). Reading Memoirs of Childhood: Childhood by Leo Tolstoy translated by Michael Scammell. Modern Library, New York, NY, 2002W, or The Memory of Childhood by Georges Perec translated by David Bellos David R. Godine, Boston, MA, 1988Rue Ordener, Rue Labat by Sarah Kofman translated by Ann Smock University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, and London, 1996Childhood by Nathalie Sarraute translated by Barbara Wright George Braziller, New York, NY, 1984. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 90(1):145-156.

(2009). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 90(1):145-156

Book Review Essays

Reading Memoirs of Childhood: Childhood by Leo Tolstoy translated by Michael Scammell. Modern Library, New York, NY, 2002W, or The Memory of Childhood by Georges Perec translated by David Bellos David R. Godine, Boston, MA, 1988Rue Ordener, Rue Labat by Sarah Kofman translated by Ann Smock University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, and London, 1996Childhood by Nathalie Sarraute translated by Barbara Wright George Braziller, New York, NY, 1984

Review by:
Stanley J. Coen

Memoirs of childhood are a distinct literary genre, a form of autobiography. Autobiography requires readers to accept the convention that, in some way, the text describes aspects of the author's life. Once upon a time, autobiography (e.g. St Augustine's or Jean-Jacques Rousseau's Confessions) was supposed to be veridical - telling the story of a person's life. But French literary critics of the past four decades have been contending that (disempowered) writers need to subvert traditional expectations of autobiography. If, as some argue, traditional fiction and autobiography are dead, then they must be radically reinvented. Fiction requires new forms, new names - the ‘nouveau roman’ - as does autobiography - the ‘nouvelle autobiographie’, ‘autofiction’, ‘self-writing’, ‘life writing’. Writers of fiction and of autobiography will engage their readers in unexpected and disconcerting ways. Literary devices will keep readers from easily being able to believe and follow an author's account. It becomes difficult to determine how to connect author and narrator.

Memoirists

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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