Friday, November 15, 2013

Five top anti-memoir memoirs

Marco Roth is the author of The Scientists: A Family Romance. He named his five favorite anti-memoir memoirs for The Daily Beast. Roth asks -- "Is it possible to write a memoir about how you mistook your own life, about what you didn’t yet know or failed to see, and when you didn’t know it? About how your character and judgments were formed and how you came to unlearn that first and not always painful formation?"

One anti-memoir memoir on Roth's list:
Memoirs of an Egotist by Stendhal.

Written in 1832, when he was 49, and one year after the publication of The Red and the Black, Souvenirs d’Égotisme (perhaps better translated as Remembrances of an Egotist, since Stendhal avoided calling it un mémoire) is an account of a 10-year period in the author’s life which was spent mostly failing to write, failing to find a lover, failing to fit in to an increasingly socially and politically conservative Parisian society, failing to find employment, and ultimately failing to commit suicide. It’s a remarkable document of what Stendhal often calls “The Pursuit of Happiness,” written with his typical speed and self-undermining chattiness. A scene of impotence while visiting a famous Parisian prostitute wouldn’t be out of place in a Philip Roth novel. Looking back, Stendhal recognizes his failure as its own kind of happiness, “How many humiliations I’ve suffered! But if I’d been more astute, I’d have become disgusted to the point of nausea with women, and thus with music and painting. Instead of that, I have the good fortune to be as naïve as at the age of 25. This is why I will never blow my brains out from boredom with life.”
Read about the other entries on Roth's list.

--Marshal Zeringue