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Preeti Gill

BOOK OF MY MOTHER
By Albert Cohen
Rupa, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 124, Rs. 195.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 11 November 2005

This beautifully written memorial by Albert Cohen, the internation ally renowned author of Belle du Seigneur is part of the Rupa France  series which is co-edited by the Cultural Service of the French Embassy and Rupa & Co.       This is an effort to bring to the Indian reader some of the most outstanding works from a literary landscape that has been fairly unexplored since a great deal of modern French literature is either unavailable in India or is prohibitively priced. Rupa France offers the Indian reader a chance to read not only the classics but also unusual, odd voices often unheard, thereby creating a most relevant picture of modern France. Translated from the French by Bella Cohen, the author’s wife, the book carries a Foreword by David Coward, a professor of Modern French Literature and a translator himself. This book has been translated into 11 languages. As Coward says in his Foreword, “Book of my Mother is an achingly honest, autumnal book, generous in its humanity, composed with art but without guile, the sincerest tribute of a neglectful son.” It is a study in guilt, the guilt of a ‘neglectful son’ who takes his devoted, loving, caring, dowdy mother completely for granted and in fact is ashamed of her. But here in mourning her, he not only acknowledges her love, but grieves for his own lost childhood and for the irreparable mistakes he made. Cohen left France for London in 1940 to escape the Nazis and in 1943 he received the news that his mother had died in Marseilles. Unable to mourn her, he chose this way to express his grief. At last he introduces her to all his grand, impressive friends and acquaintances. “My darling, I am introducing you to everyone now, proud of you, proud of your oriental accent, proud of your incorrect French, passionately proud of your ignorance of fine ways.” He “hates that son!” that he once was, keeping her waiting for him on park benches her hands turning blue with cold while he loitered with beautous women. She’s gone now but he still wants her not to be dead, he demands hope and his writing these memoirs means she is with him as he remembers and recreates his life with her.       “Sons of mothers who are still alive, never again forget that your mothers are still alive, never again forget that your mothers are mortal…Be gentle ...


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