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Another November [Paperback]

Roger Grenier , Alice Kaplan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Jun 1998
'"Another November" is about not so much the banality as the humble passivity of evil. The surface of this book that takes place during the German Occupation of France is limpid, insouciant; but the depths are troubled and troubling' - Edmund White. 'For all that is said about the novels of youth, conceived and written in hot youth, it is the irresistible heat of memories which creates a life. "Another November" is like a spell, full of underplayed memories, a short, sweet sermon on wartime love, loss, and uncertainty that will recall any modern reader to the business in hand: the business of getting on terms with everything we did, and everything our yearning, imperfect selves never quite pulled off' - Julian Evans.French writer Roger Grenier's stunning novel tells of a group of friends in the southwest of France whose lives are forever changed by the German Occupation. The moral failings of one of them, Charles Merlin, which at first seem trivial and personal, assume more sinister dimensions when he collaborates with the Nazis. The narrator of the novel, a member of the resistance, watches Charles' decline and gains a poignant education in his own failings as he tries to rescue the women in Charles' life. Roger Grenier, the author of thirty books of fiction and criticism, is known for his spare language and melancholy wit. For decades he has been a key figure in French letters. Alice Kaplan is a professor of Romance studies and literature at Duke University and the author, most recently, of "French Lessons: A Memoir".

Product details

  • Paperback: 86 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press (1 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803270720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803270725
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 11.9 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,730,468 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful memory of childhood during wartime 29 Oct 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Another November seems like it might be short and simple. But its unembellished prose carefully and powerfully conjures up images and memories of a troubled history. It is a serious story narrated by a man looking back on his childhood and young adulthood in a small town in southwestern France, and reflecting on the indelible mark left by the German Occupation on young lives. The author masterfully captures the complexity of political reality intersecting with childhood friendships and relationships -- political reality that includes class differences at first and extends to the clash between collaborators and the resistance, signaling the end of childhood. Though the narrator's style, on one level, seemed to keep me at a distance from the characters, seemingly uninvested in their personal struggles, ultimately I was left haunted by them and their choices and by the unsettling combination of normal everyday-ness and profound evil of the Occupation. Grenier makes us feel the way the war would change things forever; yet, he reminds us how some things remained business-as-usual. Eschewing detailed descriptions, he makes us feel the characters' pain and sense the reality of the war. The book is so effective and rewarding, I think, because of the sparse tone and careful turns-of-phrase that stayed with me even after I finished reading, and because of the subtlety of its cues as to what it meant to resist and what it meant to collaborate. It refuses to speak of the war in grandiose, familiar ways; instead, it focuses delicately on its effect on people who were neither its overt victims nor its villains. It makes the reader ponder the ambiguity between how the war changed the life of this small town forever and how life seemd to go on as before. It is a rich memoir of childhood and of war, where much of what was so disturbing about the period remains below the surface for the reader to uncover.
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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful memory of childhood during wartime 29 Oct 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Another November seems like it might be short and simple. But its unembellished prose carefully and powerfully conjures up images and memories of a troubled history. It is a serious story narrated by a man looking back on his childhood and young adulthood in a small town in southwestern France, and reflecting on the indelible mark left by the German Occupation on young lives. The author masterfully captures the complexity of political reality intersecting with childhood friendships and relationships -- political reality that includes class differences at first and extends to the clash between collaborators and the resistance, signaling the end of childhood. Though the narrator's style, on one level, seemed to keep me at a distance from the characters, seemingly uninvested in their personal struggles, ultimately I was left haunted by them and their choices and by the unsettling combination of normal everyday-ness and profound evil of the Occupation. Grenier makes us feel the way the war would change things forever; yet, he reminds us how some things remained business-as-usual. Eschewing detailed descriptions, he makes us feel the characters' pain and sense the reality of the war. The book is so effective and rewarding, I think, because of the sparse tone and careful turns-of-phrase that stayed with me even after I finished reading, and because of the subtlety of its cues as to what it meant to resist and what it meant to collaborate. It refuses to speak of the war in grandiose, familiar ways; instead, it focuses delicately on its effect on people who were neither its overt victims nor its villains. It makes the reader ponder the ambiguity between how the war changed the life of this small town forever and how life seemd to go on as before. It is a rich memoir of childhood and of war, where much of what was so disturbing about the period remains below the surface for the reader to uncover.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As time goes by 1 April 2014
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When the unnamed narrator was a boy -- about 1925, in Pau, France, near the Pyrenees -- Saint Martin's Fair was held every November, with lights, noise, candy, a carousel and other more exotic rides, and a Pierrot Noir (a clown dressed in black). In ANOTHER NOVEMBER, the narrator looks back on his life from the perspective of yet another Saint Martin's Fair, where he is accompanying the older sister of his boyhood friend, Charles Merlin, while she takes her grandchildren for rides on the carousel. Back when he was a boy, he started asking himself, "What is my life, what am I going to do with it?", and he continued to ask that question as the years passed. By book's end, however, he has stopped asking what he is going to do with his life. "Rather, I ponder what I've done with it." He then adds, "I've given up looking for a meaning of our era, never having found a way to justify it." That's a poignant comment, because the defining event in his life and those of his generation was World War II, which for him meant military service followed by participation in the Resistance during the Nazi occupation, whereas for his friend Charles Merlin it meant collaboration.

One aspect of ANOTHER NOVEMBER is the contrast between the lives of Charles Merlin and the narrator. Charles came from a family of wealth and high social status, the narrator from a family that operated a laundry with fading economic viability. The narrator often played second fiddle to Charles Merlin. Two girls to whom the narrator gave his heart opted instead for Charles, although one eventually married the narrator on the rebound (actually, a double ricochet). At one point, the narrator expresses a certain kinship for the back-up horse once used on the horse-drawn tramway to get up to Ménilmontant in Paris. Yet during the Nazi occupation Charles ended up a collaborator and the narrator in the Resistance. The narrator realizes in retrospect that with Charles collaboration was not a matter of ideology, but "only stupidity and cowardice". In other words, it was an accident of life, just like Charles and he coming from different social backgrounds. Contingency, rather than volition, has defined the narrator's life from November to November.

ANOTHER NOVEMBER is a wonderfully crafted miniature. The writing is spare and limpid. One is tempted to call it minimalist, but for the fact that it gracefully carries so much subdued emotion. There are several exquisite analogies. (In addition to the back-up horse on the Ménilmontant tramway, my other favorite involves the pine trees in a fog-enshrouded forest through which the narrator goes walking: "The pine trees still had wounds on their flanks and carried the little pots of terra cotta that gather the resin, or -- to use a more magic word -- the gemme. I knew that a pine can be 'tapped for life,' if the gash lets the tree live, or 'tapped to death,' if the operation kills it. That's the way it is with the hearts of lovers.")

Roger Grenier was born in 1919. He grew up in Pau and after being demobilized from the defeated French Army he participated in the Resistance. (He then went on to work at "Combat" under Albert Camus.) I don't know enough about his life to say in what other respects it resembles that of the narrator of ANOTHER NOVEMBER. In any event, the novella (it is only 86 pages) is an unknown gem. For those of us who are not action-addicts, reading it is a more rewarding (and memorable) use of two hours than would be viewing any but the very finest of movies.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Overlooked little gem 19 Feb 2007
By hh - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This novella has many things going for it. The author's sense of melancholy is superb and his spare, uncluttered writing wastes no space. Yet, while his simple, clean language moves you forward quickly, it leaves you holding souvenirs of every character you meet. And then there are the witty one-liners, such as this one about the change from times of affluence and ennui to austerity ("The good times when we wanted to die were already over.") The only downside to the piece is an aloof style that (reminiscent of Vidal's The Golden Age) keeps you from getting too close to anyone. It isn't haughtiness, just self-protection, but still.
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