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Lives Other Than My Own: A Memoir

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  2,456 ratings  ·  300 reviews
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
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ebook, 256 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Metropolitan Books (first published 2009)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,456 ratings  ·  300 reviews


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Adam Dalva
Sep 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Devotees may have noticed that I’ve been reading Carerre this summer – there’s something hypnotic to his styling, a suspense in seeing how his life unfolds. This is a great distillation of his auto-biographical essay form, and the best of his “minor” books, far superior to MY LIFE AS A RUSSIAN NOVEL. As I consider his output since 1999, it seems that he spends years on books about his complex, enigmatic men with his memoir briefly shining through, and then suddenly explodes with a connective tis ...more
Kathryn
Feb 03, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, memoir
The first third of the book (a description of the aftermath of the tsunami is Sri Lanka and its effects on a family who lost their child) was really compelling, but as soon as the author got into the story of his sister-in-law and her death from cancer, my interest waned. The author's egocentrism and self-congratulation were kind of funny at first, but soon got really, really old. How much can you insert yourself into the story of someone else's death when you barely knew her? And what is the po ...more
Lee Klein
The first fifty pages about the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami hitting an idyllic Sri Lankan beach town were riveting, harrowing, incredible reading. So good, so devastating (I don't use that word to describe books that don't actually describe literal devastation like this and create a deeply empathetic/wrecked state in the reader, the sort where you have to put the book down because it's too much). But the rest of it, about two French judges, both with paralyzed legs, one who survived cancer, one who ...more
Jeff Jackson
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Experiments in empathy and portraits of overcoming horrific grief. Engagingly written and structured in a slyly sophisticated manner to maximize the emotional impact without devolving into sentimentalism. Recommended.
Kate
May 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-books, acob
This memoir was discussed several times on the New York Times Book Review podcast over the past 6 months or so and seemed to be liked by all the editors. I knew it started with the 2003 tsunami in Indonesia, but I had no idea what came after in the story. Unexpectedly, this became a very personal story for me and I never would have thought I would have much in common with a French male writer. So well-written, I never would have picked this up on my own as grief memoir is not a favorite genre, b ...more
Matt
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Carrere's earlier books, namely "The Adversary" and "The Mustache," are probably more memorable long term, but this one took a larger emotional toll. As a married father of young children, I realize I'm precisely the type of reader most vulnerable to these two tales of grief though. As he writes late in the book:

“Every day for six months I deliberately spent several hours at the computer writing about what frightens me the most on this earth: the death of a child for her parents and the death of
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Claire McAlpine
Mar 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, france
Familiar with the phrase 'truth can be stranger than fiction'; here I am left with the feeling that 'truth can be as compelling as fiction'.

Emmanuel Carrère was on holiday in Sri Lanka with his girlfriend when the tsunami struck, they had been considering separating and then found themselves in a whirlwind period where the relative significance of these reflections was crushed by that incoming wave and the devastation it wreaked on others.

"Everything that has happened in those five days and was
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Holly
Dec 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011-reads
Something about this book felt slightly different and strange, offbeat, innovative, perhaps just "French"? Carrere simply sets out to tell the stories of a few other human beings whose lives intersected with his own around the mid-2000s. They aren't biographical accounts at all - it reads more like a memoir, although Carrere doesn't divulge all that much about his own life. Another Goodreads reviewer thought the author's egocentrism and self-congratulation were a problem. I disagree and didn't s ...more
Karen
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2012, book-club
I have only just finished this book and am perhaps reviewing too early as I haven't had time to fully reflect yet. My initial thoughts are that the stories are well written and easy to read. I couldn't put it down at first, the retelling of the tsunami was terrible but gripping. I found it amazing how one side of the road could be untouched while the seaward side was devastated. How lucky was the author and his family to have changed their plans. Unfortunately the writing style and subject matte ...more
Speranza
Jul 27, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: personal-library
I read "The Adversary" a long time ago and remember being so perplexed by the story that the writing kind of faded into the background.

I was perplexed by the author this time - an egocentric sensationalist with zero fantasy and limited writing skill.
Maybe I am doing him injustice, and he has written some great fiction that doesn't center around real life mass murderers, tsunami victims and people dying of cancer, but I don't think I will ever find out. And somehow, I have a sneaking suspicion t
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Daria
2.75 stars, maybe. It's a difficult book to judge; it's written by a novelist who knows what he's doing, and so, although the claim is, "Tout y est vrai," the true stories within are undoubtedly romanticized with the intention of toying with the emotions of the reader. The romanticism - and this book might as well be the ultimate definition of the word; all the unbearable tragedy, all the applauding of the perseverance of the human spirit and the depth of love, and so on and on - is, yes, very w ...more
Mowmow
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: to-think
I remember I was a bit surprised about the tsunami part. It is a bit disconnected from the rest of the book and make it as succession of misfurtune, which is not what is interesting in this book.

What marked me a lot is the second part when they are back in France. The story of how Juliette handle her cancer, the friendship and family relations the characters have together. We feel close to the characters and they are truthfully? authentic? persons that endure life but take care of each other. It
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Alex
Sep 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A succession of grief and suffering as seen through two unconnected experiences in the authors life. The Sri Lankan Tsunami leads to the death of a young girl, leaving behind a devastated family left to wonder the question which has no answer: "why us?" The narrative then pivots to terminal diagnosis from cancer of the authors sister in law. Written in the authors voice, the writing is emotive yet chilly - like a journalist reporting on a story than a participant in two tragic events that remind ...more
Ayelet Waldman
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I just love the way he plays with the concept of memoir.
Haley
Jan 26, 2018 rated it liked it
I found this memoir to be very different, honest and intimate. The structure is strange - the first third or so of the novel focuses on the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which the author witnessed as a tourist in Sri Lanka, while the remaining portion focused on the death of his 33 year old sister-in-law from cancer. Near the end of the novel, Carrère elucidates the connection between these events:
"Every day for six months I deliberately spent several hours at the computer writing abo
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Stephen Durrant
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
"I prefer what I have in common with other people to what sets me apart from them" (242). This is one conclusion of Emmanuel Carrère's deeply affecting narrative "Lives Other than My Own" (D'autres vies que la mienne). Within a few short years, Carrère, a French writer and cineaste, experienced the death of a friend's young daughter in the Sri Lanka tsunami and the death of his companion's sister, a mother of three young daughters, from cancer. These events constitute the heart of a writing proj ...more
Rebecka
I can't really make up my mind about this one. It is very well written, the language is beautiful and the title is awesome, but while reading the book I didn't really care about the theme. It's a weird theme, writing about the grief of people around you, beginning with one event and then, quite accidentally, slipping into another one, which ends up with lots of court/justice matters... it's a weird book, actually, but once I finished it, I really liked it. Not in the way that I would read it aga ...more
Susannah

I have just ré-read this book three years later, actually having no recollection of reading it before. Which is surprising, as it made an impression on me this time round, mainly with regard to the young mum's death and discussion around and about this topic. Extremely detailed insight into what thoughts went through this woman's mind when she knew she was dying - what she went through during her first night in hospital with her diagnosis, how she - and Etienne considered their cancer - as a 'p
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Kelsey
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
While the beginning of this book was very intriguing and provided a fascinating look into the feelings of grief experienced by a couple who lost their daughter in the tsunami of 2007, the bulk of the book was dry and boring. The author went into exhaustive detail about the French judicial system and focused on minutia related to court cases instead of on the broader themes of grief, compassion, and empathy that permeated the beginning of the book.
Much, much different than what I was expecting a
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Scott Munden
Nov 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
If it's possible to be a compassionate cynic, Emmanuel Carrère manages it beautifully.
Rachel
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
A couple of summers back, The New York Times Book Review podcast contributors were on a major Carrere binge, and this was one of his titles that they most promoted- although they struggled to define it or describe it in much detail. I'll attempt to do better.

This memoir is mostly about facing death- the death of a child, the death of a spouse, one's own impending demise- although there's also an extended digression into credit law in France. Structurally, it hangs together by association. Beginn
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Betty
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I can see why Pamela Paul and her pals on The NY Times book review podcast adore Emmanuel Carrere. This book was lovely, but I always feel strange saying that about a work in translation. Is Carrere the elegant writer, or the translator? Either way, I enjoyed it. I lost focus a bit in the middle when he really gets into interviewing the judge but for the most part it was very moving. I’m having a heck of a time trying to figure how to catalog this for my library.
Ruben Vermeeren
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautiful and sad memoir/non fiction novel from an honest and profound writer using simple straightforward language. If I had known how sad it read going to be I probably wouldn't have started, but now I am glad I did.

I would have given 5 stars if it weren't for the disproportionately long middle section about consumer protection law and prejudicial questions to the ecj for which for some reason (admiration of Etienne?) the writer develops some sort of fascination...
Marcopesta
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The most unexpected, beautiful, touching book I have read ... at least in a very long time. Also - a gorgeous book for lawyers, speaking to our power to impact the lives of those we serve.
Carolina
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, nonfiction
Originally posted at: A Girl that Likes Books

Si l'on savait à quoi l'on s'expose, on n'oserait jamais être hereux [If we knew at what we are exposing ourselves, we would naever dare be happy]

Why I read this book?

It was given to me by my aunt's husband. I always do my best to read and most of all appreciate the books people like to share with me since when I share a book it is because it meant a lot to me, it touched me somehow, and I assume this is the case if they are sharing this with me.

What
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Veronica
This book left me fairly baffled. I didn't understand why Carrère had written it, or why he structured it the way he did. He took two unrelated events: on holiday in Sri Lanka he witnessed the effects of the tsunami, and met a French couple who lost their four-year-old daughter. Later, after he and his partner return home, his partner's sister, whom he barely knows, becomes ill and eventually dies of cancer at the age of 33. Well, there is a connection between these events I suppose: him. Why di ...more
John
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the more fully-realized, more complete book that I expected from Carrere. My Life as a Russian Novel is good, the writing made me a believer, and this book is confirmation of that belief.

Heart-rending and beautiful, this story honestly details his sister-in-law's battle with multiple conditions and eventual death at the age of 33. Carrere does well to show the unique characters who played central roles in her life, most interestingly her quirky, placid husband and a fiery, intellectual
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beth
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carrere is a sharp writer and a terrifically frank narrator. Included here are testaments of tragedies that occurred in proximity to Carrere -- though not to him -- and the context of his life as he experienced and documented them. Should I care that his marriage might have been saved because he bore witness to the sorrows others experienced? I say yes. While he is at the center of the story in many ways, it's not self-indulgent to me. He's present as a narrator, he's honest (even when it is off ...more
Kerfe
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Having read the tsunami chapter as a story in the NY Times Magazine, I took this book out of the library in anticipation of more of the same. Unfortunately, the bulk of the book concerns another story altogether, that of the death of his wife's sister, and it does not live up to the short and different narrative that begins the book.

The sister is a judge, so I did learn some interesting things about the French court system and how it differs from our own. But I just don't think there was enough
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Emmanuel Carrère is a French author, screenwriter, and director. He is the son of Louis Carrère d'Encausse and French historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse.

Carrère studied at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (better known as Sciences Po). Much of his writing, both fiction and nonfiction, centers around the primary themes of the interrogation of identity, the development of illusion, and the
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“La phrase : "Je suis homme et rien de ce qui est humain ne m'est étranger" me semble être, sinon le dernier mot de la sagesse, en tout cas l'un des plus profonds, et ce que j'aime chez Etienne, c'est qu'il le prend à la lettre, c'est même ce qui selon moi lui donne le droit d'être juge. De ce qui le fait humain, pauvre, faillible, magnifique, il ne veut rien retrancher, et c'est aussi pourquoi dans le récit de sa vie je ne veux, moi, rien couper.” 4 likes
“A visit always brings pleasure-- if not when it begins, then when it ends. (Quoted from another book)” 2 likes
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