Adam Dalva's Reviews > Lives Other Than My Own: A Memoir

Lives Other Than My Own by Emmanuel Carrère
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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 tissue book that tells his own story.

LIVES is not as nasty as the other ones, which says something given that it opens with Carrere contemplating divorce before the horrid tsunami destroys his vacation in Sri Lanka. We immediately veer, with the twists of a great novel, into life and death, as we explore morgues, the reek of corpses, the devastation on the island. A lesser memoirist would not have kept his focus on his own pettiness, his sexual needs. Far from seeming petulant, I found insight in the egoistic idea that he would become closer to his wife once a natural disaster tore the families around him asunder.

The other thirds of the work, though less potent than the masterful opening, are similarly canny, as Carrere tracks the life of his sister-of-law, who is dying of cancer, through the eyes of a man who loves her platonically. Both are lawyers, both are physically infirm from childhood illnesses. It is another “weird” coincidence, and one that we believe, and I was again impressed with how frankly he explored how the illness drew him closer to his own wife. I could have done without some intervals of legalese, but these mundanities were really about establishing contrast. One of these stories is a huge crisis, a global trauma; in the other, a sick woman passes on. Both make us think about our own lives, our own loves. I would not start here if you’re interested in Carrere, but it makes a lovely follow-up to THE ADVERSARY.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
September 20, 2017 – Shelved
September 20, 2017 – Finished Reading

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PattyMacDotComma I'm enjoying the reviews, but it's too grim for me, Adam!

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