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 bereft. Present at both events, Emmanuel Carrère sets out to tell the story of two families—shattered and ultimately restored. What he accomplishes is nothing short of a literary miracle: a heartrending narrative of endless love, a meditation on courage and decency in the face of adversity, an intimate and reverent look at the extraordinary beauty and nobility of ordinary lives.
Precise, sober, and suspenseful, as full of twists and turns as any novel, Lives Other Than My Own confronts terrifying catastrophes to illuminate the astonishing richness of human connection: a grandfather who thought he had found paradise—too soon—and now devotes himself to helping his neighbors rebuild their village; a husband so in love with his ailing wife that he carries her in his arms like a knight does his princess; and finally, Carrère himself, longtime chronicler of the tormented self, who unexpectedly finds consolation and even joy as he immerses himself in the lives of others.
The night before the wave, I remember that Hélène and I talked about separating. It wouldn't be complicated; we didn't live together, hadn't had a child, and were even able to see ourselves remaining friends, and yet, it was sad. It was Christmas 2004. Here we were in our bungalow at the Hotel Eva Lanka, and we couldn't help remembering a different night, just after we'd met, a night we'd spent marveling that we had found each other and would never part, and would grow old together, happy for the rest of our lives. We even talked about having a child, a little girl.
“In Lives Other Than My Own, Emmanuel Carrère demonstrates that empathy can be the antidote to alienation, if we try for it. With the finely measured assurance of Chekhov, he achieves something altogether unexpected in modern literature: beatitude.”
—Gary Indiana, author of The Shanghai Gesture and Three Month Fever
“Yet again, Carrère has written a masterpiece. With his singular blend of reportage, detective fiction, and autobiography, he has produced an achingly beautiful, wholly unforgettable portrait of lives racked by tragedy and redeemed by love.”
—Caroline Weber, author of Queen of Fashion