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Charlotte
Cover of Charlotte
Charlotte
A Novel
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Obsessed with art, and with living, Charlotte attended school in Germany until it was too dangerous to remain, fled to France, and was interned in a bleak work camp from which she narrowly escaped. Newly free, she spent two years in almost total solitude, creating a series of autobiographical art—images, words, even musical scores—that together tell her life story. A pregnant Charlotte was killed in Auschwitz at the age of 26, but not before she entrusted her life's work to a friend, who kept it safe until peacetime. The result, an extraordinary novel avant la lettre, was eventually published as Life? or Theatre? (and now reissued by Overlook), a unique, relentlessly complete artistic expression.In Charlotte, David Foenkinos—with passion, life, humor, and intelligent observation—has written his own utterly original tribute to Charlotte Salomon's tragic life and transcendent art. His gorgeous, haunting, and ultimately redemptive novel is the result of a long-cherished desire to honor this young artist. Infused with the emotion of a writer who connects deeply with his subject, and masterfully and sensitively translated by Sam Taylor, Charlotte is a triumph of creative expression, a monument to genius stilled too soon, and an ode to the will to survive.

Obsessed with art, and with living, Charlotte attended school in Germany until it was too dangerous to remain, fled to France, and was interned in a bleak work camp from which she narrowly escaped. Newly free, she spent two years in almost total solitude, creating a series of autobiographical art—images, words, even musical scores—that together tell her life story. A pregnant Charlotte was killed in Auschwitz at the age of 26, but not before she entrusted her life's work to a friend, who kept it safe until peacetime. The result, an extraordinary novel avant la lettre, was eventually published as Life? or Theatre? (and now reissued by Overlook), a unique, relentlessly complete artistic expression.In Charlotte, David Foenkinos—with passion, life, humor, and intelligent observation—has written his own utterly original tribute to Charlotte Salomon's tragic life and transcendent art. His gorgeous, haunting, and ultimately redemptive novel is the result of a long-cherished desire to honor this young artist. Infused with the emotion of a writer who connects deeply with his subject, and masterfully and sensitively translated by Sam Taylor, Charlotte is a triumph of creative expression, a monument to genius stilled too soon, and an ode to the will to survive.

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About the Author-
  • David Foenkinos is a screenwriter and the author of fourteen novels translated into forty languages, including La Délicatesse, Les Souvenirs, and Je Vais Mieux. In 2011, with his brother, he adapted his book La Délicatesse for the film Delicacy, starring Audrey Tautou and François Damiens.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2016
    Charlotte Salomon, a real-life German Jewish artist, created a small but radiant body of work before dying in the Holocaust. Salomon was 26 when she died at Auschwitz. The young artist had recently completed a massive autobiographical project that combined writing and musical notation with vivid, original paintings. That project, which she titled Life? or Theatre?, survived the war, was exhibited all over the world, and is still referred to today. Foenkinos draws on Life? or Theatre? in his tribute to Salomon, a kind of imagined biography--he calls it a novel--which also describes his own preoccupation with Salomon's art and life. Foenkinos, a French screenwriter and author of 13 novels (Delicacy, 2012, etc.), has a wry humor, a keen intelligence, and a wide frame of reference. This is a smart book, as passionate as it is tragic. The author's language is considered and precise, as is the arrangement of white space on each page. Foenkinos ends a line every time he ends a sentence and begins a new line with every new sentence. This system creates a hushed and poignant atmosphere. Still, his work doesn't quite hang together. Strangely, he dwells least on what most drew him to Salomon: her art. He relies on glowing but vague accolades about her work ("incredibly moving," "startlingly powerful") without going into any greater depth. The question you're left with is a simple one but stark: why tell Salomon's story when she already told her own? Foenkinos hasn't written a biography, but he hasn't written a novel, either. He's retold Salomon's life in his own style. His is an unsettling ventriloquism. It's as if he's extracted Salomon's voice and inserted his own in the space where it was. A searing portrait of a brilliant artist that doesn't reveal anything new about its subject.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from March 15, 2016

    This best-selling French novel has many different guises. It is the true story of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon, who was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz. At the time of her death in 1943, she was 26 and pregnant. It is also an account of the author's obsession with Charlotte and her art, a reflection on Charlotte's masterpiece Life? or Theatre?, which survived her to become a highly acclaimed art exhibit and a published book. In the form of a prose poem, the novel tells Charlotte's experience, illuminating her life as if it were happening in the moment. VERDICT Winner of the French Prix Renaudot and the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens, this work demonstrates how art can help a person rise above one's circumstances. Despite Nazi persecution, despite coming from a family with a history of mental illness and suicides, Charlotte Salomon persisted, creating an epic biographical output of more than 750 paintings that now resides in the Amsterdam Jewish Historical Museum.--Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from May 1, 2016
    French novelist Foenkinos (Delicacy, 2011) struggled to find a way to write about the anguished life and brilliantly inventive and haunting lifework of German Jewish artist Charlotte Salomon (191743). The result is a fact-embracing novel that resembles poetry with one reverberating sentence stacked over another. Within this crystalline form pulses every shade of emotion, from elation and amusement to longing and sorrow, the surrounding white space emblematic of all that was taken from this young genius. As a child in Berlin, Charlotte is never told that her mother's death was a suicide, as was that of the aunt she was named after, along with a staggering number of other relatives, with more to come. With the Nazis in power, neither Charlotte nor her opera-star stepmother is free to pursue her art. As threats intensify, Charlotte, secretly in love with her stepmother's voice teacher, is sent to the French Riviera, where her grandparents found sanctuary with a wealthy American widow. There Charlotte paints feverishly, creating her passionate and revealing autobiographical opus, Life? or Theater?, a combination of handwritten texts and more than 700 indelible paintings. A masterpiece that, like the writings of Anne Frank and Irene Nemirovsky, survived after Charlotte, 26 years old and pregnant, was killed at Auschwitz. Foenkinos' unique homage is exquisitely empathetic and stunningly tragic.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2016, American Library Association.)

  • Library Journal (Starred Review) In the form of a prose poem, the novel tells Charlotte's experience, illuminating her life as if it were happening in the moment...[Charlotte] demonstrates how art can help a person rise above one's circumstances.
  • Booklist (starred review) [A] novel that resembles poetry with one reverberating sentence stacked over another. Within this crystalline form pulses every shade of emotion, from elation and amusement to longing and sorrow, the surrounding white space emblematic of all that was taken from this young genius. Foenkinos' unique homage is exquisitely empathetic and stunningly tragic.
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Charlotte
Charlotte
A Novel
David Foenkinos
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