More a remembrance of things not forgotten than the delights of total recall, this prize-winning novel by French writer Quignard, now making his American debut, in a leisurely way explores memory's role in shaping lives. Having returned to his old boyhood home in Wurttemberg, successful musician and translator Charles Chenonge mourns the death of Florent SeinecÇ, perhaps his greatest friend. But as he recalls their first meeting in 1963 in a small French town, where both young men were in the army on national service, Charles remembers how he betrayed that friendship by falling in love with Florent's wife Isabelle. In a series of flashbacks, alternating with meditations on his Franco-German childhood--another source of sustaining memories--Charles recalls how he seduced Isabelle; how she left Florent for Charles, abandoning her daughter Delphine; how they parted; and how his affairs with other women never quite compensated for Florent's lost friendship. By the end, alone in the house, Charles begins to doubt "whether it had ever happened, whether I had ever known that man and had that friendship. Though I never doubt that I feel the loss and the shadow it casts on my heart." The memory of Florent as well as everything else that has haunted him may, after all, be "a strange dream one should never have had." The places, food, and people are vividly evoked, but there is at times an excess of response, or of analysis, that suggests a gravity the story either doesn't quite warrant or hasn't quite managed to convey. Occasionally overwritten, an interesting theme thoughtfully explored.