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A frank, relentless, gripping memoir that illustrates both man’s inhumanity to man and how quiet resolution can reclaim and...

A survivor of the 2015 massacre in Paris recalls the brutality of the attack and narrates the seemingly endless series of his consequent surgeries and other treatments.

Lançon, who worked (and still works) as a cultural critic for Charlie Hebdo, the satirical weekly, was severely wounded during the attack—shot in the face and left for dead on an office floor that, as he relates, was soaked in blood. Throughout the narrative, the author remains surprisingly calm, describing in an intelligent and deeply informed voice the assault and its grim aftermath. His account is also full of memories of Charlie Hebdo before the assault, of the author’s family and other emotional relationships, and of quotidian habits that became more precious as he could no longer control his life. For months, Lançon was hospitalized, endured countless surgeries to repair his face—one involved the removal of his fibula so surgeons could reconstruct his jawbone. He formed a close relationship with his principal surgeon and spent more months under armed surveillance by police bodyguards. But he was also a celebrity and even had a visit from the French president. Slowly, he began to reemerge into everyday life, and he commenced physical therapy, traveled, and moved back into his apartment. Although calm prevails in the text, Lançon also evinces many worries—including, near the end, mild anxiety about standing near Arabs on a public bus. Evident throughout is the author’s considerable literary knowledge. He read relentlessly in the hospital, and names of significant literary figures populate the narrative: Shakespeare, Proust, Hemingway, Orwell, Henry Miller, Koestler, Edith Wharton. “My new bookshelves gave a second life to the thousands of books that twenty years of shambles had devoured and whose existence had been forgotten,” writes Lançon. “They reappeared like old friends…without alarming me. They were silent, patient. What I had experienced could only nourish the lives they offered me.”

A frank, relentless, gripping memoir that illustrates both man’s inhumanity to man and how quiet resolution can reclaim and restore.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-556-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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