Tuesday, September 01, 2015

So Many Jewish Mothers

A recent book in French is out

From a review:

Catherine Cusset’s coming-of-age novel manages, as does real life, to be both heart-wrenching and humorous. Sex and love—of course—but also the importance of friends and enemies, of truth and lies, faith and failure are explored by a devout little Catholic Goody Two-Shoes as she evolves into an atheistic, two-timing adult.

Marie is a ten-year-old who just wants to please. She relishes the drama of the biblical stories her father reads to her at night. She is a star student, the teacher’s pet. And she truly believes that the more devout she is, the better the chances that her mismatched parents will stay together. None of which stops her from shoplifting with her best friend and accomplice Nathalie. Nor does it stop her from faking piety, telling the priest at her first confession not about her long string of thefts but only about once stealing a pencil. She is absolved, and the wrath of God does not, she realizes, descend on her.

By age fourteen, Marie, perhaps influenced by her atheist Jewish mother, has lost her faith in God and Catholicism. 


Jewish mother?

She's ... Jewish.

And she has a friend:

"Olga is the Russian, divorced, Jewish, redheaded mother of my friend Nathalie. She terrifies me. She never stops screaming and scolding her daughter, not because Nathalie doesn’t do her homework or get good grades, but because she doesn’t practice the piano every night. To Olga, nothing is more important – which to me, seems like a strange sense of priorities. When our parents discover we’ve been stealing things – another little girl tells on us – Nathalie and I are forbidden to go to each other’s house. Forbidden to be friends...Just before my First Communion, on my way to church for a general rehearsal, I happen to run into Olga and immediately tell her that the event is about to happen. She speaks to me with such friendliness that I’m stunned: “Come and see us when you finish at church on Saturday, so I can see you in your white robe.” I do just that. I ring the bell, anxiously. What if the dragon has forgotten she invited me? What if she’s shouting at her daughter again and asks me how I dare come to her house against all the rules? But she gives me a big hug, for the first time, kisses me, as sweet as a lamb, a smile on her face..."

So many Jews.

The author's mother is also Jewish.


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