I wrote a post about Belinda Cannone when La Chair du temps first came out and it was brought to my attention in Magazine Littéraire. Reading it certainly wasn't a disappointment. To recap, Belinda Cannone (as herself, the narrator) arrives at her home on the Cotentin peninsula in La Manche to find that she has been burgled, and two vital trunks have been taken: they contained her personal diaries over decades, old photos, documents, etc. Particularly for a woman with a poor recollection of things, this is a great loss, tantamount to the theft – indeed the rape – of her memory.
La Chair du temps (literally 'The Flesh of Time') is Cannone's very expressive expression for memory itself – as if it were a living entity: we are, in the end – each one of us – made up of the past, we are the construction of ourselves over the period of time we have lived. Cannone's loss is profound, and this book is in large part a reconstruction of the nature of the theft and speculation as to what can have happened to her diaries, what the robbers were like and what they can have done with her memory in its physical form. At the same time, the book examines the nature of memory itself, makes comparisons between other people who have suffered similar losses (such as Hemingway), and reflects on different kinds of loss, on different kinds of memory.
The creation of this book is a strong counteraction to the devastating effect of the theft, and this new 'journal intime' (or personal, intimate diary) becomes a 'journal extime' (or public, 'extimate' diary).
And then, before the Épilogue, and after Cannone has told us that this book is different from 'autofiction' in that everything here is true, we have – mainly for the purpose of the closure of something that is by its very nature unending – a 'nouvelle' (or short story) in which the menacing Raphaël emerges to haunt the narrator by his appearance in her life, and his eventual admission that he is the one who has stolen her memory.
Belinda Cannone is obviously a writer I've until now missed out on: I must read more of her work.