How, this novel asks, can you imagine the worst when you are young and life is sunny? The answer lies in the telling of The Living, in which a young mother, with her teenage brother, takes her two small children to a deserted quarry on a hot summer afternoon. Seen through the eyes of the brother, Benoît, the drama plays out with all the power and seeming inevitability of classical tragedy, made all the more intense by the blistering heat of the day.
On that blazing hot summer day Benoît, to entertain his nephews, seats them in a gondola and sends them down a cableway to the pylon on the other side of the river. The harrowing story of what follows is narrated in Pascale Kramer’s artfully simple yet transparent prose, evoking the deep reservoirs of feeling that family members cannot voice, perhaps even to themselves.
The Living is filled with the vitality of summer. At the same time, it reveals suffering at its most pure and most volatile as the affected people wonder, in the wake of tragedy, whether they should subsist with the living or with the dead.
"Swiss novelist Kramer's first work to be translated into English is the Prix Lipp-winning, brutally forthright take on a family unraveling after the accidental death of two young siblings. . . . Kramer's sensuous, close observation casts a hypnotic spell on the narrative, leaving the reader unable to put it down until the last word."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“[The Living] stands as a testimony to Pascale Kramer’s exceptional ability to narrate the heartrending lives of ordinary people, without falling into pathos or exhibitionism. As such, it stands apart from many other contemporary novels, as it details the sadness and anger of a family struck by tragedy, while steering clear of exegesis or epiphany. Even though it tackles somber issues, Kramer’s novel does so with a marked lack of affectation and pathos. Tamsin Black’s translation is flawless, and gracefully renders the psychological tension and mood of the original text.”—Jean-Louis Hippolyte, author of Fuzzy Fiction