The Infallibility of Memory – an interview with Nadja Spiegelman

October 5, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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When Nadja Spiegelman decided to  write about her mother, grandmother and great grandmother and the infallibility of memory, she ended up producing a memoir  –  I’m Supposed to Protect You From All This.

When asked if 29 could be considered rather young to produce a memoir, she told J-Wire that was not her original intention.

Nadja Spiegelman

Nadja Spiegelman

“The revelations of my mother and grandmother were so personal. It was only after I had written most of the book that I realised that I had a duty to write about myself.

“Memoir is not biography but I do not see it as being autobiographical” she said.

Interviewing family made her realise that “our memories are a certain kind of narrative engine that allow us to fictionalise our lives.”

Her book details her complex relationship with her French-born mother. When she learned about her mother’s troubled past, she went to visit her grandmother in France and delved into painful family history.

When told that a recent review of  her book in The Sydney Morning Herald described it as ”sophisticated, sharp, poignant and eminently readable” she said that her parents advised her not to read reviews in case she was discouraged from continuing to write but admitted that it was something she ended up doing anyway.

As much as the book is about her mother, Francoise Mouly, art editor at The New Yorker, she believes it was also a way for her to confront the legacy of her father, Art Spiegelman.  He’s the creator of Maus, a graphic serialised novel in which Art interviews his father, a Polish Jew, about his experiences as a Holocaust survivor.

Spiegelman’s next project is nonfiction although she is also working on ideas for a novel. The author was interested that I was taking notes in shorthand because she discovered that her great-grandmother used shorthand while working as a secretary in Paris.

When I said that her book would be a good choice for my book club to read, she said that she wouldn’t mind joining one herself as she is always pressing friends to read books she has read and enjoyed.

Spiegelman lives mainly in Paris but spends a fair amount of time in New York where she grew up. She looks forward to her first visit to Australia in May 2017 when she will appear at Sydney Writers’ Festival.

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