As stubborn, as surprising, as artful as life in its refusal to conform to a particular literary genre, Marcel Bénabou’s book is at once a memoir and a novel, a confession and a reflection on the prerogatives and imperatives of writing one’s story. At its center, forever alluring and elusive, is the beautiful and ethereal Tamara, the exact incarnation of our narrator’s most enduring fantasy—a femme fatale for the lover of form. Who precisely our narrator is, is less certain: The young Manuel, who leaves his home in Morocco to study in Paris, only to encounter the enticing Tamara? Or the mature Manuel, looking back not only at Tamara but also at the younger man’s reading of his experience through the pages of the literature of sentimental apprenticeship, from Stendhal’s The Red and the Black through Flaubert’s Sentimental Education?
A heady, genre-defying high-wire act by a writer who delights in such undertakings and whose efforts consistently delight readers worldwide, To Write on Tamara? captures with graceful authority and assurance the now thrilling, now vexing complexities of living and writing life’s stories, especially stories of love.