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Forgetfulness Paperback – September 5, 2007
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Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Thomas Railles is a portrait painter of some renown, an American expatriate living with his French wife Florette in a small village high in the Pyrenees. One autumn Sunday Florette goes out for a walk while Thomas entertains Bernhard and Russ, two old chums from his Wisconsin boyhood. She's found in the woods the following morning with her throat slit.
Bernhard and Russ work for one of America's intelligence agencies. While Thomas reels with shock, Bernhard calls in some chits from his French counterparts, who soon bring four Moroccan Arabs into custody. The French think the four men slipped across the Spanish border into France to carry out a terrorist mission. They murdered Florette because she happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bernhard brings Thomas to Le Havre to watch their interrogation. Thomas has no interest in the Moroccans' politics; he only wants to know what happened to his wife and why. Thomas asks for and gets permission to spend time alone with Yusef, the group's leader. What occurs between Thomas and Yusef in the interrogation room provides an unexpected and profound moral center to the story.
Thomas knew an old Spanish communist who introduced him to the German word "lebensluge," which translates as "the lie that makes life bearable." For the Spaniard, it was the belief that Communism is moral, even if the men who practice it aren't.Read more ›
When Just's novel focuses on the everyday effects of loss, it's devastating and moving. The story is much less successful at conveying American's attitudes in the contemporary world. Though the novel takes place within the past year (a mention of the London subway bombings provides this clue), many of the American characters have an immediate post-9/11 mindset and, sadly, seem to be possessed of one mind. The dialogue in these sections is clunky, forced and doesn't sound anything like the way real people speak.Read more ›
One might think that the book would mainly consist of tracking down the perpetrators and imposing a suitable punishment. But Thomas is a man that is more accepting of life's turns, seeking to understand rather than exact revenge. The book is largely composed of Thomas' reflections and observations of life, where forgetfulness is both a positive and negative factor.
Thomas' artistic eye enables him to notice nuances in people whether it is the reclusive old gentleman living next door on the mountain, the village café operator, or the alleged perpetrator of the crime against his wife as he is being interrogated by the French intelligence service.
The book moves slowly - fortunately it is rather short - yet it never drags. Thomas' recalling of his past life from his boyhood in Wisconsin, to his life as a struggling artist in New York City, to his painting of a Spanish rebel as an exercise in intelligence gathering - all of these scenes interleaved with reflections on the present take the reader on a journey of understanding the subtleties of life right along with Thomas.
When we join painter, retired CIA dabbler and displaced American Thomas Railles; widower already, he seems the typical cut-off-from-his-feelings male. He too, in accustomed Ward Just methodology, ponders many things in jumbled succession, including his wife, but somehow stays curiously detached. Yet it is this detachment that builds in Thomas a "forgetfulness." He cannot, or will not, feed anger toward the Moroccan men -- terrorists perhaps -- who stand accused of killing his wife.
Antoine, the official interrogator of those men, converses with Thomas at one point and states bluntly he doesn't think Thomas has a conscience because Thomas doesn't care what happens to the men. Antoine wants to know whether Thomas believes in justice, without which a society cannot function. Antoine says dealing with terrorists requires a strong stomach, patience, and attention to detail. Not to mention a "certain ideology" by which he means "anger." He says, "The common denominator of all ideology" is anger. "A belief in the righteousness of your cause and the squalor of all other causes." He continues, "It's not for everybody. You need an excellent memory. You must never, ever forget. Forgetfulness leads to --" Thomas interjects, "Forgiveness?" "No not that. Do you think so?" "No, I don't." And so it is."Forgetfulness" is not about forgiveness.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is like a series of loosely connected character studies, like something from an artist's sketchpad or a writer's notebook. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Brenda Teese
This is the kind of novel wherein the reader looks forward to dialogue, let alone plot development. Just is a good enough writer to pull it off and be interesting. Read morePublished 16 months ago by algo41
A serious thoughtful novel, well written and well thought out. This a novel that makes the reader think about life and about his/her own personal odyssey.Published 18 months ago by Desmond
An okay book - interesting writer but not great, not as compelling as I would have hoped it would be.Published on January 7, 2013 by Ellen of Studio City, CA
Seems like the other half of the story is still hidden in the authors head. Very awkward writing style, hard to read, and stay engaged.Published on November 20, 2012 by rds
I sincerely hope that this work of Ward Just becomes an American classic. It stunningly depicts two of the greatest psychic pains that a human being can suffer. Read morePublished on August 18, 2012 by Philosopher John
Ward Just's novels are of our times and can be read for pleasure or on a deeper level involving relationships between fathers and sons, lovers, political allies or enemies, writers... Read morePublished on June 7, 2012 by helen harvey mills