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, Benoit, 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 Benoit, 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 brother and sister 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.
Pascale Kramer's "Les vivants" received excellent reviews in the French and Francophone press and won the Prix Lipp, Switzerland's most prestigious literary prize. Kramer is the Swiss author of several other books in French, including "Manu" and "Onze ans plus tard." Tamsin Black has translated many books, including Marie NDiaye's "Rosie Carpe," available in a Bison Books edition.