An hour outside Paris. a train comes to an unscheduled stop. As the other passengers bicker,confide, flirt, the narrator remembers – lovers, disappointments, childhood, marriage. She talks with Chopin and models for Modigliani. The boundaries of self are dissolved by imagination and memory, until the journey resumes and another life ends.
One hopes, one hunts, for a book that resembles nothing one has read before. Alba Arikha’s Soon is not only a true original, it’s beautiful, moving, and, yes, profound. Which makes it a rare creature indeed.
Soon has the freshness of an eye-witness report and yet travels in many directions – in time and space, by train and by memory, by image and by imagination. A beautiful achievement.
Lucid, tender and hypnotic, Alba Arikha's "Soon" has echoes of Anne Michaels, and also of a more ancient, oral tradition, but the voice is, in the end, all her own, as she patrols the borders between experience and imagination. This is a beautiful book, all the more rich for being spare, a book to pick up again and again, as one might pick up a smooth, polished stone, for its satisfactions and its mysteries.
2013 must-reads: no year would be complete without poetry. Alba Arikha’s Soon (CB Editions, £6.99) has echoes of Anne Michaels and also of a more ancient oral tradition.
The Big Issue
Multum in parvo: so musical; such darting observation and tender understanding; such rich seams of memory and imagination. Above all, such awareness of our need to connect, such sheer openness to the joy and pain of being fully alive.
Remembering Beckett, 1970
Jessica Salter - The Daily Telegraph magazine
The most successful aspect of this piece was the way in which it entwined musical and textual narrative so seamlessly. At times Tom Smail's score adopted a word-painting technique; at others it simply provided an atmospheric, reflective mood for this poetic "journey of discovery"
Kate Mason - One Stop Arts
A vivid and haunting coming-of-age memoir set in Paris in the 1980s. The apartment, where Alba and her sister grew up, was a hub of literary and artistic achievement, which still reverberates today. Alba’s tale is played out against the family memories of war and exile and the ever-present echoes of the European holocaust.
This is a fiercely honest and compelling account of what it is to grow up in an artistic household, and of the joys and miseries involved in the forging of an independent spirit.
An unusually affecting book about the rage and rebellion of a stormy adolescence. Written in terse, pointillistic sentences - as if each sentence were a dab of paint - the accumulation of these tiny strokes creates a rich, fully realised portrait of a young woman's inner life. I read it straight through in a single sitting - unable to stop.
This is a truly remarkable book. It crosses generations and places, always attentive to the way in which stories are passed on. It is extraordinary and heartbreaking.
Edmund de Waal, author; The Hare with Amber Eyes
Teen angst, the Holocaust and being Beckett’s goddaughter intertwine in this revelatory family memoir
Nicholas Lezard - The Guardian
An excellent memoir in all sorts of ways
William Leith - The Evening Standard
In Major/Minor, Alba tells the story of her adolescence, from 11 to 17, in a series of brief paragraphs, some single sentence, all in the moment, without later retrospect, mostly in the present tense. It's a history of rebellion ...
David Sexton - The Evening Standard
Best Books of 2012
The New Yorker
Major/Minor is very, very good. In less gifted hands, it could easily have become the kind of mawkishly confessional writing that makes one squirm. Alba Arikha got it just right: poetic and honest. Difficult to pull off.
Ian Buruma, author and journalist;
Alba Arikha evokes her peripatetic and rebellious girlhood with a tactile sensitivity and poetic flair. Stretching from France to Israel to America and into the world of art and imagination, her childhood, as daughter to a well-known artist father and poet mother, is also freighted by history. Samuel Beckett and Henri Cartier Bresson are family regulars. So, too, are the war-time ghosts in Nazi or Communist garb that trail her father's views and moods. Memoir here becomes sister to the best rite- of-passage fiction.
Lisa Appignanesi, author; Anatomy of an unruly emotion
The ability to let prose ease into poetry, as Arikha does here, is rare.
Natasha Lehrer - the TLS
Alba Arikha has written a wonderfully atmospheric book. The story is a thrilling one -think Schindler's List but with extra twists and turns. On the one hand we are in Paris of the early eighties - riverside cafés, The Clash and first kisses. On the other, we are in Eastern Europe in 1944, a place of trauma of the sort that takes generations to heal.
Kathryn Hughes - the Mail on Sunday
Anyone who's ever had a tantrum will recognise the helpless rage that comes with being 13, and her family's wartime experiences give Arikha's sparse prose a haunting melancholy.
Molly Guinness - The Spectator
I read the extraordinary book Major/Minor yesterday afternoon in one great greedy gulp. I think it’s a masterpiece and the best thing about disturbed adolescence since The Catcher in the Rye: spare, poetic, moving.
Sheila Hale, author of Titian: His life
Major/Minor is a giant of a memoir. Written with extraordinary grace, and weaving her words seamlessly through cities, languages and time, Alba Arikha translates the joys and sufferings that are art and love, the frailty of family life and the painful conditions of memory and belonging.
Fatima Bhutto, author; Songs of Blood and Sword
A courageous, poetic and beautiful book. Alba Arikha manages to grow and triumph, with the reader urging her on every step of the way.
Janine di Giovanni, author; Ghosts of Daylight
A very moving memoir about a long-legged, frizzy-haired, acne-prone teenager coming of age in Paris and Jerusalem, Alba Arikha deftly blends the story of her lipstick and miniskirt obsessed earlier self with the dramatic and deeply inspiring narrative of her family's history.
Andrea di Robilant, author; A Venetian Affair
The title, with its musical connotations, is felt through the prose, which changes key, sometimes aggressively major, sometimes sadly minor as the author struggles to come to terms with her family’s past and her own present.
Lucille Turner - Bookmunch
...Its sparse, wilfully elliptical style gradually coalescing into an intimate, candid – and at times very raw – portrait of the relationship between a father and a daughter.
Akin Ajayi - The Jerusalem Post
The brevity of Alba Arikha's memoir belies its depth and breadth. It is a moving story of a young woman's coming of age and her father's struggle to overcome his horrific early experiences. Like Beckett, Alba makes every word count.
Sipora Levy - The Jewish Chronicle
Arikha has a deadpan turn of phrase that captures the intensity of her youth. Her book includes lots of observations that are seemingly unconnected but piercingly perceptive.
Pendle Hart - Absolutely Notting-Hill
“Major/Minor” distinguishes itself by way of two factors: its emotional literacy, and the lyrical fluency of Alba Arikha’s writing. Her story is not camouflaged by sentimentality. Still, the awareness that what she writes is her story and hers alone is never lost
Akin Ajayi - The Forward.com
In 'Major/Minor', the terseness of Alba Arikha's lines sounds like debate or gunfire. It’s not metaphoric, it’s live.
Cheryl Kaplan - The Forward.com
Alba, l'adolescente sfrontata e ribelle che riesce a rompere la cappa del non detto, e con tono lieve, a volte perfino ironico, qui ci narra come è andata, come mezze parole, brandelli di frasi, spezzoni di discorsi, simili a tessere di un mosaico, un po' alla volta si sono ricomposti ricostruendo l'intero tragico passato familiare.
Isabella Bossi Fedrigotti - Corriere della Sera
'Te lo dirò un' altra volta' vive di discrezione e di ritegno, e non spezza affatto il cuore di chi legge...Ogni frase scorre come una pennellata minima che coglie un lembo di luce, rendendo vibrante un' impressione o una visione.
Leonetta Bentivoglio - La Repubblica
Te lo dirò un'altra volta diventa una chiave di lettura. La cifra di Alba è un irresistibile understatement.
Monica Capuani - D La Repubblica
Lo stile - elogiato da Paul Auster e Fatima Bhutto - è sincopato, serrato, procede per frasi brevi e lancinanti, quasi risentisse del tratto rapido e fuggevole delle opere del padre, o della musica.
Fulvio Paloscia - La Repubblica
Nell’ambito della ricostruzione della memoria della Shoah — genere letterario molto ricco — sta nascendo un nuovo tipo di memorialistica, quella dei figli dei sopravvissuti. Ne costituisce un esempio particolarmente riuscito il libro di Alba Arikha, Te lo dirò un’altra volta (Bollati Boringhieri, 2013)
Lucetta Scaraffia - L'Osservatore Romano
Un memoir, un pezzo di storia e un ritratto della Parigi anni '80
Marta Cervino - Marie-Claire
Te lo dirò un’altra volta è scritto in uno stile sincopato, e il racconto si smoda, nei vari capitoli, al tempo presente. Con veloci pennellate, l’autrice evoca immagini, luoghi, emozioni. Si legge velocemente, facendosi catturare dai segreti di famiglia e dai tormenti dell’animo di una ragazzina alla ricerca di se stessa.
Maria Tatsos - Elle it
Sono tante le memorie dei reduci dai campi di sterminio nazisti, ma poche quelle dei discendenti dei protagonisti: il silenzio attonito di chi ha vissuto l’orrore rischia di cancellarne la testimonianza più intima e drammatica.
Francesco Musolino - Tempo Stretto
Con stile asciuto, la Arikha racconta la sua adolescenza: la scuola, gli amori, il rapporto col padre e la dolorosa storia di famiglia che tentera di riscostruire.
Manuela Sasso - Donna e Diva
Arikha: "I luoghi dove scrivo" - La giovane scrittrice residente nella Fondazione Santa Maddalena è nipote di Samuel Beckett: ha pubblicato per Bollati Boringhieri "Te lo dirò un'altra volta" ricevendo il sostegno di Paul Auster
Fulvio Paloscia - Repubblica TV
Beginning with something that I missed last year, but am now immersed in, I'd like to direct the attention of the equally unobservant to Alba Arikha's memoir,Major/Minor, published by Quartet. The book has received strong reviews in the press, and explores the impact of famous and talented adults, and tragic historical events, on Arikha's teenage self.
Peter Fifield - University of Oxford: Beckett debts and legacies
I admire this graduation through these early teenage years, which relies on a lot of memory and organisation and tremendous selection in what to use, which never once fails. Most of all, beyond technical questions, the juxtaposition of female adolescence/self-consciousness/almost ruthless clear-sightedness about the war is absolutely refreshing because we get these extraordinary and painful bits of family history almost in spite of Arikha's younger self, and they give perspective on the inner lives of all the characters as they were living at the time in Paris, so that the holocaust is both everything and not everything. Major/Minor is a flawless work and it has been an inspiration.
Conrad Williams, author; The Concert Pianist
What a large-hearted, clear-minded book. In this era of vulgar self-revelations, it wonderfully describes the inner life of a girl, and at the same time with extraordinary detachment—portrays a family and a family history, wracked between countries and across wars. I think the greatest achievement is the tone: neither nostalgic nor self-pitying in the depictions of youthful angst, and level and sober in the narration of the horrors of the family's suffering in the camps. A remarkable memoir.
Rosanna Warren - poet and translator
Composed of 11 vignettes hung on the realisation that a relationship, a marriage or a casual affair has run its course, Walking On Ice is deeply pessimistic cycle of short stories. From a birthday party at which a six-year-old discovers that her mother is having an affair, to a honeymoon couple’s encounter with a fortune teller in Jerusalem, Branca dissects unsettling epiphanies and exposes the fragility of sexual desire and the misplaced expectation of compatibility. Although the descriptions of the glamour, professional fulfillment and material prosperity of her female characters is sometimes clumsy, Branca is brutally honest in her exposure of the myth that love and sex can be managed rationally.
Branca shows her versatility in this fine collection of stories. As hinted in the title, the recurring theme of the book is emotional precariousness. A six year old child overhears people gossiping that her mother has a lover. A bride experiences the first flickerings of doubt. Branca shows a keen understanding of those moments on which whole lives pivot.
Max Davidson - The Daily Telegraph
Branca is brutally honest in her exposure of the myth that love and sex can be managed rationally.
Each of the short stories in this compilation has a unique style. You don’t need to read it all at once, but you’ll probably want to.