My parents put in uncommon efforts to raise my brother and me completely bilingual. Our mother (a Frenchwoman from Normandy) spoke only French to us, ever, our father (a New Yorker by way of Romania and Tunisia) only English. To build a wall of separation within us between French and English, they pretended not to understand when we addressed them in the wrong language.
Are you a dog person or a cat person? The question is laden with meaning. I have never had a pet, but the cat versus dog distinction is one I can understand. It is not about which animal’s wet fur you would prefer to clean up off your couch, but which traits you value the most.
It was 9 a.m. Awakened, as I often am, by sunlight, I opened my door to go to the bathroom downstairs. Supine, to the side of my door, was a male form, blonde and muscular and naked. His hands were cupped over his genitals, his underwear crumpled by his head. His eyes were closed. I froze in surprise, but I had to pee, and out of some ingrained politeness didn’t want to disturb him. I stepped over him quietly and went downstairs.
Who would have given a damn about me if not for that box?
As punishment for Prometheus’ gift of fire, the gods gave me to men. They gave me to men. I was a poisoned gift. But the importance of a poisoned gift is the venom it bears, not the gift. The box, not Pandora.
One day this summer, sitting in a blank white apartment that was not mine, I felt a strange weariness. This apartment was full of more books than I will probably ever read and I had fellowships to apply to and emails to write and the whole Internet in front of me and all of New York City clamoring outside.
The first graffiti I ever saw were unremarkable messages etched into my middle school’s peeling wooden desks: people’s initials conjoined inside hearts, a mysterious pointy S shape, and invitations to “put an x if youre bored.”
Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano’s most famous novel, Dora Bruder, is something like a ghost story, though not in the traditional sense. It is a ghostly story about a young man and a nation haunted by history. Modiano received the Nobel Prize in literature in 2014, the fifteenth French writer to do so after the 2008 laureate Jean- Marie Georges Le Clézio. While Le Clézio’s writing is sensual and tinted with exoticism, Modiano’s is sparse, introspective, and heav- ily autobiographical, sometimes even termed “autofiction.”