Review of the book “Charlotte” by David Foenkinos.
By Ander Terrones Arellano.

‘Charlotte’, by David Foenkinos, was a sensation when it was published in 2014. The novel, written with a poetry structure and with very short sentences, all of them less than a line, tells the true story of the painter and writer Charlotte Solomon.

This young woman was one of the practically countless victims of Nazism. Ella Charlotte took refuge in the south of France, from where she had to flee after the German invasion. Due to a mistake, she ended up in a concentration camp, but not before having achieved, after two years, the creation of her great work, a mixture of literature and painting: Life? The theater?

Like the ‘Maus’ and ‘Hierba’ graphic novels, Foenkinos introduces himself into the story by showing the investigation and his feelings regarding what he is telling. In this case he does not use the interview with the protagonist of the novel, murdered by the Nazis, but instead uses her autobiography and her work to draw a story, a mixture of fiction and reality, and imagines the mind and feelings of the artist, creating a kind of union through literature between him and the young woman.

Foenkinos himself said that the book could be considered a novel so, despite being attached to reality, the author used his creative freedom to show what he believed Charlotte thought and felt. However, the crossing of genres in the book is evident and everything has its place: fiction and non-fiction, the autobiographical part of Foenkinos and the biography of Charlotte Salomon… The writer breaks any type of confinement and makes use of what needs at all times to convey what he wants. Like Solomon in his work Life? The theater?, Foenkinos mixes different types of storytelling.

At first, the structure of the text surprises and may alienate the reader, with sentences of less than one line, short and almost all of the same length. But if that is omitted, the experience that is achieved with Charlotte It is unique. The author says in the novel itself that he spent a lot of time deciding how to write the story, which he had been obsessed with for many years. He researched and traveled to Germany several times, wanting to soak up all the places Charlotte went to.

The novel can be read in one sitting, it barely reaches two hundred pages and due to its structure it is even shorter, but it is more worth tasting it in small pills. The emotional charge that the writer transmits throughout the text can be overwhelming at some points and, in addition, it is possible to miss some details if it is not read with sufficient attention. For these types of things, David Foenkinos is one of the most heard names in current literature.


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