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Everything I Don't Remember by Jonas Hassen…

Everything I Don't Remember (2016)

by Jonas Hassen Khemiri

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English (6)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (9)
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Samuel dies in a car crash and an unidentified writer sets out to interview the ones who knew him in an effort to determine if the crash was either an accident or a suicide. That becomes the thread of this book. Details about Samuel and his life and friends are revealed and related as the author speaks with those who knew Samuel best.

The book is written as if one is reading the transcripts of the interviews between the author and the interviewees. And the comments of those being questioned are alternating so one must be sure to note when each viewpoint changes. I would call the book a character study more so than a novel with a plot. As such, it is a book about remembering Samuel. And it seems that in the end, finding out about Samuel enables the interviewer/author to reconcile with some unfortunate memories of his own. ( )
  Rdglady | Nov 20, 2018 |
Memory is strange. In this novel people seem to be remembering their friend Samuel, who died in a car accident. But are their memories true? Samuel claimed he had a terrible memory, but did he understand just how selective memory is? The narrator is a writer interviewing Samuel's friends and family. How does he chose which memories to share? I really enjoyed this book. ( )
  seeword | Jul 11, 2017 |
When Samuel dies in a car crash, an unidentified writer goes in search of the truth behind his death by interviewing his friends and family. Was Samuel’s death an accident or was it suicide? We are given Samuel’s story through the writer’s interviews with Samuel’s mother, his roommate, his childhood friend and his girlfriend as they flash backwards and forwards through time.

The mother was a flighty character who was very uncooperative and did very little to forward Samuel’s story. The roommate, Vandad is an ex-thug who decided to get an honest job once he became friends with Samuel. The childhood friend, Panther is a wild-child bohemian artist. The girlfriend, Laide is a very unlikeable and pretentious Swedish-Arabic interpreter and activist, whose only redeeming quality is that she tries to help abused women. Each of the characters reveal more about Samuel from their own selfish perspectives, making it seem very unlikely that we will ever know the real Samuel.

Everything I Don’t Remember is billed as a murder mystery in the book blurb. It really doesn’t hit the mark. I would say it simply falls under literary fiction. It’s a rather bland tale that seems to have been turned into a puzzle for some unknown reason. The unveiling at the end was more about the writer himself than Samuel. I wasn’t invested in the writer so that mattered very little to me.

Perhaps it was the very ordinariness of the characters that made this such a highly rated book. I didn’t care for or about any of them. In this case I’m convinced that it was the structural style, the political activism element and the subject of abused women that made this the winner of the August Prize in Sweden. Personally, I wasn’t satisfied with this book. It left me feeling like there should have been more to it. However, this wouldn’t be the first time I haven’t cared for a highly rated book (i.e. Gone Girl really gave me the heebie-jeebies). If you want to read something that has an unusual narrative structure, this may be a good read for you.

I want to thank the publisher (Atria Book) for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. ( )
  sherribelcher | Aug 10, 2016 |
Olika personers koppling till Samuel, deras tankar efter hans död, Samuels egna tankar. ( )
  chawes | Aug 4, 2016 |
A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

EVERYTHING I DON’T REMEMBER by Jonas Hassen Khemiri pushes all boundaries of literary fiction, similar to the hit podcast Serial a multi-ethnic cast of characters, the central plot point of a friend’s passing, and a journalist protagonist weaving together the different threads of a mystery.

Immersive and mysterious, if you loved Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl, Celeste Ng’s Everything, I Never Told You, Allens Eskens' The Life We Bury, and Kristopher Jansma's Why We Came to the City, you will enjoy this richly drawn, powerful and memorable read, from one of Sweden’s literary superstars.

Divided into Three Parts, enjoy the unreliable narrators. An enigma. A puzzle.

Everything I Don’t Remember has been awarded the August prize in the category “Best Swedish Fiction Book of the Year”! The jury’s motivation for the nomination was as follows:

“How did Samuel die, and why? Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s portrayal of the deceitfulness of memory and testimony is as enthralling as a thriller. But the novel is also a love story and a tale of violence, unforgivable betrayals, and the power of economics. An unconventional narrative structure where several different voices paint the portrait of the protagonist. All written in a sophisticated, toned down prose, where the shadowy existence of undocumented immigrants and criminals collide with the sunny world of privilege in a ruthless and hectic Stockholm.”
Who is the unnamed writer? Piecing together the events leading up to the unexpected death of a young man named Samuel. From those who knew him best?

Killed in a car crash before the novel starts readers are unsure if it was a car accident or a planned suicide. This man had many faces. Samuel was different. Puzzling. Contradictory.

The neighbors. Friends. Relatives. Strangers. Flatmate/Best Friend, Ex-Girlfriend. Reconstructing Samuel’s last day. Appears someone is writing a book. A mom’s emails. A son. A Grandmother. Samuel listened without listening.

Confusing in the beginning, who is driving the story, and who is telling the story?

Alternating between flashbacks and flash-forwards, by Samuel, Vandad, and Laide. Samuel and Laide met through their work, with the Migration Board, dealing with residency permits, and she is an interpreter of Arabic and other languages.

Laide is also an activist who participates in demonstrations against anti-immigration policies and who establishes, in a house vacated by Samuel’s grandmother, a shelter for women, many of them abused, who have fled the Middle East. Samuel’s grandmother, who suffers from dementia, has moved into a nursing home.

Vandad, who, it appears, may be gay and attracted to Samuel, is a large man who works as an enforcer for a loan shark. He tries more legitimate employment as a mover without much success. When Laide breaks it the relationship, Vandad, attempts to persuade her to reconsider.

The grandmother’s house is soon overrun with refugees, a fire starts, and Samuel’s despair mounts as his family questions why he allowed this to happen, and he himself wonders why he trusted Laide.

From immigration -related issues, elder care, abuse, unemployment, dead-end jobs, drugs, and racial prejudice. Love and memories. What do people say? What is really true? Who is to blame? One person’s fault, or more?

He was born, he lived, he died. Puzzling, Mysterious, Intriguing. An author asking questions.

Is everyone lying? Decide for yourself. Betrayal. Extortion. Love. Guilt. Memories of the last day. A partial picture —lies, distortion, and deceit. Subjective Truth vs Objective Truth.

Khemiri presents Samuel's story in an unconventional unique format. Pieces of interviews are layered sprinkled with short sentences and a few paragraphs at a time. The narration shifts constantly from person to person. Stories overlap, and the truth feels elusive. Impressions, like the narrators, are unreliable.

Moving, emotional and witty. Focused on death yet mixed with humor and mystery. As a reader, you feel as though there is a literary ghost spying on everyone. Can words be trusted? The accident is in slow motion. Thoughts, feelings. In the end, their memories, both genuine and false, are all of him that remain.

En·ig·mat·ic! Gripping, beautiful and heartbreaking.

Readers will think in some ways: Sarah Koenig’s Serial, Making a Murderer, In Cold Blood- Truman Capote, Fatal Vision-Joe McGinniss, The Journalist And The Murderer-Janet Malcolm, Columbine-Dave Cullen, The Stranger Beside Me-Ann Rule, The Good Nurse-Charles Graebere, and God’ll Cut You Down-John Safran.

These books reveal the power of true-crime writing, pushing the boundaries of the journalist-subject relationship, examining the ethical conundrums inherent in the genre, crafting precise and insightful character studies, and even sometimes allowing for the ultimate reader let-down: an ambiguous conclusion. (which is quite popular today).

Readers will be debating, speculating, and comparing theories. Like Serial, how much of our interest is in the truth and how much in a satisfying narrative? Interpretation. Crime always risks exploitation — of the victims, the accused, and families torn apart by the crime — Sometimes there is potential for discovery and redemption.

"In 2013, Khemiri’s open letter to the Swedish Minister of Justice in response to a controversial police project rapidly became one of the most shared articles on social media in Swedish history."

JDCMustReadBooks ( )
  JudithDCollins | Jul 13, 2016 |
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"Everything I Don't Remember is a gripping tale about love and memory. But it is also a story about a writer who, by filling out the contours of Samuel's story, is actually trying to grasp a truth about himself. In the end, what remains of all our fleeting memories? And what is hidden behind everything we don't remember?"--… (more)

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