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Do You Remember Being Born?

Paru le 5 septembre 2023
Do You Remember Being Born?
Maison d'édition
Prix 35.00$
Sco­tia­bank Giller Prize-win­ner Sean Michaels’ lumi­nous new nov­el takes read­ers on a lyri­cal joy ride — sev­en, epic days in Sil­i­con Val­ley with a tall, for­mi­da­ble poet (inspired by the real-life Mar­i­anne Moore) and her unusu­al new col­lab­o­ra­tor, a dig­i­tal mind just one month old. It’s both a love let­ter to and an aching exam­i­na­tion of art-mak­ing, fam­i­ly, iden­ti­ty and belong­ing. Dear Mar­i­an, the let­ter from the Com­pa­ny begins. You are one of the great writ­ers of this cen­tu­ry. At 75, Mar­i­an Ffarmer is almost as famous for her sig­na­ture tri­corn hat and cape as for her verse. She has lived for decades in the one-bed­room New York apart­ment she once shared with her moth­er, miles away from any oth­er fam­i­ly, ded­i­cat­ing her­self to her art. Yet recent­ly her cer­tain­ty about her choic­es has start­ed to fray, espe­cial­ly when she thinks about her only son, now approach­ing mid­dle age with no steady income. Into that breach comes the let­ter: an invi­ta­tion to the Sil­i­con Val­ley head­quar­ters of one of the world’s most pow­er­ful com­pa­nies in order to make his­to­ry by writ­ing a poem. Mar­i­an has nev­er col­lab­o­rat­ed with any­one, let alone a machine, but the offer is too lucra­tive to resist, and she boards a plane to San Fran­cis­co with dreams of help­ing her son. In the Com­pa­ny’s serene and gold­en Mind Stu­dio, she encoun­ters Char­lotte, their state-of-the-art poet­ry bot, and is star­tled to find that it has writ­ten 230,442 poems in the last week, though it claims to only like two of them. Over the con­ver­sa­tions to fol­low, the poet is by turns intrigued, con­fused, moved and fright­ened by Char­lot­te’s vision of the world, by what it knows and does­n’t know (“Do you remem­ber being born?” it asks her. Of course Mar­i­an does­n’t, but Char­lotte does.) This is a rela­tion­ship, a friend­ship, unlike any­thing Mar­i­an has known, and as it evolves — and as Mar­i­an meets strangers at swim­ming pools, tor­tois­es at the zoo, a clutch of younger poets, a late-night TV host and his syn­thet­ic foam set — she is forced to con­front the secrets of her past and the direc­tion of her future. Who knew that a dis­em­bod­ied mind could help bend Mar­i­an’s life towards human con­nec­tion, that friend­ship and fam­i­ly are not just time-eat­ing oblig­a­tions but soul-expand­ing joys. Or that belong­ing to one’s art means, above all else, belong­ing to the world.
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