Review: In the Memorial Room

in the memorial roomIn the Memorial Room is a strange and resonant novel about the plight of a New Zealand writer who is on a six-month fellowship in France.

Harry Gill is struggling to write his first novel.

Janet Frame, the author (1924 – 2004), is a New Zealand writer and an autobiographer. None of her works were published during her lifetime. In the Memorial Room is a marvelous example of experimental fiction.

Harry has written only historical novels up until now. He received the Watercress-Armstrong Fellowship. Although he is neither funny nor adventurous, he decides to write a ‘comic novel in the picaresque tradition.’ When he arrives in Menton, he gets besieged by expatriates. They want to get a glimpse of the man who received their little fellowship which was created in honor of a dead writer who worked and lived in the town. Harry, however, doesn’t like the Memorial Room where he is expected to write – it has no electricity or water.

The book he writes is essentially a journal about trying to find peace and time to write a book. It is a comedy of both physical and metaphysical errors. Harry is afraid of going blind, instead he goes blind. He visits a local doctor who is called Dr. Rumor. The doctor feels that Harry’s symptoms are some type of hysteria. Harry fears going blind because he is afraid that he is invisible. Frame’s sentences are absolutely marvelous.

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