Poum and Alexandre

By Catherine de Saint Phalle Transit Lounge


Catherine de Saint Phalle

Judges' report


Catherine de Saint Phalle’s tender portrait of a lifelong partnership deserves to be an instant classic of the biography genre. De Saint Phalle grew up in Paris, the only child of charming but damaged parents: fragile, death-obsessed Poum and ebullient, older Alexandre, whose lives were ruled by their “sin” of being unmarried. De Saint Phalle’s narrative of an unusual childhood with this haunted, sometimes childlike and deeply bonded couple is remarkable for its lack of self-pity and its depth of recollection. The reader is treated to a study of two wonderfully flawed people, meeting in the aftermath of war and negotiating a peculiar union of love and eccentricity. Always seeing Poum and Alexandre as people first, then parents, her book is both funny and tragic at the same time. De Saint Phalle writes with a clear-eyed humanity and wisdom about human nature that is reminiscent of Nabokov’s account of memory and childhood.

Further reading


Reviews:

‘Amid the deluge of memoirs, few are great literature. Poum and Alexandre is a rare and wonderful exception, a work that deserves to become a classic.’ Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald

‘Saint Phalle’s book is thought-provoking and beautiful to read. Its mystery and elegance, the red threads of exotic history narrated by her parents, and the author’s close examination of shifting manners and morals create a shadow world that is difficult to emerge from when the last page is done.’ Miriam Cosic, The Australian

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