The Madeleine Project by Clara Beaudoux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This unique title comes from New Vessel Press, one of the publishers doing good work in translated fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. I received a copy of this through Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. (And thanks to the publisher for helping with a technical issue!)
The Madeleine Project is something that started in Twitter, when Clara started documenting the unpacking and unboxing of a storage cellar below her new apartment. The life of the woman named Madeleine, who had lived in the apartment before her, is revealed piece by piece and detail by detail.
The majority of the book is a translated capture of what happened in Twitter, as it happened. The center of the book has some longer narrative about the background and context of the Paris attacks and the unintended impact they had on the project.
I'm a person who reads ephemera, so I noticed at the end of the book where Clara thanks all of these Twitter followers who provided more information, tried out Madeleine's recipes, or even knew the person whose life she was revealing. She also mentions that she originally planned to include their contributions in the book, but it ended up being too overwhelming. I couldn't help but wish we had gotten to see at least a little of that. I would have loved the recipe interactions, or to learn more about the details that Clara didn't know, identifying tiny objects and their uses. I felt like I was only seeing one side of a very rich conversation at times.
I immediately sent this book to my colleague who runs our university's Special Collections and Archives, wondering if anyone in the archival world had ever documented a new donation this way. I would love it. I'm the kind of person to follow Twitter John Adams' journal and other such accounts. It's interesting if you follow every day, but if you want to keep and collect that form, it needs to be pulled into something else as this book attempts to do. I think the one thing missing are the other voices and eyes that clearly made the project as rich as it was for the original author.
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