We’re Not Here to Disappear ("On n'est pas là pour disparaître"), by Olivia Rosenthal
With We’re Not Here to Disappear, Olivia Rosenthal delivers a powerful novel about Alzheimer's disease and asks: what makes us human?
A rich oeuvre
Through her work, prolific French author Olivia Rosenthal addresses questions of identity and the relationship between reality and fiction. She began her writing career with In Time (“Dans le temps”) (1999), where prose and poetry combine in a new kind of narrative.
This first work of fiction was followed by many others: We’re Not Here to Disappear in 2007, What do the Reindeer do after Christmas? (“Que font les rennes après Noël ?”) in 2010 – which received the Inter Prix du Livre the following year – and The Tears (“Ils ne sont pour rien dans mes larmes”) in 2012.
Olivia Rosenthal is also the author of several plays, including Cats Love Me (“Les félins m'aiment bien”) (2004).
What is humanity?
We’re Not Here to Disappear begins with the interrogation, in a police station, of a man who has just stabbed his wife but seems to have forgotten what he’s done.
Very quickly, the investigators discover that this man, Mr T., is not in full possession of his faculties. He suffers from Alzheimer's disease and committed this crime in a moment of dementia.
Beyond the subject of this illness, in We’re Not Here to Disappear Olivia Rosenthal deals with the very concept of humanity. What remains of a man when he loses his memories, his use of speech and his sense of reality?
Leaving behind a trace of yourself
During the conference “Le livre, la lecture et la littérature demain...?” ["The book, reading and literature tomorrow?”] in Rennes in 2014, Olivia Rosenthal explained that "the principle of writers is that they constantly take the place of others, all the time, everywhere".
This idea is at the heart of We’re Not Here to Disappear. Once she had started writing the novel, the author began to question her own life, her memories and to wonder about her own death. To preserve a trace of her life if she ever forgets it herself, she decided to become the narrator of her book and imagine meeting Mr T., who has Alzheimer's disease.
An international success
We’re Not Here to Disappear won the Wepler Prize in 2007. The novel was adapted for the theatre in 2011, one version being staged by Charlotte Lagrange in Paris and another by Christine Koetzel in Nancy.
In the United States, the novel was translated into English and published in 2015. The Three Percent group at Rochester University in New York, which aims to promote contemporary international literature, praised it highly: “I think that there is something in this book for everyone who truly loves literature”
We’re Not Here to Disappear (“On n'est pas là pour disparaître”) has been translated into English and German with the support of the Institut français.
Through its translation support programmes, the Institut français participates in the global dissemination of French-language literature.