Two artists, two obsessions. Charlotte Salomon—born in pre-World War II Berlin to a Jewish family traumatized by suicide—was obsessed with art, and with living. She attended school in Germany until it was too dangerous to remain, fled to France, and was interned in a bleak work camp from which she narrowly escaped. Newly free, she spent two years in almost total solitude, creating a series of autobiographical pictures—images, words, even musical scores—which together tell her life story. The result is a unique, relentlessly complete artistic expression. In 1943, a pregnant Charlotte was taken to Auschwitz and gassed, but not before she entrusted her life’s work to a friend, who kept it safe until peacetime. Entitled Life? Or Theatre?, it was exhibited in fragments in the 1960s; a 1998 exhibition of the complete work in the London Royal Academy became a sensation and eventually published in book form.
David Foenkinos, himself obsessed with Charlotte, has written his own utterly original tribute to her tragic life and transcendent art. His novel is the result of a long-cherished desire to pay tribute to this young artist. Written with passion, life, humor, and intelligent observation, Charlotte, with rights sold in 12 countries and over 500,000 copies in print in France, is a triumph of creative expression, a monument to genius stilled too soon, and an ode to the will to survive.