An Exclusive Love also had me wondering whether in the U.S. we take the genre of memoir a little too seriously. Adorjan remarks as much in her interview with SMITH Magazine. One of my students, representative apparently for many U.S. readers, had an issue with Adorján’s reimagining her grandparents’ last day because this account is obviously fictionalized. No matter how much of it is based on research (she does, chillingly, quote the police report at the end of the book) and her knowledge of her grandparents’ usual way of operating, the reader knows that the narrator was not there.
I read the book in the original German, and I noticed that its cover does not have any reference to “memoir” or nonfiction. I went to my bookshelf to look at other books I’ve read in German that we would classify as memoir in the U.S., for example, Ruth Klüger’s weiter leben, or Lenka Reinerova’s Mandelduft. If anything, they say “Erzählungen” on the cover, which means nothing more than “tales” or “stories.” There is no mention of memoir or nonfiction. The authors tell their stories and because they didn’t imagine the whole thing, the cover doesn’t say “a novel” or “short stories,” they are simply stories. Like the stories we tell around the kitchen table. Stories of their lives, of our lives, as they remembered them, heard about them, and maybe imagined them. It could be as simple as that.