English | January 27, 1998 | ISBN: 0679424105, 0679746501 | EPUB | 306 Pages | 1.8 MB
“Like it or not, each one of us was made, less by blood or genes than by a process that is largely accidental, the impact of things seen and heard and smelled and tasted and endured in those few years before our clay hardened,” writes Luc Sante.
The Factory of Facts is his personal account of that process, less a memoir than an Identi-Kit self-portrait. Born in a factory town in southern Belgium in 1954, he was brought by his parents to the United States as a small child. Not quite knowing where he belonged, Sante grew up split: half in the old world, half in the new one, and resentful of both. His native land became ever more an abstraction, until he revisited it at age thirty-five. Suddenly he felt “as if I were taking a walking tour of my subconscious.”
So Sante becomes a detective, digging for clues to his childhood, to the lives of his parents, to the murky traces of his ancestors. He examines the social history of his native town, Verviers, which turns out to have been the home of his forbears for a millennium-a harsh industrial city, the birthplace of anarchists, autodidacts, and violin prodigies. And he looks at Belgium itself, an “artificial” country, “cast under the sign of ambivalence.” The home of Magritte, Tintin, Brueghel, and Simenon is a puzzle, held together by its conflicts and contradictions. And everywhere Sante looks he finds little bits of himself.
Navigating among the coordinates of time, place, and language, foraging through flea markets, scrolling through microfilmed documents, deconstructing stray photographs and anecdotes, Sante creates a superb work of remembrance and history. He comes to realize that he is the sum of a pile of accidents, capricious products of history and culture. The specifics of his story may be his alone, but its outline is shared by us all. In our era of political, cultural, economic, and technological convergences, The Factory of Facts brilliantly proposes a template for everyone’s autobiography.