The enigma of Modiano ?

 

Well Monday see’s the first post nobel book by Patrick Modiano come out its only on kindle for now by Yale press world republic of letters imprints are bringing out Suspended sentences a collection of three novellas by him , they are described as an ode to a bygone Paris and the dark days of Nazi rules and the writers own experience  , this sounds rather like the search warrant , which those of you that read my review know I instantly fell in love with .So we now need to know how this writer hasn’t ever really taken of in the English speaking world ? So why has this not happened , well has he not won a big prize ? no he won the Prix Goncourt ok a long time ago but it is the biggest prize in French literature , he has also won a number of big european prizes before the Nobel win so no that isn’t a reason .Not enough books ? no he has written 26 novels so there is a body of work by him .His books are they  too long ? no they tend to be below 200 pages which means they are actually cheap to translate .The style of the books tend to be Literary detective book missed with memories a sort of Sebald Eco mix so that isn’t really a reason for people not to buy them as both those writers are among the most popular selling writers in translation .Setting now this is maybe a problem a lot of his books look at the French war years , now I think in the 21st century maybe we are ready to rewrite the view of this period , yes it was bad , but people still had to live and this is at heart what a lot of his books seem to be about the everyday going ons of wartime France .He is called the New Proust I have seen , now for me this is another kiss of death line , it reminds me of the bands in the late 80’s and early 90’s that were given the tagline “The new smiths ” , i for one tend to be wary when a writer is directly compared to one of the greats of his own countries literature !! I did say on Grants post for his review of Honeymoon , which he had already order before the win after reading my review of search warrant , that maybe he was a little too subtle for English readers , in the fact that its good writing but not exciting , rather like Pamuk and LLosa both nobel winners that maybe just write  great books but not Standout books .But that said they both have been published most of their careers ,but maybe this is another reason , they have both been published mainly by one publisher were as Modiano books have come out on a number of publishers .Another reason maybe he is a little shy and isn’t interviewed a lot ,not a full enigma like Elena Ferrante or Thomas Pynchon  which maybe is a problem we like a writer we can’t see and ones we can see ,  but somepne  in-between we maybe just don’t get ! well a post of questions no answers I hope the Nobel win brings some more books by him I for one will be reading them .Maybe now he has won we will finally get to like him !

Have you a theory ?

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

 

The poisoning Angel by Jean Teule

French fiction

Original title – Fleur de Tonerre

Translator – Melaine Florence

Source review copy

I live in a town called Millhaven
And it’s small and it’s mean and it’s cold
But if you come around just as the sun goes down
You can watch the whole town turn to gold
It’s around about then that I used to go a-roaming
Singing La la la la La la la lie
All God’s children they all gotta die

My name is Loretta but I prefer Lottie
I’m closing in on my fifteenth year
And if you think you have seen a pair of eyes more green
Then you sure didn’t see them around here
My hair is yellow and I’m always a-combing
La la la la La la la lie
Mama often told me we all got to die

I choose the curse of milhaven , as lottie is a bit like Helene from NIck Cave’s wonderful album of murder Ballads ,source 

I struggle with historical fiction , I was one of the few people who didn’t really like Wolf Hall , so when this arrived from gallic books I wasn’t exactly jumping over the moon , but a quick read of the cover and I was caught by the tagline , She came , She cooked , She killed .Who couldn’t resist finding out more .I also want to try Jean Teule ,I know one of his earlier books Suicide shop is highly regard ,a multi talent man who also illustrates , makes films and is a Tv presenter , he has written ten novels and is married to the well-known French actress Miou-Miou .He is currently making a film of this book starring his wife .

Oh no,don’t pick that Helene , it’s a thunderflower .Goodness , that’s what I should call you from now on :”Thunderflower “. And don’t pull on that stem either ; it belongs to a viper flower .Don’t you know that a woman picked up a bunch of those and her tongue split in two ? You’re seven years old – when will you ever learn ?

Seven Helene gets her names and so much more !

The poisoning angel is based on the true story of Helene Jegado  , she was a french servant in 19th century France  .She is from  the Breton region of France , she was schooled via her mother in the old traditions of this region ,so this beautiful young girl grows up in the old world  .She starts working in households , we know her as thunderflower in the book ,which happens to be the original french title  .She travels around from household to household , doing various domestic servant jobs but mainly as a cook people love her cooking  , but what is she adding toi the pot as she cooks ! Now this is the twist in the tail Helene Jegado is one of the most notorious serial killers , as she travelled around in early 19th century France from town to town  , she is thought to have killed up to  36 people .We see her story , a mix of an ancient world of traditions and superstitions .It also shows how in a time when the end of people’s worlds tend to be with in their eyesight how some one could easily get away with murder .

“Helene Jegado is an excellent cook .My one regret is that I was unable to keep her until I die …. ” That’s what I call a glowing recommendation! This missive from the abbe … Lohro has no date .So since then ?

The humour is subtle at times in the book .

This book mixes  dark murder with comic touches so well . This for me is how true crime should be Helene comes to life as more than a woman who killed to more of a woman who by a stroke of fate and misguide sense of tradition want to be deaths henchman .It is a book like version of the murder ballads of the deep south of the US , where we hear the story of the murderer .Has it made me want to try more historic fiction ,well I think I will have more of an open mind next time one comes my way .AS for Jean Teule i have another of his books I was sent that will be jumping up my TBR pile .Jean conjures a world of ancient myths and traditions , and a young girl that thinks she is haunted by a ghost ,that becomes a killer .

Have you a favourite True crime novel ?

 

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

 

The Eagle’s throne by Carlos Fuentes

Mexican Fiction

Original title – La silla del águila

Translator – Kristina Cordero

Source – Personnel copy

 

Here we are, seeking out the Reds
Trying to keep the communists in order
Just remember when you’re sleeping in your beds
They’re only two days drive from the Texas border

How can a country large as ours be scared of such a threat
Well, if they won’t work for us, they’re against us you can bet
They may be sovereign countries but you folks at home forget
That they all want what we’ve got but they don’t know it yet

We’re making the world safe for capitalism

Billy Bragg wrote this song , The marching Ballard of the covert battalions ,the song is a satirical take on US foreign policy .

This was one of the first books I brought around the time I started the blog with the idea of  52 books from 52 countries , well of course that has long since been past and this book has sat on the shelf for over five years , I was attracted by both the fact it was a Fuentes novel , but also the great cover on this book a linocutout of an eagle is very eye-catching .Carlos Fuentes is probably the best known Mexican writer in his time a member of what is called the latin American boom ,he wrote over thirty novels , and was always a writer tipped for the Nobel prize .He supported Castro and was at one time investigated by FBI .I had thought i reviewed him before on the blog , but no this is the first by him on here .

Our modern communications system has suffered a grave paradox .On the one hand ,we strived to become part of the largest global communication network in existence .On the other hand , we have wanted to monopolise access to information for our Government’s benefit.

They put all their eggs in one basket so ended up getting cut off , when US struck back at them .

The eagles throne although written twelve years ago and set in 2020 , seems more apt now than it did at the time it was written .We are told the story in a series of letters , yes letters as the premise of the book is the the Mexican president and government in 2020 , has angered the US government  this has led to the US effectively removing all the modern communication tools from Mexico .So with letters are the only way contacting and keeping in touch .We see a change in life as people start to open up more in letters .The topic of course on the mind is how will take over The Eagle’s throne (the name of the seat of the president !) .So what we get is the inner workings of the Mexican government laid bare in letters as we see the leading figures and powerbrokers jostling for power and trying to get the throne and the blackout sorted .Also what secrets will be let out in the letters .

Ex-president Cesar Leon came to visit me .At first I didn’t even recognise him .That young man with wavy black hair is now a mature man with wavy white hair .Those matinée idol’s wavy locks are what define him for me , politically and morally as well as physically .They remind me of that old song “The waves of the lagoon” some waves come ,while others go .

I was struck by the opening of this letter it is so true , leaders do age when in power .

Now I said this is more meaningful now than twelve years ago , imagine the  present with out the chance to use smartphones , laptops etc .I doubt even Fuentes could see how much the world would move on and really even more on wireless communication , this is like the millenium bug happening a country thrown back to a time when the written word was the only way to contact one another .Another thread to this book is of course the relationship between mexico and the US , this strangely has changed as well (from the totally uniformed view of me ) it seems Mexico is growing and is often mentioned as one of those countries along side Brazil , China  and India that will one day hold more power in world affairs ,whereas the US has seen the world power shrinking in recent years .So Fuentes wrote this after fifty years of writing , it isn’t as epic as some of his other books but is said a unusal future take on the epistolary novel .I must not wait five years to have another book by Fuentes on the blog .

Have you read Fuentes

 

Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo

 

Pedro Páramo By Juan Rulfo

Mexican fiction

Original title -Pedro Páramo

Translator – Margaret Sayers Peden

Source – Library copy

Have you got just a minute
Are you easily mad
Let me show you the back room
Where I saw the dead
Dancing like children
On a midsummer morn
And they asked me to join
They asked me to join
But my body was stubborn
Wouldn’t let me give in
So I offered a good deed
In return for a sin

I thought of this song even as i read this book I saw the dead by the underrated Irish band the villagers source

Now I ask myself a couple of years ago when the right time to read and put this book on the blog would be and I decide to wait as it is considered one of the most important books in Latin American fiction as it has influenced some of the biggest names in Latin American fiction .Juan Rulfo had lost both his parent before his tenth Birthday , he carried on to complete his schooling but due to university being on strike he ended up in Mexico city at the military academy ,which he left after three months worked as a clerk managing to study literature at the university in between .He started to write ,publishing a literary journal , then from getting a fellowship he got time to write his first two novel which where a huge hit and in 1955 this book his second book came out .

I came to Comala because I had been told my father a man named Pedro Páramo , lived there .It was my mother who told me .And I promised her that after shee died I would do it .She was near death , and I would have promised her anything .”Don’t fail to go see him ” she had insisted .”Some call him one thing , some another .I’m sure he will want to know you “

Juan completes the promise he made his dying mother .

Pedro Páramo   is the story of a son returning to his home town , after his mother death to find his father , but also to find out more about his father  .The son Juan Preciado sets out to the town of Comala .Now this is the point where the story starts getting odd because he gets to the town and finds it is full of ghosts of his fathers past and the present , so the story drifts between his father  Pedro Páramo time in the village , his father as a boy falling for a girl called Susana .Her life is one of death and madness .Pedro own life takes many a turn he is a womanizer , tyrant and quite a cruel man .But Juan is in the present where this town isn’t the vibrant place it once was now it’s a dying town .THis is a small part of what are many threads Juan sees in his time in Comala .

If was as if time had turned backward .Once again I saw the star nestling close to the moon ,scattering clouds .Flocks of thrushes .And suddenly , bright afternoon light .

Time is very fluid in this book it is almost as thou the past and present are one place at times .

It’s hard to grasp this book without giving to many bits and side stories away  as there are a number of small threads in this book .The book although 120 pages long feels like an epic russian novel by the time you have finished it you feel as thou it was a real epic journey not a short novella .You feel part of Juan Rulfo own story is in this  book , parents dying ,young family torn apart .His greatest influence as  a writer is on the generation that follow just after him .Marquez said he saw how to write after he felt blocked in his first four books , so yes this is the book that gave birth to magic realism , but is a book of Magic realism  , for me no it owes more to its writers homeland mexico where the dead are celebrated and death sometimes isn’t  the end of someones life these are echoes of what was once a more vibrant  place juan sees at times  .The book also shows how sometimes thwarted love as in the case of Pedro and Susana can lead people down different paths .For me the time was right to read it just after a burst of Marquez , but also Fuentes and Llosa in recent years you can see how this slim book had maybe pushed each of these writers to write in turn as I have also read the other great Mexican book that came out five years before this labyrinth of solitude by Octavio Paz a collection of Essays about mexico and its love of death and myths !

Have you a favourite book from Mexico

Winston’s books a tale of two cities !

Well there was four books arrive this week at Winston towers .

IMG_1975

First up is two more in the series Tales from the OUP press , this time they are visiting Copenhagen , with stories from Hans Christian Anderson , Jakob Esersbo , Soren KIerkegaard and Karen Blixen on the back it says it takes you from the narrow twisting streets of the old town centre to the shady docklands ,captures the essence of Copenhagen and its many faces .Next we are off to Vienna and a few more familiar names to me Arthur Schnitzler , Joseph Roth , and Veza Canetti it says about Vienna tales , situated on the cusp of West and East ,between the foothills of the Alps and the mights “Blue Danube ” Vienna has long presented authors with a wealth of material for stories that entertain and intrigue .I love these snapshots of a cities writers and how a place has influenced a writer .

IMG_1974

Next up is a novel by one of Algeria’s most controversial writers Boualem Sansal set in a crumbling mansion in the old quarter of Algiers we meet two women one young and rebellious ,the other is a recluse Lamia whose world is turned upside by the arrival of the young Cherifa at her home .Frank Wynne has translated this novel so I am rather excited about this one .

IMG_1976

The last book is one I have reviewed ,but will mention here as it has been made into a series for Radio four in the UK it seems , The boy from Aleppo who painted the war ,is the Debut novel of Sumia Sukkar , is one of the first works of fiction to cover the recent war in Syria .

What books arrived at your house this week ?

The Mahé circle by Georges Simenon

 

 

The Mahe Circle

The circle by Georges Simenon

Belgian fiction (Roman Durs)

Original title – Le Cercle des Mahé

Translator – Sian Reynolds

Ah wanna tell ya ’bout a girl
You kno, she lives in Apt. 29
Why… that’s the one right up top a mine
Ah start to cry, Ah start to cry
O ah hear her walkin
Walkin barefoot cross the floor-boards
All thru this lonesome night
And ah hear her crying too.
Hot-tears come leaking down
splashing thru the cracks,
Down upon my face, ah catch’em in my mouth!
Walk’n’cry Walk’n’cry-y!!!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!
From her to eternity!

Well this is Nick cave song about obsession with a  neighbour source  

The first non Maigret novel ,I’m review here is the first to be reissued from the other type of fiction Simenon was known for his Roman Durs (means hard novels – they are more complex in the storylines than his other books and often darker ) .As it is Nobel week I decide to look at Nomination database that is on the Nobel site to see if he was ever nominated for the nobel prize it shows he had 6 nominations up til 1963 which is as far as the database goes up to so it looks like he may have had more in the years after that .

“She is dead isn’t she ?”

The eyes of the girl in the red dress were still starring at him through the darkness and he hesitated to answer the woman ,who went on :

“The last hour , she was trembling all over , I had to hold her … sweating too … bad smell  … I can still smell it on my hands

The woman dies just as the doctor gets there to see to her .

 

The circle is the story of one man  Dr Francois  Mahé  and his obsession with a women ,after he caught a glimpse of her this is on his holiday with his family on the small island of porquerolles of the southern coast of France , whilst their he also attends to a dying women as he is called into help whilst fishing with some local men .He returns home ,but then he drags his family back for the following three summers as he has a growing sense of attraction to this younger women Elizabeth  even getting a young family member to start trying to date her .

Already last year , she was much changed .She had still been wearing the red dress, as she was even this year , it was as though the dress was growing with her .And she was still just as thin , but her breasts had formed and now showed through the fabric

The girl has grown more into a women over the years he has visited the islands .

Well this is different to Maigret , there is a very sparse nature to Simenon’s story we only get what is need , he is never one to over load his writing with too much detail .The story could be viewed as one man’s mid-life crisis in a way , Francois is a man who has reach a point in his life he is a doctor ,has kids and a life ,but at some point he wants a different life .That is the main point of the book it is the battle of Francois  between the life he has and the life he sees on the small islands , worlds classes apart its a dark look at what happens when a rich chap looks over the other side whilst on holiday , I was reminded of the film Shirley Valentine , where a housewife falls in love on a greek island ,well imagine if that film had a male and was made by David Lynch and you have the Mahe circle , love here is really obsession , this obsession is also mirror in his obsession to catch a certain fish in the book .The island leaps of the pages at time , but all that sun and easy living as it seems isn’t all it is cracked up to be .

The search warrant by Patrick modiano

 

The Search Warrant (eBook)

The search warrant by Patrick modiano

French fiction

Original title –  Dora Bruder

Translator – Joanna kilmartin

Source – personnel copy

 

it’s a mystery to me, the game commences
For the usual fee, plus expenses
Confidential information, it’s a diary
This is my investigation, it’s not a public inquiry

I go checking out the reports, digging up the dirt
You get to meet all sorts in this line of work
Treachery and treason, there’s always an excuse for it
And when I find the reason I still can’t get used to it

Dire straits private investigations struck me as a great song to match this book .source

Well every year when the nobel betting starts a couple of names that are vaguely familiar but haven’t read or in some case have read but before I blogged crop up in the betting for the winner .Well this year Patrick Modiano is this years writer I’ve not read and a quick check of my library only showed three of his books but in French ,so I brought the only English version of his books available on kIndle .Patrick Modiano is a French writer born to an Italian father and Belgian mother , he toured with his mother who was an actress growing up , with his brother ,but his brother did age ten , all hos early books are dedicated to him , patrick Modiano in his writing life has won every major prize in French literature including the academy prize and the prix Goncourt .

Thus I came to learn that Dora Bruder and her parent were already living in the hotal on the boulevard Omano in 1937 and 1938 .They had a room with a kitchenette on the fifth floor , the level which an iron balcony  encircles both blocks .The level with ten or so windows .Two or three give on the boulevard the rest on to the Rue Hermel or , at the back the Rue Simpion

When I revisited the neighbourhood in on that day in 1996 .I noticed that the rusting shutters to the two end fifth floor windows overlooking the Rue Simpion were closed ,and that on the balcony outside there was a collection of miscellaneous objects ,seemingly long abandoned there .

The past meet the present all the time in this book .

The search warrant , is the story of Patrick Modiano and his looking into the life of a young Jewish woman Dora Bruder , he first comes across her name in an old Newspaper  report from 1941 .Something in the report is familiar from his own childhood and he decides to find out all he can from official records about this fifteen year old girl .As the story unfolds Modiano finds more and more this young girls life and his own have crossed although he never met her , his father had been in the same places and done things at the certain times ,  that crossed over with Dora’s life at the time  ,  such as the time  she enters a convent in an attempt to escape the Nazis , the life is told in glimpse of files of the time and then Patrick going to these places at times as well .He follows the French police reports of her as they search for this girl .

I track down Ernest and Cecile Bruder’s  niece .I talk to her on the telephone .The memories which she retains of them are those of childhood , at once fuzzy and sharp .She remembers her uncle’s gentleness , his kindness .The few details which I have noted down about their family come from her .She has heard it said before they lived in the hotel on the boulevard Omano , Ernest Cecile and their daughter Dora had lived in another hotel a street off the Rue des Possoniers .I looked at the street map , and read her out a succession of names .Yes that was it the Rue polonceau .But she has never heard any mention of Sevran nor of Freinvile , nor of the westinghouse factory

Discover the past of Dora’s life and her family .

The origin of this book came from Patrick Modiano and another writer talking about the nature of memory .The book reminds me of the saying any one person in the world is only six people removed from any other person in the world  .The story of Dora Bruders  is one of a sad life , and ultimate  early death in Auschwitz .At times  in this book , I was reminded of Sebald and his style of writing ,Modiano is very much a character in his own book something Sebald did a lot in his fiction  , his past becomes  intertwine with a girl he never meet but only discover via a small piece in a newspaper a sort of detective story without a crime just uncovering the past bit by bit .Now is this a book from a Nobel winner in waiting , I’m not sure I really have been bowled over by Modiano’s style and will be looking out for his books second-hand it looks like Harvil published him here in the UK, I imagine in Christopher Maclehose’s time there it seems like a book he would choose to publish in English .

Have you read Modiano ?

Winstons books a huge bestseller you’ll never have heard of !

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Well this picture is a bit of a tease a new publisher  from Holland launching in 2015 , all I  can say is they sent me four books under embargo to 2015 , although one of them happens to be married to the biggest writer in translation at the moment ,well the most talked about anyway !

IMG_1951

I’ve been aware of this book for about six months , a huge bestseller around the world arrives in English Latvia where Zigmunds Skujins is from has one of the best read, read public out there and every one of his books is seen as an event there .This book is a political satire that mirrors 18th century Baltic life with a narrator in the present day .It also wins the title for the strangest  title I may read flesh coloured dominoes ,I can’t wait to see why that is the title .

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Another book that has been on my radar since meeting the folks from maclehose press in early summer , the uncertain glory by Joan Sales is a classic of Catalan fiction ,published for the first time in English ,called a Catalan answer to Homage to Catalonia or for whom the bells tolls and is one of three books from catalan coming out this autumn I have read one of the other two Confessions ,but won’t get chance to read the other just yet as it is from a publisher I don’t get books from .

Parfuums by Philippe Claudel

Parfums

Parfums by Philippe Claudel (A catalogue of remembered smells )

French memoir 

Original title – Parfums

Translator – Euan Cameron 

Source – review copy

 

Nightswimming deserves a quiet night

The photograph on the dashboard taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the windshield shows.
Every street light reveals a picture in reverse
Still it’s so much clearer

I forgot my shirt at the water’s edge
The moon is low tonight

source R.E.M nightswiming is a bit like this book part remember parts of are youth ,the good bits .

I knew after enjoying his novels previously ,I would love his memoir and that the style would be uniquely different .Philippe Claudel has written nine novels ,made a number of films and he has won nearly every major award in French literature and also the Independent foreign fiction prize in the UK , he currently teaches at the University of Nancy , which is also in the Lorraine ,where he has lived and through this book you get a real sense of how rooted in the region he is .Now I’ve decide to break with the usual form of my reviews and combine my own life and talk a bit about the book I was so touched by how Philippe had used smell to evoke memories from his past .I ll use a few examples he used and combine them with my own life .

Gauloise and Gitanies

Now philippe says how you are either a smoke of one or the other in France , remember his uncle Dede , that smoke Gauloise and how the smell and smokers of this cigarette tend to be from a certain class and then Gitanies he remember that the priest smoke them and that seemed the sort of people who smoked them  he does mention cigars but I also have smoke both these brands and it isn’t the memory I’m mentioning .Now for me smell  remind me of my Dad very much not these but for him Cigars during my childhood he smoke cigars , the whole thing of the little cutter to take the tip-off ,the leather carrying case and the smell all remind me of my childhood holidays ,even to this day I smell cigar smoke and think of my dad and those days .

Campfires

He remember trips camping in the summers whilst at boarding school , the whole experience squash , games involving clues .Even how the fire prepared at the start of each day becomes a clock for the day in those endless summers marking the days moving by .Now for me i was remind of peat fires and my gran ,we would travel when I was very young into Donegal liberate some peat along the way then have poatoe cakes with chese on and strange mix of soda stream drinks we had chosen before we went out .Then the smoke is a strange pinky grey colour and smells unlike anything else in the world .

Suntan lotion

He thinks about his mum who smooth him in it and was in a constant panic about the young Philippe getting sunburnt , so much he had to wait to mid afternoons to meet his friends til the sun was less fierce in the sky .My stepmum jumped to mind for me not because she was like Philippes mum now the suntan lotion she used to use was a special one for tanning more that had a real coconut smell ,not the usual suntan lotion it made me think of the hot summers we had abroad when younger .

Acacia

His childhood summer again ,him with his good friends on bikes or playing games ,with the smell of Acacia petals from the tall trees that gave them shade as they cycled along ,also throwing the clusters of flowers into oil to make scented oil .Now for me a plants smell is two geraniums and tomato plants both of these make me think of my grandparents home by the seaside ,the smell of geraniums that grew in the porch a heady sickly flowery smell , then at the back in the greenhouse the smell of tomato plants but also the taste of those tomatoes grown taste like no other tomatoes ever do .

Coffee roasting

His first taste of freedom as a young 19 year-old in Nancy ,going out every day from cafe to bars , but also than discovering how coffee is roasted the smell of roasted coffee .Now anyone that knows me will know ,I only drink proper ground coffee and have done for most of my life living by myself , but coffee remind me now of my Amanda we have coffee a lot not being big drinkers we tend to have a coffee and cake at a coffee shop one of our favourites has a shop to buy coffee and tea attached and a wonderful smell and great selection of coffees my current favorite is one called tiger stripe rather nice with their cakes as well especially the victoria sponge that is just perfect .

Well that is the idea there are 63 vignettes of Philippe claudels life and I’m sure like me as you read along you will drift into your own past .For me smells often remind me of the past and since Proust onwards smells and taste have driven writers ,but few i think have taken it as far as philippe and used it just to tell his life in part .

What smells remind you of the past ?

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide

9781908313690

The Vatican Cellars by Andre Gide 

French fiction 

Original title – Les caves du Vatican 

Translator – Julian Evans

Source  – review copy 

 

FBI Team Leader: It’s an interesting setup, Mr. Ross. It is the oldest confidence game on the books. The Spanish Prisoner. Fellow says him and his sister, wealthy refugees, left a fortune in the home country. He got out, girl and the money stuck in Spain. Here is her most beautiful portrait. And he needs money to get her and the fortune out. Man who supplies the money gets the fortune and the girl. Oldest con in the world

From the film spanish prisoner by David mamet  from imdb 

I have long been a fan of Gallic books ,they publish a wide range of books from France from crime  to lit fiction in translation ,so there discussion to start doing some classic French writers is great and where better to start than with Andre Gide ,one of the most well-known names in 20th century French literature .Born in Normandy he grew up in isolation really ,he started writing at age 21 .He is best known for his books Strait is the gate and the Immortalist , this book came out a few years after that just on the outbreak of world war one .Gide influence the next generation of French writers Camus and Satre in particular .

In 1890 , in the papal reign of Leo XIII , the reputation of DR X—- , a specialist in rheumatic diseases , persuaded Anthime Armand-Dubois , Freemason , to travel to Rome .

“What?” his brother-in-law , Julius de barglioul exclaimed “You’re going all the way to Rome to get your body look after ! I hope that when you get there you’ll realise how much sicker your soul is !”

One family heads to Rome .

 

Rhe Vatican cellars is the tale of French upper class society falling victim to a band of Con men called the Millipede .The story follows three families Armand-Dubois family live in Italy Anthime has recently convert to become a Christian after he has a miracle cure ,meanwhile in Paris His wife sister  Marguerite and her husband Julius sister  ,he has recently written  a book and are movers in the Literary world of Paris , the third family Amedee who is Julius sister anyway these three families end up as a target for the millipede who want them each to give them 20,000 francs as they have 140,000 to help free the real Pope Leo XIII as they make them believe that the Pope there now is a fake Pope .Along the way the is some sex and comic turns .

“To have lost a pope is a frightful thing ,Madame ,there is no doubt about it . But even more frightful is a false pope ! Because to conceal its crime – what I am saying  – to inveige the church into pulling itself apart and fatally weaken itself ,in place of Leo XIII the lodge has installed on the papal throne who knows what puppet of the Quirinal .

The crumbs of the fake pope and why it happened are sowed .

Now this book when it arrived I knew the plot somewhat as it is a classic Scam , called the Spanish prisoner ,where the dupe is lead to believe that some one has been change and replaced with a double or variations on that theme .I would suggest if you like to see a modern version of the scam watch the David Mamet film Spanish prisoner (a very underrated film ) .So this book has been out print for 25 years is a good choice for a reissue and new translation .For me yes it has a strong theme of god and the church ,but also at points is quite brilliantly blackly comic ,I think one of the reason it hasn’t been popular is the plot is at times quite drifting and it is easy to lose where you are ,a few times I had to turn back a couple of pages and check I had it right Julian Evans is very good with older books I am halfway through his translation of Foundling boy another book from Gallic books I am reading .I had read Gide once before about 20 years ago  and have  couple on my shelves to read ,I think it may be a bit less time between his books this time .

Have you read Gide ?

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