Monsieur Linh and his child by Philippe Claudel

Source – review copy

Translator – Euan Cameron

The french writer Philippe Claudel won the Independent foreign fiction prize in 2010 for his book the brodeck’s report ,he is  a writer and also a film director ,this book was written before the brodeck’s report .

Monsieur Linh of the title is an elderly gent from well we don’t know where from just a war-torn country ,he is on a boat with his young granddaughter heading to a new land to start a new life ,he arrives ends up in a centre with the other refugees ,this is the point we meet the other main character  of this book Monsieur Bark ,they meet as every day Linh escapes to the park to sit on the bench and just be ,the two men don’t speak the same language but meet and make a connection maybe its the fact that they both have things to say but maybe don’t want the answers that draws them close ,eventually traveling to the seaside ,having drinks in the cafe .But then Linh is found a place a long distance away from his friend ,Linh health drops and well he dies (sorry that might be a bit of spoiler but it is obvious from early in book Linh is old )at this point Bark finds his friend and you get a huge OMG moment ,it has been a long time since a book made me go damm I didn’t see that, but this did.

He places a cigarette between his lips ,in a simple and smooth motion .He lights it ,inhales the first puff deeply ,and closes his eyes .

“It’s good all the same …” he murmurs eventually.

The old man doesn’t understand anything the ,man who has just sat down is saying .Nevertheless ,he senses that the words are not unfriendly .

Lind and Barks first meeting on the bench .

At heart of this book is what is it to be a refugee and friendship ? Linh and Bark’s friendship remind me of the Jim Jarmusch’s film ghost dog there is  a friendship between Forest Whitaker character and an Haitian ice cream man were they speak in different languages but know each other really well some how .Claudel did a great job blurring the lines here Linh could be a name from anywhere and as recent  history shows being a refugee isn’t just african problem ,I worked in Germany in early nineties with Bosnian and Croat refugees we had similar chats to bark and Linh my broken German and there broken German and English ,but in some ways the struggle made us closer than talking to someone in your own language for same period of time ,anyway back to the book ,although the fact are thin on the ground this is about people, Linh his granddaughter and monsieur Bark are the three people a triangle brought together by war .Another thing the book remind me of was Dahl’s tales of the unexpected ,this one has such a twist in the tale it would have made a great episode of that series .

Do you like surprises ?

have you read Claudel ?

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Chinoiseries
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 12:18:19

    I haven’t read Claudel before, but your review has prompted me to add this book to my tbr list. I love books that are about people connecting with one another, even though they have to overcome one barrier or the other (language in this case).


  2. parrish
    Apr 02, 2011 @ 18:54:18

    Not read any but it sounds interesting, especially the way you compare it to GhostDog, loved that film. Also had a similar experience in Germany working on building sites, with various other nationalities & It’s amazing how much you can convey with the odd word & a copious amount of gesturing.


  3. Eva
    Apr 03, 2011 @ 03:50:57

    I’m always interested in refugee stuff, so this is going on my tbr list. 🙂 Also, that cover is stunning.


  4. sakura
    Apr 04, 2011 @ 12:25:28

    I haven’t read anything by Claudel yet but there’s been lots of positive reviews around the blogosphere for his first book. This sounds wonderful too.


  5. Nicci Praca
    Apr 07, 2011 @ 14:47:58

    @Chinoiseries @parrish @Eva @sakura – apologies, but only just seen this. I’m the publicist on this book and as you guys are all so keen to read it, I’d be happy to send a copy to you guys if you’ll tell us what you thought – either on your own blogs or on twitter or even facebook.

    Let me know if you’re game.



  6. Pinguinilou
    Feb 25, 2012 @ 17:52:46

    I read this book in french, (i’m bilingual) and it’s so amazing. I highly recommend english readers to read this amazing book!


  7. Trackback: Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel | Iris on Books
  8. Trackback: Monsieur Linh and His Child, by Philippe Claudel, translated by Euan Cameron « ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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April 2011


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