The President,s hat by Antoine Laurain


The president’s hat by Antoine Laurain

French literature

Original title – Le chapeau de Mitterrand

Translator Gallic books (the four main characters stories were translated by three translators )

Source – review copy

Antoine Laurain is a Parisian born writer ,he has won a number of prizes and has written four novels .The president’s hat is his first book to be translated into English .

I am dining next to the president of the republic ,Daniel kept repeating to himself ,trying to convince himself that , irrational as it seem ,it was really happening to him .He barely noticed the taste of his first oyster ,so preoccupied was he by his new neighbours .

Daniel is eating when Mitterrand comes into the Brassiere he is in

Well this is a strange one I had picked this up a week earlier in the bookshop when it came out attracted by the cover and also the story as it was set during the eighties .So when I got chance to review it from Gallic books I jumped at the chance .The book follows a hat ,the hat happens to belong too President Mitterrand .The hat goes on an adventure after being left behind by the president in a Parisian restaurant and being picked up by Daniel Mercier ,this dull officer worker is in two minds to take the hat and when he does the hat seems to have some magic effect on him giving him a new air of confidence ,he subsequently loses the hat it then passes through Fanny ,Pierre and Bernhard all are touched or change when the hat comes into their lives .Meanwhile Daniel is trying to regain the hat and regain its powers as he sees it .What is Mitterrand doing about his lost hat ? why didn’t he go back  for it .

The black felt brim acted like a visor ,compressing the space around her and marking out a distinct horizon .In Batigonelles ,a man did a double take as he passed her .What kind of image was she projecting ,walking along in the moonlight in her denim mini-skirt ,high heels ,silver jacket and black hat ?

Fanny finds the hat after Daniel she is a 80’s hip girl in her own words

This book isn’t high French lit ,but it is fun lighter reader  .For me its from that part of the French psyche that produces films like Amelie ,which this book really remind me of that fuzzy warmness I got form that film ,That light-hearted Gallic humour  of misadventures  ,Like the box that Amelie finds the hat is a framing devices and a talisman to all the come in contact with and in some way changes everyone’s life  .In the back of the book is an interview with Antoine Laurain where he said he came up with the idea after losing his own hat and imagining after he had returned to the restaurant and their was no sighting that it had fallen into the hands of a beautiful women .Her choose the 1980’s as he want to go back to a simple period of French life ,Nick Lezard in his Guardian review talks of a new sub genre of  ” pre mobile phone literature” ,I agree in part but part of me thinks that anyone of a certain age in both UK and France looks back at the 80’s as a golden age in a way the last time before the world started to speed up due to so much information and internet . When people still read papers ,houses still had  phones or minitel in Frances case .Even our news seemed different we know who Mitterrand was we saw him on our tv on the news regularly as the world has sped up the last twenty years or viewing of the news has changed so we know less about our French neighbours current leader than we did in the 80’s which is a shame .This book is a fast read I finished it in a little over a night and it was a book that when I put it finally down I was smiling and a little upset that it had finished as I loved the world I had been in between the covers .

Have you read the book ?

7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jennifer Wallace
    May 01, 2013 @ 12:12:23

    I have this waiting on my bookshelves to be read as I was also asked to review it for Gallic Books – really looking forward to reading it now!


  2. Brian Joseph
    May 01, 2013 @ 13:31:09

    Sounds really good. I tend to like stories that follow an object around through various people.


  3. Caroline
    May 02, 2013 @ 13:54:30

    I didn’t come this yet but it sounds quite charming.


  4. acommonreaderuk
    May 02, 2013 @ 18:48:43

    Well, I’ve never thought of the ’80s as a “golden age” but it’s an interesting thought. I enjoyed reading your review but perhaps this book isn’t too much up my street


  5. Emma
    May 02, 2013 @ 19:51:00

    I’ve never heard of this writer but it seems a fun read.
    Ah the minitel and its special sound when it connected to the network. We had lots of online info there (tel numbers, bank accounts, inscriptions to exams…) Pre-online age.

    Mitterrand’s icon is made of a black hat, a red scarf and a labrador. I can see that hat very well.

    The 80s in France are different from the 80s in the UK or in the USA. President Mitterrand was a socialist, not exactly sharing the ideas of Mrs Thatcher or Mr Reagan. The conservatives started to stock up with food when he was elected out of fear of a coming revolution. (can you imagine that?) It was a time of societal changes (homosexuality wasn’t a crime any more, abolition of death penalty, 5th week of paid leave…), of the importance of culture (foundation of the Fête de la Musique, fixed price for books, financing the cinema…) but also of deep economical difficulties.


  6. Trackback: The red notebook by Antoine Laurain | Winstonsdad's Blog
  7. Trackback: French rhapsody by Antoine Laurain | Winstonsdad's Blog

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April 2013


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