The sermon on the fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrari

The Sermon on the Fall of Rome

The sermon on the fall of Rome by Jérôme Ferrari

 French fiction 

Original title – Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome

Title – Geoffrey Strachan 

Source – review copy 

Sweltering Africa and languorous Asia,
A whole far-away world, absent, almost defunct,
Dwells in your depths, aromatic forest!
While other spirits glide on the wings of music,
Mine, O my love! floats upon your perfume.

I shall go there, where trees and men, full of vigor,
Are plunged in a deep swoon by the heat of the land;
Heady tresses be the billows that carry me away!
Ebony sea, you hold a dazzling dream
Of rigging, of rowers, of pennons and of masts:

I thought of this straight away baudelaire poetry and this one caught my eye .


I have reviewed the first book that Maclehose press published by Jérôme Ferrari Where I left my soul  and loved that book ,so when I was sent this book I was pleased and it was surprised that it was a very different style of book to Where I left my soul .Jérôme Ferrari studied at the Sorbonne ,he studied philosophy ,he has since taught in Algeria and at a High school in Corsica ,His first book translated  into English was set in Algeria and this his second to be translated is set in Corsica .The sermon on the fall of Rome won the Prix Goncourt the biggest prize in French literature .I feel the sign of a great writer is the ability to change the style of what you write and it still be great for me Ferrari has this .

In the middle of the night ,taking good care tom make no noise ,although there was nobody to hear her ,Hayet closed the door of the little flat she had lived in for eight years above the bar where she worked as a barmaid , and disappeared .Around ten o’clock in the morning the hunters came back from the drive .

One of the bar people who disappeared .

The book is a trio of stories really the first story the main story is that of a bar in the mountains of Corsica ,that is brought by two friends Mathieu and Liberio ,who have returned to the island disillusioned  with their life in Paris studying philosophy .The bar they buy with money from Mathieu grandfather Marcel ,the bar has very attractive barmaids and a collection of odd customers  and the local hunters .The story follows affairs and drinking too much and what effect that has which isn’t a great effect .The second story is that of Marcel the grandfather who loaned the money to the two boys to open the bar ,his story is one of the French empire he spent most of his life which we see in snippets throughout the book ,is the fall of French empire in Africa in particular .The Third part really isn’t a big part but gives the title to the book and that is the Augustine of HIppo the fourth century saint ,Ferrari has retold the sermon that Augustine told on the fall of Rome ,we can see a parallel on the fall and the fall of the french empire .

Augustine lies there dying in his own city to which for three months Genseric’s forces have been laying siege .Perhaps all taht had occurred in Rome in August 410 was shaking of one centre of gravity ,the setting in motion of a slight swing of a pendulum ,the thrust of which finally propelled the Vandals through Spain and across the sea,all the way to beneath the walls of hippo

From the last chapter a reworking of the sermon on the fall of Rome .

Well I love the way the book took a small place a bar and the people who visit it and used that as a wider question of what had happened in France and across the French empire ,then using the story of Marcel to illustrate this and delving even farther back to use Augustine of Hippo to connect the fall of the French empire to the fall of the Roman empire .The book has naturally been compared to Marquez’s works ,of course around the bar you are reminded of small village life we see in Marquez’s work but to me I was more remind of a more recent French novel I have read where the tigers are at home  another book that uses the past and the present to weave a tale on a wider scale .There is fluidness to Ferrari’s writing you never sense a jolt as you move from place to place and time to time each connect to from a wonderfully vivid take on the fall of empire ,but also on where France could head after this ,add to this affairs causing trouble between the two main characters ,thieving and the fact a lot of the past owners of the bar have vanished you see there is more to this than it first seems .

Have you read either of his books to be translated in too English ?(if not why not !!)

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hastanton
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 11:29:43

    I loved where I left my soul ….wasn’t sure about this one when I read the blurb but will deffo get when I’m in Paris in October after reading your review !!


  2. Scott W.
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 16:31:36

    A friend in Europe raved about this book when it came out in France, so I read it. I too thought it was terrific, and affecting to an unexpected and unusual degree given its “microcosmic” focus on the enterprise of opening a bar.


  3. jacquiwine
    Sep 25, 2014 @ 16:43:27

    I like the idea of using a location and characters from the present to reach back into history, and it sounds as if the author’s fluid writing style really helps here. Do you think this might crop up on next year’s IFFP list? I get the feeling it could be a contender.


  4. Tony
    Sep 26, 2014 @ 04:25:36

    Might try this in French if I get time as I loved the last one 🙂


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September 2014


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