The incorrigible optimist club by Jean-Michel Guenassia

The Incorrigible Optimist club by Jean-michel Guenassia

French Literature

Original title -Le Club des incorrigibles optimistes

Translator – Euan cameron

Source – review copy


 “Immigrant Punk”

Upon arriving to the melting pot
I get penciled in as a goddamned white
Now that I am categorized
Officer gets me naturalized
Now that I’m living up in God knows where
Sometime it gets hard without a friend
But as I am lurking around
Hoptza! I see another immigrant punk!
There is a little punk rock mafia
Everywhere you go
She is good to me and I am good to her…

Legalize me! Realize me!

I choose Gogol Bprdello they capture what it is to come fromeast to west so well in their music and this would suit that back room !!

I had intend to try to review just german books this month but as we all know events on Friday in Paris have led me to review this book now rather than next month. What better to remember what a great city and spirit the French and the people of Paris have than a huge 600 page epic debut novel. This book won the Goncourt prize that is voted by students when it came out. It’s writer is a writer born in Algeria, he has been a screenwriter before writing this epic about life in  Paris in 1959 trying to capture a spirit of the time in this book.

“I’m no longer Czech. I’m not French. I’m stateless. It’s the worst scenario. One doesn’t exist. I do have a glimmer of hope of seeing my brother again. He’s American. We phone once a year to wish each other a happy new year . He’s a foreman in the building trade. He has a family. He lives well. But he can’t afford to come to Eruope.I’ll put in another request next year and the following one.

A  club of men fragment change the country’s name it could be any time in the last fifty years.


This is a story of one young boy Michel  a 12 year old in the cusp of becoming a young man but in some ways still a kid. he isn’t you’re normal kid he loves to read and take pictures and is drawn to the arty west bank and to the local Bistro , where he is playing table football with his mates. But at the same time drawn to the men that come and go from this bar Bistro to a back room with a pencil written sign that of the title of the book this mix of french intellectuals and refugees from East european draw this young man into their world of escape from the iron curtain as they sit play chess and talk about their lives life in the Iron Curtain .Meanwhile we sees how the war in Algeria touches Michel as his older brother is called to the front .So from Igor Leonid , thou his mother and his brother who just miss what their son and brother is getting from  these guy as the likes of Kessel and Sartre are their and in the air as they speak.

The Marinis, in their corner of the room, were gathered around grandfather Enzo. They were waiting. Franck, My brother, had made up his mind which side he was on.He was talking in a hushed voice to Uncle Baptiste and grandmother Jeanne. My father appeared, carrying an enormous cake with chocolate icing, and began singing “Happy birthday Michel” . The Marinis joined in the chorus

Michel Birthday and family tensions as the family gather for his birthday one the few times they are all together.

This book reminds me of what we all love in Paris that spirit of talking and discussing the world in the bars and bistros of the left bank. That is the world that was rocked by Friday night the new Michel’s gunned down. Paris and the way it has except people leaps off the page, the sad  thing is will this forever change for me I hope. So if you want a remind why Paris is such a great city. Right to the book Michel is a character I have come across a lot in american fiction, but he is more round than any character I have read in an American novel about growing up. Michel world comes alive that cafe those guys him listen absorbing and growing as he listens to the guys lives and stories is just ooze into you that socialist spirit of France at the time I want to go and reread my Sartre and finish the huge book by him on Freud I’ve had on the backburner for a few months.

November 2015


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