A Women’s Battle and Transformations by Édouard Louis

A Woman’s battle and Transformation by Édouard Louis

French fiction

Orignal title –Combats et métamorphoses d’une femme

Translator – Tash Aw

Source – Personal copy

I reviewed History of Violence last month But I was looking through Waterstones sale at the beginning of the year and this hardback edition was one of the many books they had half-price so I decided I would get it and after loving History of Violence I had to read this as his mum had been a figure in both those books a character there but I want to know more about his mother as in the earlier books his father had been the figure that had loomed large in his life as he was an ogre of a man and we see what happened from his mum’s view of his growing up and what happened to her.

Looking at this image, I felt language disappear from me. To see her free, hurtling fulsomely towards the future, made me think back to the life she shared with my father, the humiliation she endured from him, the pov-erty, the twenty years of her life deformed and almost destroyed by misery and masculine violence, between the ages of twenty-five and forty-five, a time when others experience life, freedom, travel, learning about oneself.

Seeing the photo reminded me that those twenty years of devastation were not anything natural but were the result of external forces – society, masculinity, my father – and that things could have been otherwise.

The picture on the cover is the image he talks about here

The cover of the book is the nugget that led to the book it is a photo he had found of his mum before his father had worn her down it was a young woman with her whole life in front of her. As he said he had seen what twenty years of living in his father’s shadow and rages had done to his mother. She had a bright future, she want to be a cook but when she met he husband those plans had gone out of the window. She settled in a job as a home help but after the events in one of the other books where Edsdy’s father loses his job as a result of a back problem the families fortunes take a turn for a worse and as he is oin control of what his Mum can do such as telling her not to learn to drive. Which could have helped her work life a lot easier. It is that atmosphere ( was reminded of my childhood my stepfather is. overbear oath of a man ) the sense of the house I got the silence and an almost constant feeling of it not being right I felt in the book. But unlike my late mum that I never saw separated from my stepfather. So the latter part of the book when his mum found a new found freedom I loved.

I’ve been told that literature should never attempt to explain, only to capture reality, but I’m writing to explain and understand her life.

I’ve been told that literature should never repeat itself, but I want to write only the same story again and again, returning to it until it reveals fragments of its truth, digging hole after hole in it until all that is hidden begins to seep out.

I’ve been told that literature should never resemble a display of feelings, but I write only to allow emotions to spring forth, those sentiments that the body cannot express.

I loved these words touching

I love Louis I think at the moment he is one of those writers I will read every book he writes, I have the one left about his father to read then I’ll be waiting until he is the new master of French Autofiction. But he reminds me of her at times of situations in my own childhood My stepfather was never too violent just a difficult man with a number of issues and my childhood had this constant feeling like in the book of unease that makes every day so hard. I got his mum and it reminded me of my mum a peacemaker and tightrope walker in the house. He brings you into his home growing up and his mother’s world so well she is a victim but also a survivor and this is what I loved so much at the end. I had hoped My brother and i would have got it when my mum had well i don’t know but we had thought we’d had a time when she’d been with us and our stepfather wasn’t in the scene but she passed away far too young. This is what I love about reading and the journey we take in books occasionally you get those books that just touch a nerve in your own world and I think there will be a great many people that will have the same connection with this book. How does it feel to be the only constant in a violent world;rd bring up kids here it is captured how hard it can be and the scars it leaves. Hae you read this short powerful book by him?

Winstons score -+A harrowing look at his mother’s life and what could have been and wasn’t and what happen after !!

Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac


Colonel Chabert by Honoré de Balzac

French fiction

Original title – Le Colonel Charbert

Translator – Andrew Brown

Source – Library book

I was looking at what gaps I should fill in the breadth of the blog and it is classics from around the world I have reviewed a lot of French novels and novellas over the time of this blog but not many classic works from France I have always had in mind to work through the works of Balzac and Zola the two great figures of 19th century French literature. So when I saw this on my last library visit it seemed like a great foot in the door of Balzac a writer who wrote early in the morning and drank too much coffee over the years. This book sounds like it had hints of other books like count of monte Cristo where identity is an issue. The question in a time before photos and id are so tied up in computers how do you prove who you are.

When he saw the solicitor, the stranger gave a start, and shuddered convulsively like poets when an unexpected noise distracts them from a fertile reverie in the midst of night and silence. The old man promptly took off his hat and stood up to greet the young man; the leather lining of his hat was doubtless thick with grease, for his wig remained stuck to it without his noticing, and revealed his bald skull horribly mutilated by a transversal scar that began at the crown of his head and expired over his right eye, forming a long, thick, prominent seam.

The sudden removal of this dirty wig, which the poor man wore to conceal his wound, did not make either of the two men of law feel like laughing, as this split skull was such a terrible sight. The first thought suggested by the appearance of this wound was: “His intelligence has leaked away through it!”

“If he’s not Colonel Chabert, he must be a proud old trooper!” thought Boucard.

In The lawyers office a dishovled od man is he what he claims he is Colonel Chabert

An old man turns up at Dervile the lawyer’s office and he claims to be Colonel Chabert a long-dead Colonel a close ally of Napoleon. The staff in the offices wonder and tease this disheveled old man. He was a cavalry officer and is sent to the battle of Eylau. This is where he was seriously injured in the battle. So when he is found on the battlefield they thought he was dead so was buried in a shallow grave. When he awakens and escaped his grave and is reborn without a memory he is here to claim what is his in the time he was away his wife whom he had met when she was a prostitute has moved up the ladder and is now a countess with her husband a man of ambition. He has returned to get his life back and his wife and hopes Dervile will help him. But this is a post-Napolean era a new world.

The old man gestured with his hand, and seemed to he mulling over some secret sorrow with that grave and solemn resignation that characterizes men who have gone through the blood and fire of battlefields. Monsieur,” he said, with a kind of gaiety, for this poor Colonel could after all breathe again: he had emerged a second time from the tomb – he had just melted a layer of snow more difficult to dissolve than the one which had long ago frozen over his head, and he breathed deeply as if he had just escaped from a dungeon. “Monsieur,” he said, “if I’d been a handsome fellow, none of my misfortunes would have happened. Women believe men when they stuff the word ‘love into every phrase they utter. Then they come running, they dash here and there, they go out of their way for you, they plot, they corroborate your version of events, they do their damned best for the man they like. How could I have ever persuaded a woman to take my side?

He is a dirty old man now and not the dashing Cavalary officer he once was !

I saw this as a perfect intro to Balzac I do have a number of other books by him. This as a short Novella seemed a great intro and it was it isn’t a heavy story just a man trying to regain his life a sort of anti-Count of Monte Cristo a turn down in fortune. Chabert’s entrance into the lawyer’s office reminds me of Pip’s reaction in Great expectations when he sees Magwich. The book itself has been made into six films over the years you can see why it has a lot in a little book the war. The journey of Chabert from the grave to the Lawyers’ office alongside this is his romance and marriage to his wife. Then her life after she thinks he died in the war. Then the final bit him trying to get his life back and being mocked is where the book starts and where it ends in a way. Have you read Balzac where should I move on to next with Balzac

Winstons score – +A A slim intro in Balzac.

History of Violence by Edouard Louis

History of Violence by Edouard Louis

French Auto Fiction

Original title – Histoire de la violence

Translator – Lorin Stein

Source – personal copy

As I said on my last post this book links in with the previous book I reviewed Black Box by Shiori Ito this book is the account of Edouard Louis when he was rapped. He is a writer I have read before I read his debut novel The end of Eddy like this book was a work of AUTO FICTION HE IS THE HEIR TO A WRITER LIKE Anne Ernaux he is able to write about his life in a way that it lingers long with you as a reader after you have put the book down. He is a fan of Faulkner even in the middle of the book he pulls up the parallel between his experience and that of Temple drake in Sanctuary.

I showed up at her house four days ago. I’d told myself, naively, that time in the country was what I needed in order to get over the weariness and passivity that had consumed my life, but no sooner had I walked through the door, thrown my bag down on the bed, and opened the bedroom window, with its view of the woods and the factory in the next village, than I knew it was a mistake and that I’d go home feeling even worse than before, even more, depressed by my own inertia.

When he shows up at his sister after the event of that night.

The book follows the events leading up to during and after a rape that happened to Edouard Louis, it is told in a non-linear order as the events after the rape form the early part of the book. as Edouard tries to piece together the events of that night. He makes his way to his sister and he recounts to her the events of the night that lead up to the Rape. Burt when his sister then tells her husband the story her brother told her. She recounts the narrative differently and makes it seem like not was partly Louis’s fault what happened. He takes exception to this and we see the events as he portrays them. AS He met and took home a man called Reda he is a man of Kabyle (not arabic as his family think later) descent. The two meet get on as Edouard is heading home on Christmas Eve excited about the night he has had with his friends. Then he invites himself back to Louis’s for a drink s. When they arrive at the flat Reda reaches into Louis’s pocket for the keys which turn Louis on. So far it is all ok and the evening moves pin the shower and grow closer. But then when he sees something has disappeared the face of the man he spent the evening with changes and the night starts to take a turn for the worse and the events that follow he describes how it felt to be attacked and then raped.

He told me that he was Kabyle and that his father had come to France in the early sixties. This was twenty years before Reda was born. When we met, Reda must have been in his early thirties. They sent his father to a designated immigrant hostel somewhere to the north of Paris, I forget the exact town, with no more than a change of clothes and a few things stuffed into a little suitcase – and not because he had nothing, though it’s true he didn’t have much, but because he wasn’t allowed to bring any more with him; as if it weren’t enough to be poor, he had to seem poor too. Reda began to tell me all this when we were standing outside my building, but it was later – when we were lying together in bed and I was begging to know more about him, about his life

They initially get on and he learns about the young man he has met Reda.

I said yesterday it was connected to the book I had read yesterday Black box the story of a Japanese rape victim that was a powerful story and this is too we have not had so many male rape novels, well I haven’t read the many and one like this that recounts the worst night of Louis life in such detail is a brave narrative but one that has to be told yes race plays a part after his family blame the fact of this on what happened to Edouard. But as he says he isn’t Arabic and that wasn’t caused by the events of that night. He records the detail of that night but also the aftermath this is where it differs from the book yesterday as it shows how he went to the police and they took it seriously and the trauma that followed that night the PTSD and how he has to make sure he hadn’t got aids the worry of that after that attack. As I say he is an heir to Ernaux he is very much in the style of a writer in Autofiction also he has a visceral nature of Faulkner as in the middle of the book when he compares his events to those Faulkner wrote. Have you read any of the books from Louis?

Winston’s score – B one mans worst night recounted and the aftermath of it.

Red is my Heart by Antoine Laurain and Le SONNEUR

Red is my Heart by Antoine Laurain and LE SONNEUR

French fiction

Original title – Et mon cœur se serra

Translator – Jane Aitken

Source personal copy

I have reviewed 6 earlier books by the French writer Antoine Laurain he is a writer I love his books are great for an evening read he always take you away into his world whether it is having the presidents hat , a notebook or an old pop group there is always a hook that its the start of the journey in his books and the same is the case here we have a man that is sitting to write a letter to a girlfriend that has just left him. But the wonderful thing in the book is he has teamed up with the French street artist LE SONNEUR who has provided119 illustrations that us just three colours Black red and White to capture the despair of a relationship breaking they mix wonderfully with the inner story of this man’s despair at the relationship break up.

Today I posted

you a letter, a very beautiful letter, three carefully drafted pages written with a medium-nib Cross fountain pen in black ink. When I went to write your address on the envelope, my hand trembled and I invented a new one. An address that does not exist, a random number in an imaginary street which I placed in an arrondissement on the other side of the city 8 Rue Pierre-François-Flarmentier, Paris 15. I posted the letter in the yellow postbox.

You will never read

The opening as he writes a letter she will never read to him

He opens by writing a letter our narrator knows that she will never read and ponders that has he changed maybe the watch needs changing a new watch may change times maybe make some new times? All this is counterpointed with LE SONNEuR Illustrations that capture his a broken jigsaw, a couple parting the black is the male and the red is his lost lover in the illustrations and this really works as the book moves on as the hope of reconciling the relationship is ever further away. The memories of that time together ness are that shop that coffee shop the echoes of past time at one point he imagines he is in her apartment and says if I am here in my mind I can be there in my body. But as the illustrations show he may need a ladder to get to the bit of her that remains. He goes to New York this is where fact and fiction blur as the narrator sees a sign saying MON AMOUR is this fate no that is an art piece by LE SONNEUR.

Alain-Fournier is eighteen, and a student at the Lycke 1akanal when he crosses paths with the beautiful stranger. Shortly after the writer’s death, his friend and school. fellow Jacques Rivière said, “That brief encounter was the defining moment of his life and a source of immense passion, sadness and rapture.’

Without knowing who she is, Alain-Fournier follows Yvonne Toussaint de Quièvrecourt as she walks towards the Seine. She boards a Bateau-Mouche and alights at Quai de la Tournelle to return to her parent’s apartment at 12 Boulevard Saint Germain, still pursued at a distance by the lovestruck young man. In the days that follow, he keeps returning to that address to try to see her again. Finally, on the morning of 10 June, he spots her at the window of the apartment. The girl, surprised to see him, smiles warmly.


I always love books that deal with Memory and how we deal with it. Such as this is about the loss of a relationship. That shows what remains it s like that shell is a beautiful but hollow object.A relationship that has broken what remains is the moments here but as time drifts that is what the Illustrations capture so well the love of the women is like a balloon drifting away on the breeze always too far away just out of grasp. or a level t to be reached by a ladder that is just to short. This is a very quick read but it is one that has just the right mix of visual and narrative. THE embers of what was once there are being blown on to stop them from going out but there is always the chance to start a new fire as the last piece of heat ebbs away. I love Laurain he isn’t a complex writer. But he is one that manages to capture a lot here, especially if he has got that post-break-up feeling well. His book are a journey for the reader and this is in that gap in between those loves that void and how we fill it. Have you read any of his books? I have included a couple of  illustrations from this great book.

Winston’s score – A. This is another gem from a writer I have loved since I. first read him nearly ten years ago.

the Last One by Fatima Dads

The Last One by Fatima Daas

French fiction

Original title –La Petite Dernière

Translator – Lara Vergnaud

Source – Library

I love my local library it is well stocked and gets a lot of new books in so I often go and look for something I have missed or maybe just missed and this is one such book. I think I saw it around Twitter maybe when it came out. Fatima Daas is a leading new voice who sold very well in France and is a feminist she identifies as an intersectional Feminist. This is the pseudonym of the writer she adopted it in her mid-teens she was taught by the writer Tanguy Viel she went on to study literature at this time she also had her sexual awakening and its effect on her religion and family this is a complex work about growing up Lesbian from NORTH African family and trying to remain a Muslim. a stunning debut from a new talent.

My name is Fatima.

The name of a symbolic figure in Islam.

A name that must be honoured.

A name that mustn’t be “soiled”, as we say in my


In my house, to soil means to dishonour. Wassekh, in Algerian Arabic.

Or daria, darija, our word for dialect.

Wassekh: soil, stir shit up, blacken.

It has multiple meanings, like “close”.

My mother would use the same word to tell me

I had got my clothes dirty, the same word when she came home and found her Kingdom in bad shape.

The opening chapter and the first time we see My name is Fatima Daas

This book uses the same beginning at every chapter MY name is Fatima Daas what follows is how she is growing and the struggles a young woman has growing up. During her school years, she struggles to fit in as a pupil going off the rails till she finds her voice in writing. Then her family and how will she fit in when she discovers her sexuality. Then this has a knock-on effect on her religion. she dreamt of being ani man and how can she aline herself with the values of the religion. How do you cope when you grow up as a Lesbian Muslim in Modern France? This is a refreshing take on the Bildungsroman. The pains, sadness and small wins along the way. The book is hypnotic at times with the repeating motif and the initial description of where Fatima is in her life at this point. Its a tale of how to break free and become your own person but also keep at heart where you are from and who you are! what you become and how you became.

My name is Fatima Daas, I was born in France, sometimes I spend more than four hours on public transport to get to class, work, a theatre, a museum or back home to my parents’ house.

I begin to take public transport regularly when I’m eighteen.

After a while, I experience “commuter fatigue”, the kind that induces a migraine at pretty much the same time every evening, that makes you prematurely realize that your body is aging, that colours your mood, prompts you to overreact, to complain almost as much as the Parisians, and to bursts of anger that are difficult to control.

It’s the kind of fatigue that makes you think about

“moving closer”.

A later chapter about being a commuter in Paris

This is a work that draws you into Fatima’s life with the repetitive nature of the chapters. It is like the drumbeat of Kodo drummer beating and driving the fragments of her life as we see a girl that should have been a boy to her father. Then growing up in the France of LE pen etc being Algerian and  Muslim been twisted by what that means when you sexually awaken to the fact you’re a girl attracted to Girls. This is a side of modern France rarely seen. How do you identify yourself this is how we deal with Labels we all have labels but do they define you or create you what labels do you show which should you hide? A great slice of Autofiction just after the master of Autofiction won the Nobel this is maybe this generation Ernaux a strong female with her own struggles and emotional journey like Ernaux before her. Have you a favourite work of Autofiction or a favourite Queer novel in translation?

Winstons score – + A this is why I read books in translation insight into other lives and places.


Girl A Novel by Camille Laurens

Girl a novel by Camille Laurens

French fiction

Original title – Fille

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – Review Copy

I’m late to the review of this just it was one of those books that you have to let sink into you as it was a powerful insight into growing up female in a male-dominated world. Camille Laurens is a member of the Academy Goncourt she was involved in a scandal last year around her husband getting voted on the longlist and a review she had published of another book on the list in Le Monde (I love these little snippets about writers it makes them seem real, Plus it is hard when you partner is in the same world as you and this situation happens). Camille is a prize-winner writer winning the Prix femina and has been on a number of prize Juries over the years she has had a number of books translated into English this is the first book by her I have read.

You’re a girl. It’s not a tragedy either, you see. You are slant-eyed but we’re not in China. Were not in India. In India the words “it’s a girl”  are now banned. Saying “it’s a girl” before the baby is born is punishable by three years in prison and a fine of 6,000 rupees: people are no longer allowed to ask for or carry out scans to identify the baby’s sex and then have an abortion because too many girls are vanishing; so many have been nipped in the bud that there are whole villages of single men. So many girls have been liquidated, they never use the words “sister” or”wife.” Before scans were invented girls were killed at birth. If you’d been born in India or China, you might be dead. In Rouen
everything’s fine. You’re loved in spite of it

As I said the world still has many Laurence’s in it

The book focus on a childhood in the 60s we meet Laurence she is the second daughter her family is a typical family of the time her father works as a doctor and her mother is a housewife. This is really the back bok=ne of the book the time it is set and what we see is Laurence taking apart her childhood. He wanted a son and heir. so When Laurence is born, that really sets the tone for her childhood in many ways the feeling of always being a second-class person to her father’s disregard for the siblings. The fathers constant undermining and view of the world  This is a slice of a provincial world and views you often look back on news footage of these days(I love the bcc archive YouTube channel little snippets of stories over the years) and think was that the world and this is a birds-eye view of growing up female in a male world. The second half of the book is a flip to the first as we see the daughter become a mother to her own Daughter Alice and can she change the way she was brought up it is a picture of a dotting mother trying to avoid what befell her as a child but it is also shown how times and attitudes had changed in the intervening years. The adult Laurence has scars of her childhood and certain events in her life show that.

My father takes my sister and me to see it one after the other, never together. If the boat should capsize or suddenly deflate, even with our water wings on we could drown, and he wouldn’t be able to save both of us, he’d have to choose. Now that’s a father who thinks of everything, even death. Perhaps he’s thinking of Gaelle: girls do that, they die. Perhaps if one of the two of us had been a
boy, he’d have taken us both in the boat. A boy’s good and strong, a boy can always cope. But more tellingly, I think to myself, if one of us were a boy, he wouldn’t hesitate if the boat went down, he’d know who to save.

This one passage hit me hard sad but true

This is a powerful work of feminist writing it takes apart a childhood when you were the sex that wasn’t wanted there is a universal nature to that yes our attitudes in the west have changed and moved on maybe not far enough but books like this show how far along the road we are but also are a reminder of what still has to change how many Laurence are there still around the world. Its hard not to feel there is still;l far to come as is shown when Laurence’s education and just the sheer disadvantage of being female what is shocking is this is only 60 years ago and seems a distant land for me I am a couple of decades younger, but this world felt alien to even then. She works the narrative well with all three perspectives at the time the first second and third person of this life is a woman’s life a look at those subtle obstacles that often are created whether it be sex, race or sexual orientation there is always those that tried and try to sublet unsettled people. It took me a while to review this as it just has to sink in it made me angry and sad at times and for me that is what we as readers read for those journeys those narratives other than our own to be female in a small French provincial time is something I Never could be but this book brought me into her life. Have you read any other books from Camille Laurens /

Winstons score – A – look behind the curtain at going up the wrong sex and disadvantaged due to that and how it effect her own motherhood.

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras

French fiction

Origin title – Moderato Cantabile

Translator – Richard Seaver

Source – personal copy

I picked this up earlier this year with Woman in translation month in mind and it is strange as the book I reviewed yesterday had slight echoes to Duras Lovers as it is set in Vietnam and had a man from Vietnam of Chinese descent at its heart.(I have reviewed lovers a long time ago and another from her a few years ago). So this is my third book from Duras and this is the earliest book from her. I have read the one that put her in the spotlight as a writer when it came out and sold half a million copies. Duras was born in Vietnam or as it was then French Indo-china she lived there most of her early life eventually studying in Paris and living in France during the war where her husband end up a t Buchenwald she nurse him back to life after the war she was part of the Nouveau Roman moment this book was made into a film.

The growing clamor of voices of both sexes rose from the dock. Everyone seemed to be saying the
same thing, but it was impossible to distinguish the words. The sonatina went innocently along, but this time, in the middle of it, the lady could take no more.
The child stopped. The lady turned to Anne Des-baresdes. “I’m sure something serious has happened.” They all went to the window. To their left, some twenty yards from the building, a crowd had already gathered on the dock in front of the café door. From the neighbouring streets people were running up to join the crowd. Everyone was looking into the café.
“I’m afraid this part of town.” the lady said. She turned and took the boy’s arm.”Start again,one last time, where you left off.”
“What’s happened?”

The event happened during the Child’s lesson.

The book follows Anna she is the wife of a factory owner the book opens as she is at a piano lesson hence the title of the book when the piano teacher asks her child what Moderato Cantabile means`( he is referred to as just the child) as the lesson happens the attention is drawn outside the lesson to a cafe just by them it seems as they something is happening as they stare on the cafe the police come. It turns out there has a murder opposite a lover has killed the woman he was in love with. Well Anna is drawn in so next time she goes she visited the cafe where she saw the action last piano lesson what follows is her revisit the cafe where she meets a worker from her Husband’s business and pumps him for info of what had happened her imaging why it happened the day it happened as he Chauvin fills in the gaps of what happened. As the two are in the cafe on a Friday as the child has lessons. she starts to see this new man in her child at points saying he has similar eyes. This meeting is repeated this describes their lives this is a book where nothing but everything happens if that makes sense most of the book is about the same meeting at the cafe over a number of weeks.

The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unintelligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes. “Won’t you sit down?” he said. She followed him without a word. As she knitted,
the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking an unfortunate turn.The patronne picked up her red sweater, and didn’t answer. Another tugboat, loaded to the gunwales, entered the port. The child shouted something unin-
telligible. The man came over to Anne Desbaresdes.
“Won’t you sit down?” he said.
She followed him without a word. As she knitted, the patronne followed the tugboat’s every manoeuvre. It was obvious that in her opinion things were taking
an unfortunate turn.

Red is a recurring motif in the book.

This is one pop those books that subtly hits you as a reader it is about the memory of a place in a way I can see this influence on other French writers including one of my favourites Modiano it is a book heavy on the sense of place. But with a lot of imagination to events by them both that for me in a way mirrors British books around this time I think the relationship between Anna and Chauvin is similar to those of certain books like Billy liar the relationship between Billy and Liz the way the real and imagined events blend or ike in a taste of honey where imagination and reality clash. It is a connection between class also that feeling of her as a repressed wife meeting this rougher man and making a connection. The book is as short as Peirene would call a movie book a book read in a couple of hours falls into that category. It was made into a film but it isn’t online to stream I hope to catch it one day as it is meant to be a French classic film. This is my favourite of the three I have read as it is one of those books that you think is easy but then days later are still making connections and going oh there was this and that there in this book. Have you read this or any books by her ? have you a favourite?

A cage in search of a bird by Florence Noiville

A cage in Search of a bird by Florence Noiville

French fiction

Original title – L’Illusion délirante d’être aimé

Translator – Teresa lavender Fagan

Source – Personal copy

I return to a writer that I had reviewed a while ago her non fiction work Literary miniatures a collection of her reviews and piece she had written for Le Monde where for a number of years she had been in charge of the foreign writers section of the paper she had interviewed most of the leading writers for the last twenty years. She has written four novel and a number of non fiction works. I picked this book as it just grabbed me as it deals with Mental Health as someone who works with people with mental health issues so this description of some one with De clerambault syndrome(he De clerambault was one of the first to look at mental illness in a new Wayne of his students was Lacan !!) a condition that sees some one try to become another person that usually ends in a bad way for one of the two people involved.

Wouldn’t it be best simply to talk directly with C? I screw up my courage and leave her a message. Why don’t we talk things over seriously? In the day rather than at night? Ten minutes later C calls back. She says she agrees, ‘of course she agrees’. We set a meeting for the next day, at a cafe near the Trocadéro. That evening I dive back into de Clérambault. *

Can she talk to her ?what will happen if she does ?she will find out reading about the syndrome

The book follows Laura she is living her best life as we would call it these days. She is in Paris(I love a visit to Paris )she is working in TV as a journalist and is on the up she has a bright future. So when she meets a old school friend who is just referred to through out the book as C she gets her a job at the TV she just feel she is helping her out but as she starts to try and get into Laura life and at first  it is first subtle then we sheC  e mail and becoming more and more obsessive around her as the syndrome takes its toll on C and so on Laura. As C makes her self part of her circle of friends and at every turn there is C, as she starts to almost want to Be Laura as she starts to worry we see her try and find out what is happening to Her and C. As things are turning against her as C starts to make her look bad and it is seen the Laura is the one getting Bullied by Laura then even when she is falling out with her partner. She finds a Psychiatrist and try and find out what this De Clerambult syndrome was that C has and is shocked with what she finds basically C is trying to be her and basically it will end up with either her of C in a really bad way. the book sees the tale unfurl as the tense and horror of events is clearer.

‘Do you remember my first wife, Ulrica?’ my friend Vincent asks me. ‘It was right after she was hired as a professor at the Sorbonne. Every day a guy came to talk to her after her classes, then followed her in the street. She found notes rolled up and stuffed in the keyhole at home. One day she read an anti-Semitic allusion on one of them. She finally spoke to me about it, and I picked up my phone and called the guy. I told him that if he continued I would call the police. Two days later I saw an announcement of his death in Le Monde— suicide.’

How she is so intrusive and paranoia is evident here

I liked the way this book was paced as we see C slowly become more and more like Laura and how Laura copes with this Woman,an trying to take over her life and position it feels like when you see someone trying to be you. the book has a thriller feel in its pacing as we see what is C love for Laura but also what happens when she tries to avoid it this is now called Erotomania the film Nurse Betty is also about the same condition and over time there has been a number of celebrities that have had people with the condition come into there lives and they have done things or stalked the celeb.This is a book that highlights an illness not to well known or mentioned. If you like books that have a thriller feel with out being a thriller that deal with Mental health this would be one for you. Have you read any similar book dealing with mental health issues ?

Winstons score B – a interesting tale of two woman when one wants to be the other with obsession and mental health issues.

the book of mother by Violaine Huisman

The book of mother by Violaine Huisman

French fiction

original title -Fugitive parce que reine

Translator – Leslie Camhi

Source – Library book

Well this year there has been more books on the long listed I wasn’t very aware of this is another that had passed me by which is a shame as I have always had a soft spot for French auto-fiction. This is the debut novel from Violaine Huismann born in Paris she had lived for nearly twenty years in New York where she had organised the Brooklyn Academy of music Literary series and she also organised a number of art festivals. She had spent time on the side writing about her mother but it wasn’t to a number of years after her mother had passed and she herself had become a mother she felt in the right place to talk about her mother, her childhood and her mother’s death and how that had impacted on her and her sisters life. There is a great interview on YouTube about the book and how she want her mother to be remembered.

Maman often fainted due to the cocktail of medications that
she combined with alcohol. She hid her whiskey under her mattress,
in the back of kitchen cupboards that she imagined were secret, in
glasses of Coca-Cola that she forbade us from tasting, Coca-Cola
which we usually drank directly from the same family-size bottle, just
as the three of us dried ourselves with the same bath towel. The fact
that we possessed plenty of towels didn’t make a difference-_No one
around here has scabies as far as I know!

The young Violaine sees her mother faint when she is young due to the meds she is on.

The book has three parts the first is Violaine story in a way that of her and her sister growing up twith there mother that has very wild swings in her mood she had mental Health issues but as she said in the interview they are just a label and not how it was to live with mother. The book opens as her mother drives her and her sister through the centre of Paris in there car at high speed with the two children not wearing seat belts as a result of this her mother is sectioned for a time. Her mother had been married three times and was one of those characters that leaps of the page when you read her no matter how bad she can be with her children they still await her return this feels like the writer trying to explain her mother she said she just want her and the close family as real characters and some of the stuff that had happened with her mother where just too chaotic to appear in the book part of the problem was the fact that her mother was always struggling with the fact she had lost her place she had married a man from the upper class and never really fit in. The second [part of the book goes back to Maman as `Violaine calls her mother when Catherine grew up there was events that happened with her mother that she discovered via her fggrandmother she tries to get across her mothers child hood her from the piece she gathered growing up the last part off the book moves forward and sees the two sisters dealing with the mother death.

I was responsible for calling Maman’s lover with the news of her
suicide, and for telling him about the letter, where it could be found. I
was chosen by default, because I was the only one who had met him,
the only one to have gone to see firsthand Maman’s life in Dakar, First
he screamed, then he broke into tears. He asked me if he could see her
one last time. He could only see her here, in France, in Paris. We had to
find a way to get him here, we had to get a visa for him in time, while
Maman still had a body. We had to do the impossible, but my sister
and I were capable of that; nothing was impossible where Maman was
concerned, except for saving her. In less than a week we had mobilized
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French consulate in Dakar. In
less than a week he was in the air.

This hit me hard remind me of when we found about about my brother in law when he took his life. a day I will never forget

This is one off those books that could have gone so wrong and either been to rose tinted about her mother or the other extreme that it could have made her mother into a monster. But she seems to have caught her mother just right and that is as a human with both a bad and good side and also made her memorable she is one of those people that is larger than life through the young Violaine eyes and in the latter part after her mother death shows the effect she had one them.In the interview she said  this is how she wanted to put her mother across in the book as a person but want to use fiction instead of memoir for this. She said she had used Proust as how she wanted to write the book  about how he wrote about his life. For me the use of the three part works as it shows the events over time but also part of the reason her maybe why her mother was the way she was. It also shows how they got over such horrors in their youth. Then also managed to break the cycle of abuse. This could easily have been the writers own life as her experience could like many have been passed down as this is how a childhood is. The Proust connection is also there in the title which is a line from proust ht full line is Every woman feels that the greater her power over a man, the more impossible it is to leave him except by sudden flight: a fugitive precisely because a queen which maybe capture what she tires to do with her mother story. The book is a classic slice of Auto fiction Ala proust but not with the bitterness that we saw in a writer like Knausgaard yes it is a bad childhood but her mother is never painted as a monster and sometimes as my job has shown it is hard when someones head is just so messed up swings of mood can never quite be controlled. Have you read this or do you have a favourite piece of Autofiction

Winstons score – -A childhood and larger than life mother caught warts and all.

Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet

Jealousy by Alain Robbe-Grillet

French fiction

Original title – La Jalousie

Translator -Richard Howard

When I noted the other week that I was only 19 books away from 150 french books read I had a look back over all the books I had read from France over the years and looked at my shelves and thought I need a little more depth to the selection is mostly modern writers so I do have a lot of french books as they now are my go-to country to read from when I started the blog it would be German fiction but these days it is very much French literature but as I say more modern french literature. So I decide the next few french books will have a few older books and here we go with a book from the post-war era of French Literature. When we got a group of writers that were grouped together as the roman Noveau the new novel  Grillet and other writers like  Claude Simon (I have my eye on a new edition of his work from The Flanders road I have reviewed him and also a book from Nathalie Surraute. Robbe Grillet wrote a weekly column about his view of the modern novel. He was both a writer and also a filmmaker. This is his best-known novel I have already reviewed A project of a Revolution in New York which was written a number of years after this book. Anyway, I have watched a few of his films in the meantime and also read a bit about him and this book has a lot of common threads that appear in Grillet’s works.

Franck is here agaun for dinner, smiling, talkative, affable. Christiane has not come with him this time; she has stayed home with the child , who is running a slight fever. It is not unusal, these fays, for the husband to come without her like this, because of the child, because of christiane’s own ailments – for her health has difficulty adapting itself to this hot, humid climate – and also because of her domestic  problems, her difficulties managing her numerous and poorl organized servants.

There is an undercurrent of this short passage I felt !!

The book is the first-person narrative of a jealous husband as he is viewing his wife whom we only ever know as A in the book and her interaction with their neighbour Franck with his wife sometimes other times just Franck. We watch as the narrator glimpses on through the blinds. The title in french has a duel meaning as Jaluise is also the French name for Venitian blinds that the jealous husband is observing the action but this itself means that his description of the events is limited to our narrator’s vision of the event and is from the viewpoint that he feels his wife A is having this affair with Franck this love triangle is the heart of the book as we observe that action or well the events it is set in a Banana plantation and this is the time that the French Empire was like the British Empire was starting to fall apart so one imagines that there is a sense of that the heat also will add to the tension of the events happening I was reminded at times of the restored scenes of Apocalypse Now where we follow the evening in the old plantation. There is a feel of what is missed in the narrative also he like in his films jumps from time to time from one event to another event. This is a classic slice of what the New novel as a concept was meant to do and that is to rip up the novel as a norm away from the novel to the bare mechanics of what the work is!

They look at each other without adding another word.Franck widens his smiles, which wrinkles up the corners of his eyes. He opens his mouth as if he were going to say something, be he doesn’t say anything. A …’s features, from a point three quarters of the way behind her, reveal nothing.

After several minutes- or serveral seconds – both are still in the same postition. Franck’s face, as well as his whole body, is virtually petrified. He is wearing shorts and a short sleeved khaki shirtm whose shoulder straps and buttoned pockets have a vaguely military look. Over hus rough cotton knee socks he wears tennis shoes coated with a thick layer of white shoe polish, cracked at the places where the canvas bends with the foot.

The mechanic of the meet here also the reference to Military lok remind me of Apocalypse now

I said the mechanics as the bones of this book and it is true that he was trained as an Engineer and there is a sense of that type of mind at work I was reminded of my own father’s mind and the way he views the world which is very much how does it work? That is the heart of what he has done here it is like a hotrod of a novel it has been taken apart and rebuilt you can see its influence on other works after this the way the narrated glimpses into this world of his wife and his neighbours isn’t far removed from Jeffrey viewing frank through the slanted wardrobe door. Even the name is similar Franck and Frank! The glimpse of action even has a nod towards Hitchcock which came out before this book it is all about the angle the view we get the glimpses of the action it is shots of the events we are asked to think about what the events are we add the emotions and maybe even fill the gaps! in the book. So it is easy to see why this is considered an important work of post-war fiction as it is part of a canon of writers that wanted to shake up the novel after the war in France and Nabahkov called it the best novel about Love since Proust maybe the best about the despair of love. Have you read any books or seen the films of Robbe- Grillet.

Winstons score – A look at what one man views or doesn’t?

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March 2023


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