30 covers for #WITMONTH A french hit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I brought this when it came out but all the Hype around it made me leave reading it for now. But Macro the french president has said that Leila Slimani the job of “promoting the french language and its culture. The book is a tale of a nanny gone bad inspired by a real-life tale of a nanny killing her two charges in New york. Did you read it at the time or like me left it for the dust to settle around it !!!

 

 

 

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30 covers for #WITMONTH a french modern classic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I move to France on one of the great French female writers from post war France. Set in Russia in what is now Lativa a woman and the men that are trying to impress her. All that on the surface as Yourcenar puts a lot of things under the surface in her characters. Here is my review 

30 covers for #WITMONTH Simone Weil

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I pick an older book but an important one Simone Weil was a writer that sadly died too young the philosopher and mystic was one of the leading left-leaning thinkers of her day I have dipped into this collection she spent time as a worker in a factory to understand the working people. Camus called her the “the only great spirit of times”

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage 1954 by Antoine Laurain

French fiction

Original title – Millésime 1954

Translator – Gallic books (Jane Aitken / Emily Boyce)

Source – review copy

We all have a writer we go to for a fun read and for me the last few years it has been the novels of Antoine Laurain a mix of nostalgia and comedy. This is his sixth book to be translated into English by the Gallic books they are all similar in that they have an event or item that sets up a cascade of events. His novel French Rhapsody is being developed into a tv show according to the French wiki page. I have reviewed all his previous books and have grown to love his gentle comic books.

Oaris was destined to remain a fantasy for them. Two months after they met, although they had become engaged, chosen their wedding rings and dreamed of spending their honeymoon wandering the streets of Montmatre, Bob was contacted by Harley-Davidson. Their headhunters had spotted his talent as a mechanic, and they were offering him a job designing new egines, for three times what he was earning at Mensch’s Motors. Bob’s career was taking off and the flights to Paris could not compete

They had dreamed of Paris all their Married life Bob and Goldie but never got there.

So this book follows a group of people of a french Apartment building. Hubert and three other people open 1954 Beaujolais the three of them wake in 1954 Magilae an antique restorer, Bob a brash American from Milwaukee that is visiting France for the first time but alone as he was due to visit with his wife Goldie. Julien a Mixologist and Hubert as they set out to find out how to get back to 2017 and also, in turn, spend time in the Paris of 1954. As the see Piaf and Gabin dining elsewhere we head to the Louvre and the amazement of seeing the Mona Lisa not behind glass and light with special lighting, The Harrys bar with Harry still there and a new cocktail that is tasted by Audrey Hepburn when Julien makes it. They discover that a UFo was seen at the time this bottle of wine and a professor is writing a book about the events at the vineyard. Will he know the way back to the present for them? Has the past changed their view of the present?

“A new cocktail?” asked one of his colleagues, coming behind the bar

“Yes, with a violet base.”

“Write it down, Julien. Harry wants everything to be written down on the recipe book. He tapped the large book on the bar.

“Julien opened it and wrote in pencil

Abby, short drink

To a chilled mixing glass add : ice cubes, violet syrup(1cl), vodka(4cl), gin(4cl).

mix with a spoon, strain into a martini glass. Pour a little liquorice liqueur down the side of the glass.

Decorate with a twist of lemon zest, cutting one end into a star shap and resting this on the rim of the glass

Julien makes a new cocktail in 1954 that is new to him and old when he gets back to 2017

This is a bit different than his other books as it has a time travel element whereas his other have seen people look back in nostalgia  this sees people travel back to the fifties but it also sees people connecting with there own pasts and also remembering things like Bob remembering his wife Goldie is a sad story of a couple dream of Paris but never getting there they’d  watched Amelie, he ends up in the cafe in the fifties when it was at its best when their is touches like Harry and Harry’s bar a well known French cocktail bar that sees a modern as they are known Mixologist given the chance to make a drink for Audrey Hepburn and when he returns he see the Abbey now has a wiki page. There is a set of question for reading groups at the end the one that struck me is the one that says how do we cope when we haven’t a phone to find out about the world around us when we had to read and maybe ask !! another comic look back at French life and Parisian nostalgia. Have you tried Antoine Laurain? I reviewed this as part of a blog tour for Gallic books see the other bloggers here

Selfies by Sylvie Weil

 

Selfies.jpg

Selfie by Sylvie Weil

French fiction

Original title – Selfies

Translator – Ros Schwartz

Source – review copy

Sylvie Weil is the daughter of the well-known Mathematician Andre Weil and niece of Philosopher Simone. She studied Classics and French literature at the Sorbonne then taught in France and after a few years became a professor of French literature in the US. Then decided to become a writer she has written a number of YA novels and novels as well as Plays and Short stories. This is the latest book from the small publisher Les Fugitives bring the best of Modern French Literature to us in English.

The elderly teacher would often remind me that you must play each bar with one eye already on the next, so as not to be caught unawares. It was when he was speaking on this subject that I heard him laugh – the one and only time ever. He recalled one of his pupils, a very pious english spinster, who had replied: Oh! monsieur, god alone can see the future. I didn’t see him laugh because I never looked at him, but I definitely heard him laugh, as he sat beside ,me

The otgan reminded of the picture of someone 400 years earlier playing a clavichord sparks a memory of an old teacher.

This is a clever use of selfies the modern craze that isn’t so modern as we see here Sylvie uses a mix of paintings and photos from the 16th century onwards. Then uses these to tell vignettes of her own life, From the opening Vignette Sofonsiba Angussiola a picture of her at a Clavichord that reminds her when she visited a crypt in 1978 learning the organ being taught by an elderly teach proud to be teaching Simone’s niece. The Gwen John painting self-portrait with a letter reminds Sylvie of a postcard a lover called Gary the piece set in cafes smells of tobacco and honey and their meetings will he ask her to marry him something never answered. Later on, Frida Kahlo self-portrait reminds Sylvie of a couple she knew that had a dog, she isn’t a fan of dogs but when this dog that was a huge bouncy dog that greeted her bounding over every time passes she sees the gap and why they loved him so much. Near the end, Vivian Maier sparks the remembrance of a trip to Israel and what happened after as she is questioned about the trip.

When I met his owners, Ted and Elizabeth, they were no longer young. They’d married late. They had a huge dog called Winston, who would jump up excitedly when you mentioned the name of a certain dog biscuit, a bland rusk in the shape of a little bone. He’d snatch the biscuitm crunch it and then wag his tail enthusiastically, asis fitting for a well trained dog. It goes without saying that he never tired of running to retrive the ball or the sticks his owners threw as far as they could, knowning that he enjoyedthis game. An uncomplicated dog in other words. He was Elizabeth’s dog, from before her marriage. She liked to say that it was thank him that she’d learned to live with a fellow creature. Winston had taught her to share , to trust, Otherwise she’d never have married, she’d assert with a smile.

Well not hard to know why I connect to this particular vignette we all need a huge dog called Winston in our lives at some point !!!

This is a clever framing device using the paintings as a starting point for the vignettes she writes each a personal and emotional experience from her life. This is a literary trip on the selfie an attempt to capture in a few pages more than what is a picture but also what makes a picture the moment but also the moments leading to the snapshot a self is just a millisecond but this shows what isn’t caught yes a dog is a dog but when the dog isn’t there the gap is more than a gap. Playing a keyboard is about learning but also the experience of learning and the place. I was remind of Wim Wenders talking about how unreal phone selfies are not a photo just a image as how often do we print them of even then this shows that it is more than a moment we maybe need but the whole sensation of  what happened from Proust biting his Madeleine or Sebald falling down the various rabbit holes in rings of Saturn it is about the image, place or  taste leading the writer somewhere ! Another interesting piece of French Literature this touched me as much as Anne Ernaux Years did earlier this year.

All Happy families by Hervé Le Tellier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Happy families by Hervé Le Tellier

french memoir

Original title  – Toutes les familles  heureuses

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

I loved the years recently and it reminds me I hadn’t had chance to get to this book that had come out a couple of months ago by another well known French writer Herve Le Tellier is also a member of the OULIPO group. A mathematician by training he became a journalist and editor. He has written a number of books including winning a prize for a comic novel. when he put a book out that he had supposedly translated from Portuguese called Me and Mitterand about a series of letters in a spoof novel by Jamie Montestrela but was Le Tellier himself.

Marafan syndrome is a disorder of the connective tissue. It affects about one person in every five thouseand. The gene whose mutation produces the condition is on chromosome 15, and the mutation can have nearly a thousand variants. Symptons of the syndrome include aortal aneurism, pronouced nearsightedness and unusual bone growt,Sufferers are often very tall with long thin fingers,

The britsh actor Peter Mayhew, famlus for playing the hairy wookie Chewbacca in the star wars movies has the syndrome.Some claim that Abraham Lincoln did too. But that is of no concern to us here

He then mentions Rahmaniov and how he had it.

This is another clever little french memoir. It is a series of vignettes about the writer’s life growing up in his family growing up. He explains early on the book that the time was right his father and stepfather both dead and his mother in the latter stages of Alzheimers he starts to think back at his own youth not as he saw it as unhappy but more a childhood that when looked back on maybe wasn’t the happiest his parents split when he was very young and he grew up with his mother and stepfather guy. Guy is from an old French family and distant to the young boy He was drawn into his world of books as a kid. He also spent a lot of time with his grandparents another tale about them, every weekend. One of the things I most connect with was his chapter about Rachmaninov’s concerto no. 2 which leads to a digression about the condition Marfan syndrome which for me is something I heard mention a lot in my teens as it was thought I had it as I am tall have long fingers and a few other signs I haven’t but to know that is why he was such a great pianist was news to me.

 “My sister’s a whore ” my mother took to saying when the flood barrier of decorium gave way to age and dementia, and she stopped feigning affection.

This whore was also my god mother. My mother admitted she’d never lover her, perhaps precisely because Raphaelle was so loveable.

It was to this first daughter that my grandfather had so genrously bequeathed his name. A happy boistrous girl, she ramined his favourtie. Raphaelle was only eighteen months older than Marceline but numbers are deceptive.There was nearly a decade between them my aunt was a woman at thirteen, my mother not untilshe was twenty.

The aunt and what his mother called her .

 

This is an honest look back at a childhood that wasn’t the happiest but he does it with great humor remember events. All families are like his when we look at it this is a modern family before its time. Where divorce has happened not so common as is shown when they want to change Herve name I remember changing my own name as a child for a couple of years.  I grew up in a stepfamily my stepfather is well may I said an odd chap so I could relate to his tales of his life this is a wonderful set of vignettes that showed his family carbuncles and all his sister father all are compelling reading like his auntie or as his mother called her in the chapter My sister a whore who had a parade line  of men. All told in a witty style that made me want to read his spoof work I mentioned in the first section of this review. Have you read any of Le Tellier fiction ?

Winstonsdad Man booker shortlist 2019

I was going to not read the list and did my usual guess of what would be on the list and got it so far wrong I wanted to see what was in these books and yes I managed in a month to get nearly through them all bar hundred pages of the Can Xue novel which by the time this post is up I may have read them as I am on the road to Alnwick tomorrow and a short holiday. So my six shortlisted books are-

Drive your plow over the bones of the dead by Olga Tokarczuk

What happens when nature kicks back we see here when things start happening in the Polish hinterlands in a small community. A previous winner is different to flights and shows the depths of her writing.

The shape of Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez

Image result for the shape of ruins

A book that sees Vasquez as a character in his own book that is about an assignation of a Columbian politician almost like there JFK a great historical novel.

The years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A powerful little book at post-war  France and its generation told through pictures, movies, books, events, and life it builds a vivid picture of the years that followed the war.

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-Yong

An architect is greet by his past in a story that sees two sides of lives in Modern Korea from two people that grew up in a working clas  area and went in different directions but meet at the moment there worlds both are about to change.

The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa

Image result for the death of murat idrissi

 

Maybe the shortest book on the list but for me it is the most powerful as it is about a subject that we all see on the news that of immigration and he uses four characters to encompass a wider world.

Celestial bodies by Jokha Alharthi

 

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi

I am yet to review this but this family saga shows the growth of Oman through the lives of three sisters and the family of the sisters going back to the early 20th century and to now with one of the main stories being told by a relative on jumbo heading home to his family.

So here are my six books an  interesting list of books I have discovered three maybe four books that have passed me by. What are your thoughts on the books on the list ?

The Years by Annie Ernaux

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Years by Annie Ernaux

French Fiction

Original title – Les Années

Translator – Alison L Strayer

Source – personal copy (kindly sent by Batpoet from twitter the US edition thanks)

I will put my own Shortlist out tomorrow the day the actual shortlist is out I have about hundred pages of the last book to finish and I will have read this year’s longlist I am behind on reviews so this is the ninth book from the long list I have to review three more books to review. Anyway back to this which in a way is maybe the most unusual books on this years list as it is one of those borderline books that I really love. I should know it UK publisher is Fitzcarraldo. It is neither fiction or non-fiction a memoir in a way. Annie Ernaux her books have long chronicled her life over the years over books have dealt with her relationship with her father, the death of her mother and having breast cancer this is considered her masterpiece by French critics.

Memory was transmitted not only through the stories but through the ways of walking, sitting, talking, laughing, eating, hailing someone, grabbing hold of objects. It passed body to body, over the years, from the remotest countryside of France and other parts of Europe: a heirtage unseen in the photos, lying beyond individual difference and the the gaps between the goodness of some and the wickedness of others. It united family members, neighbors, and all these of whom one said “They’re people like us” a repertory of habits and gestures shaped by childhoods in the fields and teen years in wiorkshops, preceeded by other childhoods, all the way back to oblivion

I loved this passage early on in the book.

This is an interesting work as Annie speaks of her life from the early 1940s to the 20th century in a third person narrative of a womans life in France over those years and the generation she is part of the post-war generation of French intellectuals that we all know so well over here it is ashamed Annie herself maybe isn’t better know. She is a French literature teacher she has kids and lives in the Paris suburbs. This book isn’t just about her life but is a work that shows us the culture of those years and the events of those years from the music she listens to from Piaf chevalier and even pre-war acts like Josephine Baker. The books films and general culture.I love she laments how TV is taking over the world at the end of the book. This is maybe a lament to a world that has now gone that of proper discovery that of reading one book then finding another books films because of paper reviews or word of mouth of friends a smaller world a world where things need to be discovered no good reads, no IMDB, etc. The second line is France itself through these years in a way a build up to the pivotal events of 1968 that saw France on the verge of crashing into oblivion and then to here and now where they are part of a greater Europe but events still happen.

Beneath the surface of the things that never changed, last year’s circus posters with the photo of Roger Lanzac, First communion photos handed out to schoolmates, the club des chansonniers on Radio Luxembourg, our days swelled with new desire. On a sunday afternoons, we crowded around the window of the genral electrics shop to watch television.Cafes invested in TV sets to lure clientele.

A world now gone when people would stand and watch tv in a shop window .

 

I loved this I will be rereading this one for years I love books that make me think and books that make you want to discover the world around us. This was a life’s work for the writer she had kept notes for years in preparation for writing this book a look at her generation and what happened during those years and what influenced everyone. Those pivotal moments of Algeria, 1968, September 11, The coming of the digital age. The use of everything from High to low culture is great Adverts for examples those tunes and slogans that we all remember more than even the tv we may have watched this is a book about what is remember later rather than then in the moment it is where it differs from Karl Ove work it has a feeling of being worked over time it is more what has been remembered that what I remembered or what was happening a sort underpinning of the times. Yes this should be on the list it isn’t in maybe straight fiction but is a book that deserves a wider audience.

 

Four soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli

 

Image of Four Soldiers

Four soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli

French fiction

Original title – Quatre Soldats

Translator – Sam Taylor

Source – library book

Here is another writer from this year longlist that I have reviewed before his book Meal in winter was shortlisted for the old IFFP prize. Here is my review of it. I had seen a review of this before the longlist came out and had seen it at my library so was planning to read it anyway. Hubert Mingarelli left school and joined the Navy for three years he has since then written about twenty novels it is noted that on the whole his novels have just male characters and tend to look at father-son or male relationships like this book where we meet four soldiers in the middle of the Russian civil war that sees how they react in a lull in the war. The book won the Prix Medici

The four of us were still alive and kicking., thanks to Pavel. He was the cleverest of us all. His plans for the hut were perfect, and he was even able to build a real stove using a metal barrel filled with engine oil. A real stove that worked well nd didn’t smoke us out. But most importantly he’d found a way to pass the pipe through the roof without setting fire to it.Because that was how most other huts caught fire. Pavel had made tin tiles by cutting up our mess tins and then he’d nailed them to the roof around the pipe.

The arrival at the station / hut and Pavel sets up the stove after saving them.

We meet these four men as the set up a camp in a lull in the war they are just in the late teens or early twenties. Four young guys in the middle of the Russian civil war and just getting to know the world around them. That get time to know each other and grow closer. Benia the narrator of the book is a man that has time and is growing closer to Pavel then the other two men are Kyabine a simple giant from the Uzbek he is one of those guys that is the butt of all the guys jokes and lastly Sifira. Now it says, four soldiers. but there is a fifth man the so-called Evdokim kid a youngster a man who is a recruit. But he worries them as he is the only one of the group that is able to write and is often seen writing notes. As they try and stop others joining them in the station and get lots of useful items from around them and play dice as they talk this idyllic corner is surely only a short gap in the war.

We’d forgotten the dice in the station, We didn’t try to figure out who was to blame. We just knew tht we’d have to go and hind them s soon as we could, before anypne found them.

The tent was big enough for five. The Edvodkim kid wasn’t to our oil lamp, through, and the smoke hurt his eyes.

Kyabine was kicking up a fus about the watch. I think in reality, he was just oretending not to understand that it was my turn to hve it tonight.”I brought your turn from you last night” I reminded him

The gutys still guard but can swap when .

This is another short novella on this year’s Man Booker list it seems on the surface similar to the Meal in winter as it uses a similar framing device the men in that book end up trapped in a house by the winter. He uses the abandon station for a similar frame here the four main characters plus Evodkim who comes and goes is just on the cusp of manhood as we see in the relationship of Benia and Pavel which could be seen another way. The book isn’t about the war more the effect of war and the fear of war on those involved in it and about the comradeship of war as one of the soldiers that were a character in the tv series band of brothers about his company we in it shall be remembered. We lucky few, we band of brothers. For he who today shed his blood with me shall be my brother.” This what the short interlude is a band of brothers spending time together playing dice getting the things they need to get by and trying to forget what has been and what will be for  a few minutes and this is what Mingarelli captures so well in this book. I can see why this made the longlist it is a powerful book given it is only 120 pages long i’ve seen book much longer not have the same impact as this book does.

SmallCountry by Gaël Faye.

Image result for small country gael faye

Small country by Gaël Faye.

French fiction

Original title – Petit Pays

Translator – Sarah Aridizzone

Source – library

I went a few weeks ago through the library catalogue and try and find a few Man Booker hopefuls just to notch up the total I have read this year when the longlist comes out in a few weeks and this is a book I had seen mentioned a lot as a potential book. It is a Debut novel by the Franco Rwandan rapper and songwriter Gael Faye. This debut novel follows part of his own life when his family like many had to leave the violence that was caused by the civil war in Burundi and Rwanda. He has since lived in France and London and also later return for a time to Rwanda. This book won the Prix Goncourt des lyceens.

I am haunted by the idea of returning. Not a day goes by without the country calling me, A secret sound, a scent on the breeze, a certain afternoon light, a gesture, sometimes a silence is enough to stir my childhood memories. “You won’t find anything there , apart from ghosts and a pile of ruins,” Ana keeps telling me, She refusesd to hear another word about that “Cursed country”. I listen and beleive her. She’s alwaysbeen more clear-headed than me. So I put it out of my mind, I decide, once and for all, that I never going back. My life is here. In France.

A lament for his home and the Burden of Exile forever haunted by the past that is never the future.

the book is told through the eyes of Ten-year-old Gabriel a middle-class boy living comfortably in a Suburb with a number of Ex-pats like his own father. In Burundi with his sister and mother, the book starts as a usual tale of a boy growing up with no real difference to any other childhood. This is being told from Gabriel now in his thirties living in Paris looking back at the break up of his homeland. The viewpoint of Gabriel has that naive nature we all had as kids when the world around us seems distance as we ride on our BMX and discover friends play hooky and take part in stealing things with our friends This is all told as the dark clouds of the Civil; war slowly creep in and darken the world around Gabriel world of privileged kids in the rich Suburb. but his mother who lives in Burundi having to have left Rwanda herself is in Exile sees what is happening. As we see Gaby’s childhood slowly falling apart and those Halcyon days disappear as the war takes over.

Papa and I spent Christmas together, just the two of us. My present was a red BMX bike with mutlicoloured tassels on the handles. I was so excited that, at first light on Christmas morning and before Papa was awake, I took it to show the twins who lived in the house oppositem at the entrance to our street. They were suitably impressed. We messed about doing tcheleles – skids in the gravel. Then Papa appeared in his stripped pyjamas, livid and dished out a slap, in full view of my friends, for leaving the house so early woithout permission. I didn’t cry, or perhaps I did a little, but my tears were fromthe dust kicked up by our skids or else a fly caught in my eye, I can’t remember now.

I loved this it summed up a ten year old so well the excitment of the bike then the pain of having a slap and crying and the bravado of it not being crying for that but soemthing else.

This is a brilliant description of how easily one person’s life can change in a matter of days its one person tale that echoes the hundreds that both escaped and died in this horrific time. The war is captured so well in the way Gaby views the world when he starts to discover who he and his family is in conversations with his father Faye captures that moment we all have when the blinkers of childhood after life and we have to raise a hand and avoid getting blinded by the wider world and this is the lament at that moment but this is also a lament for a lost time and place that he or his family could never go back to it is worse than being an exile as there is a chance of return no this leaves the young, man rootless as his roots have gone. Now, this would have been a dead cert if it was the old IFFP as it has that feel of an IFFP book now I’m not sure I’d like to see it on the long list myself. Have your read this book ?

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