The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel

 

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The 6:41 to Paris by Jean-Philippe Blondel

French fiction

Original title – 06H41

Translator – Alison Anderson

Source – Personal copy

 

Another French novel to start July, one been on my radar since it came out a couple of ears ago so when I found a cheap copy of The 6:41 to Paris, I decided it was time to get it. Jean-Philippe Blondel Jean has been teaching English in the Troyes and has written a number of novels and he has won various awards this was a bestseller in Europe and one of the first books published by the American Publisher New Vessel.

Any more of my bullshit and I would have ended up standing for th entire trip- or sitting across from the toliets on one cheek.

Having said that. I did hesitate.

Because when I realized that the only seat available was next to Cecille Duffaut. I felt slightly dizzy, like the heroine of a nineteenth century novel, and i said to my self again, No it can’t be, and I thought I’d move on to the next car.

I’m almost positive she didn’t recognize me .

Philippe sees her but has she seen him .

I’ve always loved stories set on trains, from Christie’s various stories about train travel in the twenties stories like the Blue train and Plymouth Express and of course the Orient Express, through fiction like the train to Budapest on the blog and compartment no 6 which like this involves two characters on a train journey. The setting for this as the enter the early train to Paris a woman Cecille in her forties is joined by Phillippe her former lover from thirty years earlier as the train sets off the two gather they now have two hours journey together. So as the book unfolds each chapter is told by each The painful memory of Cecille, she loved him so much he was the catch of the year they were in and everything seemed perfect catch when they were twenty then. Philippe he is a little bigger, a little older and little worn into he remembers their time , but also the bad years since a terrible failed marriage and other things he wonders if she sees past the past into what has happened to him since  The book flips from side to side as like in the UK the train is running slightly late.

We regret to inform our passengers that the train is currently stopped on the tracks and we ask that you do not try to open the doors. The train will be moving again shortly.

Grumbling and muttering up and down the train.

Sighs

“shit we were almost there . Thats the SNCF for you ”

I was tickled with this as I have often heard this on UK trains , see we are not alone could be worse it could be leaves on the line !!

This is a perfect example of a clever use of framing, setting and timing to make a perfect read . To give us a perfectly paced tale of two ex-lovers meeting by sheer chance but then spend two hours in the same space. A wonderful look at what remains after times, but also what difference can make those decisions we make when we are younger have a brief meeting that has led to two different paths one could say almost exact opposites now faced with their past what to do? This is like many of those novels that discuss the couple’s meeting when a lot of time has passed like in the end of an affair, also the way the story unfolds was like the male story in the novella Tomorrow Pamplona about how a relationship feel apart. A tight book about facing one’s past and present and what might have been.

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What’s going on in the world of translation !

Well it’s been a while since I round-up some Gems and news I’ve come across in the world of translation .So after a week away from the blog it seemed a nice way to ease myself back into the old routine .First of is one of two new publishers that have crossed my path in recent times A publishing house called Deep Vellum ,set in Texas ,they have three title coming soon I believe ,the first is a collection of short stories from Mikhail Shishkin ,I shall be reviewing The light and the dark by him soon and from that could see his short stories being quite tasty pieces ,Sergio Pitol the Mexican writer and translator is the second writer ,he has won the prestigious Cervantes prize in the past .Lastly they are publishing A member of the Oulipo group of writers Anne Garreta ,she was first member  to be  born and chosen to join the group after it was founded ,She has won the Prix Médicis in 2002 for her book not a day

the_missing_year

Next up is a remind I think but their first book is due very soon and it is the New York based New vessel Press the first book is The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal a man who was a mute spend six decades paint the history of his village on the shores facing Uruguay ,when his sons die they find these scrolls .This reminds me rather of the story of the outsider art of the American Henry Darger who spent year writing an epic saga called the Vivian girls .The book is due out as an Ebook on the 15th July one for the Dairy I think !!.

This week saws the winner of the Oxford Weidenfield Translation prize announced –

Tess Lewis for Lukas Bärfuss, One Hundred Days (Granta)
Louise B. Popkin for Mario Benedetti, Witness (White Pine Press)
Sam Taylor for Laurent Binet, HHhH (Harvill Secker)
Frank Wynne for Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour (Heinemann)
Philip Boehm for Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (Portobello)
Mike Mitchell for Jean-Pierre Ohl, The Lairds of Cromarty (Dedalus)

hunger angel

The winner  was The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  here is my Review  .I may also draw your attention to another book from the shortlist  ,here is My review of The Blue Hour ,A book overlooked I feel as it is better than the more well-known Red April also set in Peru .

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Also a reminder for the forthcoming Thomas Bernhard week .I have a specially commissioned  piece this Thursday that I have been lucky to get from another writer about his love of Thomas Bernhard .

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