Geography of an Adultery by Agnes Riva

Geography of an Adultery by Agnes Riva
French fiction
Original title – Géographie d’un adultère
Translator – John Cullen
Source – review copy

I always like discovering new french writers I have reviewed so many french books over the time of the blog. It averages out at an average of about ten books a year from France This debut novel was on the Prix Goncourt first novel list a list that had has winners such as Kamel Daouad and Laurent Binet both of which I have featured on the blog. The book came out in France in 2918. Agnes Riva lives in the Suburbs of Paris this is where she drew her inspiration for this novel. in the Urban landscape, she sees. The book was just published by another press many thanks to them for sending me a copy to review.

The interior of Paul’s car s[ace rtather limited in volume and distributed with a certain stringency. The design of the four egonomic seats is so precise that squeezing a fifth person into the back would be pratically impossible. The front seats are seperated by a short armrest half their hieghts, it contains no storage console and provides no place to put such small objects as sunglasses of CDs

WIth its leather seatsm aluminum door sills, and stainless steel pedals, the vehicles’s passenger expresses its owners intention to posses a car that offers all available comfort abd luxury,but in miniature, and for the price of an entry level model

Paul smell pervades the space

The opening chatper and it is about the small car luxury but small and maybe that says sometjing longer term abiut Paul ?

The book follows a selection of sites where a couple is having an adulterous affair. The book has a tone that is almost scientific observance a very detached observation of the events detached of the emotions it just shows the events So we meet Ema and Paul as they start an affair that happened when they meet through their jobs on an industrial tribunal which they are both on and start an affair they both have partners and Children so their clandestine meetings take part out of sight as much as possible each chapter is one of these locations Starting with Ema looking as they meet early on in Pauls car describe the car and what it is like grabbing a quick liaison in a car. Then a corner out of sight in a house a chapel as they snatch the quick pieces of passion but there see,s to be two views on this affair as we view it in those small snapshots of the meeting not seeing the event outside the meeting as we don’t see the other side of the affair the home life isn’t shown just the meetings and details of each corner and place they sneak a moment a collection of moments.

The corner they retreat to is located between the sink and the reffrigerator. On one side, along the back wall, a storage cabinet. On the other, the sin and a work counter. Above this space, a stretched fabric forms a decorative false ceiling, in which leads to a bel shaped metal oven hood. Behind the gas stove, a window with two sliding casements overlooks the garden and , on one side, the veranda of the house next door.

Narrow though it is, this space proves in the end to be better suited to quenching their thirst for physical union than inside of Paul’s car, where they move stiffly and clumsily

There second liasion isn’t much more comfortable as they find a corner in Ema’s hpouse out of site of the neighbours.

This is a novella and is written in a wonderful detached style as we get what are Polaroid-like glimpses of an affair I would love pictures to accompany the book that is just me I love the way she has described her observing the Urban landscapes around her home in the Suburbs how to avoid the preying eye is at the heart of an affair and that is what is shown here also the different way the couple view the events Paul is just after the sex really after that initial attraction you always feel Ema wants more maybe the intimacy isn’t what lead her to the affair or is this just me reading to much into the events I do this sometimes anyway this hasn’t a lot of passion or even sex etc it is more about the clandestine nature of the events that unfold it is just a collection of secret meeting places and the meeting and maybe in the description the events then become an anti-climax at times. This is a great debut novel that has a slightly new take on the novel dealing with Adulterous affairs. Have you a favourite adultery novel ?

Winstons score – B is a solid debut novel well translated by John Cullen he has really caught the detached emotionless nature of the book shines through.

At Night All Blood is Black By David Diop

At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop

French fiction

Original title – Frère d’âme

Translator – Anna Moschovakis

Source – review copy

Today I move on to world war one and a view of the war from a different angle with the tale of two Senegalese soldiers on the front line in the trenches.  It was written by the French writer David Diop Born in Paris but spent a lot of time in his youth in Senegal. He returned to France to finish his studies, where he has since taught literature at the University of Pau. He wrote a couple of books before this one, but this was his debut novel. The book was shortlisted for Ten major French book prizes when it came out winning the Prix Goncourt des Lyceens the one chosen by High school pupils.

in the trench. I lived like the others , I drank, I ate like the others. Sometimes I sang, like the others. I sing off-key and everyone laughed when I sang ” They would say, “You Ndiayes, you can’t sing” . They made fun of me, a little, but they respected me. They didn’t know what I thoiught od them, I found them Foolish, I found them idotic, becauuse they didn’t think about anything. Soldiers, black or white, who always say “Yes”.  When commanded to leave their shelterof their trench to attack the enemy, defencelesss, it’s yes “When told to play the savage, to scare of the enemy.

A view of how they are viewed in the army says a lot for these tough men.

This is the story of one man and his dead friend Alfa Ndiaye is said to be the son of the old, old man is at the western front fighting for France. He is on the line with his friend  Mademba Diop or as Alfa calls him my more-than-brother. The book opens as Mademba is fatally wound and ask his friend to end his life but he can’t an act he regrets and maybe sets forth the later event in the story?  as he is bleeding from a mortal wound in his stomach. Before he dies Alfa asks who had done the task the dying man can only tell his friend as he is dying that it was a blond blue-eyed german that did the task. He drags his friend from the battlefield back to the French trenches. This is where the story takes a dark turn as Alfa sets about revenge and vengeance for his dead friend so goes over the trench with his machete and returns with hands of dead blonde soldiers every night. as he seeks retribution for his more than a brother. As he does this his fellow soldiers start to fear him. He is offered the military cross for his actions to try and calm Alfa from his mission of revenge but also find out what is driving him to do it.  As he shows how brutal war is but also how badly the Chocolat soldiers were treated this is a dark story.

Gad’s truth, I was inhuman. I didn’t listen to my friend, Iistened to my enemy, So when I capoture the enemy from the other side, when I read in his blue eyes the screams his mouth can’t sling into the skies of war, when his open belly had become nothing more than a pulp of raw flesh, I turn back the clock , I finish off the enemy. As soon as he’s made a second plea with his eyes, I slit his throat like a sacrified lamb. What I didn’t do for Mademba Dioop , I do for my blue eyed enemy.Out of my reclaimed humanity

This is a dark book as we see one man driven by revenge to bring to justice the man that killed his friend as every night he heads out to get another hand off a dead man to add to his collection when he has too many he start to worry his comrades as he describes there is only one other soldier got why he did it and he has since died. I was reminded of the film the patriot where the main character sees his son killed by a callous officer from the other side and sets off on a killing spree with some fellow soldiers here it is one mans revenge. The man he has known since a child died in front of him asked him to put him out of his misery this is heartwrenching as the story becomes just one man’s tale of the war and not even the war but his path of revenge. It shows how guilt can drive someone to do the most horrific acts as a source of comfort for their loss but also we see an often-overlooked corner of the war those Chocolat soldiers as it says in the book those many soldiers that fought in world war one from Africa and Asia that have to often been whitewashed out of history so it is easy to see why this book would do so well oin schools telling an unknown story. Have you read this book?

Everyday life by Lydie Salvayre


Everyday Life by Lydie Salvayre

French fiction

Original title – La Vie commune

Translator Jane Kuntz

Source personnel copy

Another short novella from Dalkey archive and this by a recent Prix Goncourt winner Lydie SlavayreIts been a while since I featured a Goncourt winner. Lydie was born to refugees of the Spanish civil war. She grew up in southern France. Trained as a doctor with a degree in Psychiatry. She has published a number of novels. In 2014 her book Cry mother Spain (English title ) won the Prix Goncourt. That book was published by Maclehose she has also had four books including this one published by Dalkey.

I omitted one detail. She stinks.

The new secretary wears a vetiver scent, and I detest the smell of vetiver. There’s nothing I detest more in the world than the smell of Vetiver (After milk). It makes me listless, it gives me the vapors, migraine headaches. It makes me dizzy, nauseous, It makes me vomit

Every morning when I crack open the door of my office, the obnoxious stench of her perfume smacks me in the face. I stager. I can’t help it, I ve grown allergic to it. Like a police dog , I could sniff out its trail miles away, that’s how allergic I’ve become. It’s crossed my mind that she might soak herself in the stuff just to put me off, to make me go in the opposite direction.

The scent affects her but the reaction seems more than that in a way to me!!

This is a classic slice of an Office drama. It is about two sectaries Suzanne the narrator of the book has been at her job as the secretary of Monsieur Meyer for more than thirty years. so when this younger woman arrives she sees this as a real threat to her position as Meyers favorite. She starts to pick apart this new younger woman as they work together. She dissects her rival bit by bit as she is doing so you see the pent-up anger in this older woman as she sees her rival become more important to Meyer as her grip on her life is starting to slip. This is a woman not only losing her job but there is a sense she is getting old and that is the reason for her replacement not just to learn from her but also to easily slide Suzanne into retirement and also accepting her problems. This is a slice of life in an office the jealousies of office rivals the older member like an old lion marking her territory but like in Lion pack or Gorilla families that Alpha in the head has to succumb sometime and this is the moment caught in the book that breaking of an Alpha.

Because I’ve had a dull ache in my chest for seventeen days, I go to the doctor. He asks me if the pain spreads towards the shoulder and along my left arm. No. It’s just in my chest. As if it were digging a hole that opens and close,opens and cloes. While hes gliding his icy stethoscope over my chest, he asks what happen right before the onset of this pain. Imagine you’re straight path, I tell him, wwhich you can follow with your eyes shut, it’s so familar to you. Then suddenly, you no longer recognize it, even though everything you see is identical to what was there before. Do you know what I mean?

Her we see Suzanne has more wrong than we see an underlying problem !!

This is a fun book and a touching book and to do both at the same time is great it is a Tragicomedy of a woman fall. We see Suzanne ripping into the new girl. I was reminded of the scenes in the Office as the David Brent tries to capture his Job as the new man takes his place and that loss of the Alpha role well this is the same the role of being Meyers main secretary is the prize and the Older woman is describing losing the grip but she is seeing it as thou this younger woman has pushed her out but in between the lines there is the sense she is failing in her job but maybe age has caught up with her. She isn’t as flexible as her younger counterpart having got set in her ways as the world around her has moved on. There was that bittersweet taste in the prose that I find in the work of Bernhard the satire of loathing he wrote so well. Lydie has caught what happens when one’s life falls apart in a simple monologue another nod to Bernhard in a way. I was touch by her fall it was a shame like one of those football stars that shone but has stayed on the pitch far too long!!


Compass by Mathias Enard


Compass by Mathias Enard

French fiction

Original title – Boussole

Translator – Charlotte Mandell

Source – review copy

Well strange I did my round-up and book of the month for february yesterday .I am sure unless something unexpected comes along this will be March’s  book of the month only a day in . This is the third novel by Mathias Enard I have read and for me this is his best . It won the Prix Goncourt in 2015. Mathias Enard studied Persian and Arabic and has spent long periods in the Middle east . This is his tenth novel

Sarah found that pharse extraordinary, “Take me, lead me where you like ; I won’t bother you, I sleep all day, in the evening you can let me go to the concert and at night you can do what you like with me ” a declaration of absolute beauty and despair, a total nudity – unlike Liszt , I know where she is buried , the montmatre cemetery. Which Sarah showed me

sarah quotes Marie Duplessis Liszt’s mistress and a woman who inspired Alexander Dumas .

The last but one  sentence of the intro is the key  to what  this book is about  simply Enard is a huge fan of the Middle east and this book is his ode to the way us in the West and the east mix together . I’m now not sure what we call this area the middle east or as Nawai El Saadawi who’s middle east , the Wests middle east ! so from the middle west here is my view of this wonderful book . Then we have the term Orient the older term which is the one Enard seems to prefer . Anyway the Arab speaking world and How Enard has chosen to show us this  west and east struggle via Franz Ritter a Austrian musicologist who over the space of one late night and early morning suffering  with a bout of insomnia he recalls his frequent trips to this part of the work . so from Istanbul to Tehran and place like Aleppo and Damascus we follow Franz but also Sarah a spirited french woman like Franz caught between west and east. SO as the night goes on the arc of the relationship maybe also arcs the relationship of west and east . Like the point of a compass this book points east to the heart of Arab world and an affair that was doomed but also the clashing of the west and east how the west has viewed the east through music , art and literature and how these have been tinged by the East from Franz Liszt to Agatha Christie the east has touch many artists and their works .

The debate became stormy ; Sarah had mentioned the great name, the wolf  had appeared in the midst of the flock , in the freezing desert: Edward Said .It was like invoking the Devil in a Carmelite convent ; Bilger , horrified at the idea that he could be associated with any kind of Orientalism, immediately began embarrassed auto criticism, renouncing everything : Francois-marie and julie were nuanced on the question, while still acknowledging that Said had asked a burning but pertinent question : the relationship between knowledge and power in the Orient

Said one of the main names you connect with Orientalism

Well as you see this book is one that it is easy to fall in love with it is one of the novels that you will also need a note-book and maybe Spotify hand to listen to the music mentioned and the books mentioned. So as we see Franz wrestle with on coming sleep and the dreams to remember the good and bad times of the relationship. This is also an ode to that lost world his times in Aleppo , which is now a smoking ruined city instead we see the Aleppo that drew people there before the war . We get a sense of a past that isn’t there now a time when the world wasn’t so tense in this Joycean evening of vivid dreams of a long past relationship and world .

The French compass points to Lithuania


I decide as two books arrived today I would talk about them and save you another review til tomorrow. The first is the first from this years Fitzcarraldo editions and it is a big prize-winning French book this won the Prix Goncourt , I have read a number of the recent winners, this is from a writer I have really enjoyed before Mathias Enard. The book follows a night in Franz Ritter as he is unable to sleep but as the night pass he travels the middle east from Istanbul through Aleppo to Tehran. a bridge from east to west I read an interesting interview about the book and its Orientalist angle of the book from a french website L’orient Litteraire  a very insightful piece. Mathias Enard is one of of the most inventive writers around this is the third book from him I have.


Then I was contact by the publish of this prize-winning Lithuanain novel as he noted I had yet to review a book from their and this is the first book published by a living writer Laura Sintija Cernauskaite won the 2009 eu prize for this book. The book follows a family with a son with epilepsy whom mother adopts another boy a young Orphan taking him to their country home where their lives will never be the same . This is first of two book they are publishing at Noir press .

What books have you had arrive ?

The great swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

The Great Swindle

The great swindle by Pierre Lemaitre

French fiction

Original title – Au revoir là-haut

Translator – Frank wynne

I am carrying on my journey through books from last year that may make the MBIP2016 and next up is The Prix Goncourt historic novel from Pierre Lemaitre. and a book from one of my favourite translators Frank Wynne  He is better known for his Crime Novels Alex and Irene, I reviewed Irene and enjoyed it , but I was looking forward to this given it’s post world war one setting and the fact it won the Prix goncourt.

This later position was one espoused by Lieutenant d’aulnay-Pradelle. When talking of him, everyone dropped the first name the nobility particle, the “Aulnay” and the hyphen, referring to him simply as “Pradelle” since they knew very well how much this riled him, They could afford to do so, since Pradelle made it a point of honour never to express personal aimus.

The three of them at the start of the book in the same army unit and they have little respect for Pradelle the officer.

The book follows three French soldiers as they start to make their way post war in war-torn France. Now these three are trying to get their own back for the horrors of the war by running a couple of clever confidence tricks. The first two Albert and Edouard met just as the war is about to end in an incident that leaves one of them disfigured and the other with what is know called post traumatic stress disorder after the events that brought the two of them together out of the army they head to Paris and find the streets aren’t paved with gold , but find a clever way to make some money by conning French towns and villages as they go round selling fake war memorials . Then there is Lieutenant Henry D’Aulnay Pradelle is trying to get the hand of a wealthy heiress, but has to find a way to make money so gets a job burying the dead he was the man who sent the first two out on the job that caused them to end up the way they did on a fruitless mission, he is a real cad.What we see is how each man falls down their respective holes post war.

It was these workshops that had produced the magnificent sample coffin that had been sent to the war graves commission, a superb oak casket worth every centime of its sixty francs. Now that it had served its purpose in persuading the adjudicating committee, they could move on to more serious matters, to the coffins that would actually be delivered.

Pradelle sends a great coffin to bury the dead to the graves commission then actually makes some substandard ones in the place.

I loved this it was a slow burner to start as the war burns out,  as he starts to place the characters in their places for what is to follow post war  but as the book gets on the pace picks up some what as we see the three men each start to run their swindles. I think it is a shame the title was changed from Goodbye there , which as Lemaitre explains were the last words of Jean Blanchard a man shot in 1921 after he had done something similar to the title characters. For me one reason is to link this in the English mind to the great pieces of  lost generation literature The great swindle maybe brings to mind the Great Gatsby and as Gatsby in the book in one line of thought is meant to be a swindler that made his money in a very dark way it may be a connection not sure that is just my idea. in the afterword Lemaitre gives a list of world war one books that inspired him Barbusse and Jules Romains (I have Romains Verdun in my TBR pile ). He also notes a number of 19th century French realist writers for inspiring the style of writing in the book, I can see Pradelle is one character that could come from Dickens as Dickens was inspired by a number of the writers on Lemaitre list. The great swindle is a dark look at the underbelly of the post war lost generation and what happens when the dreams of peace don’t go as planned.


The red collar by Jean-Christophe Rufin

The Red collar by Jean-Christophe Rufin

French fiction

Original title – Le Collier rouge

Translator – Adriana Hunter

Source – review copy

John Brown went off to war to fight on a foreign shore
His mama sure was proud of him
He stood so straight and tall in his uniform and all
His mama’s face broke out into a grin

“Oh, son, you look so fine, I’m glad you’re a son of mine
Make me proud to know you own a gun
Do what the captain says, lot of medals you will get
We’ll put them on the wall when you get home”

That old train pulled out, John’s ma began to shout
Tellin’ ev’ryone in the neighborhood
“That’s my son that’s about to go, he’s a soldier now, you know”
She made well sure her neighbors understood

John brown is about the aftermath and outfall of war by Bob Dylan

Well today is Bastille day , so a perfect day for French novel and this is the most recent I have been sent , I may remind you there are  59 books from france under review on the blog ., Jean-Christophe Rufin is one of the founders of doctors without borders and a former ambassador of France to Senegal , he also won the Priz Goncourt for a debut novel in 1997 , he has also won the main prize in 2001 , and has since then he has written over ten books .He is also the second youngest member of the French academy .This book won the Prix Maurice -Genovoix a yearly French  book prize .

At one o’clock in the afternoon , with the crushing heat over the town , the dog’s howling was unbearable , The animal had ben there on the place for two days it had barked . It was a big brown , short-haired dog with no collar and a torn ear .

The opening lines as the dog barks all day long .

This book is about a dog and three people , the story is set in the aftermath of world war one .A small town of Berry has a dog that is barking all day and night long during this hot summer .A war hero Jacques Morlac is awaiting a trial as a deserter and  the arrival of the second person in this story a judge , but this judge has had his worldview scared by the war and what he saw during . The third person is a young woman Valentina she is related too Jacques .We discover how all three faired during the war and what the dog that is barking has to do with them all .Why does the dog wearing a red collar “ribbon” . What did the dog do during the war and how did he connect these three souls .

After the armistice , Lantier saw his appointment to the military justice system as serendipity .The relevant committees must have felt he was ripe for this difficult responsibility : protecting the military institution , defending the interests of the nation and understanding mens failings .

But this prisoner was different .He belonged to both camps ; he was a hero , he had defended his country , yet at the same time loathed it .

Lantier the judge to decide on what to do with Jacques .A job that brings back his own life during the war .

I loved this short book it is one of those perfect for a summer evening reads .IT is about war , being human under pressure also the loyalty of a dog to the ones they love .I was reminded of the book by Dan Rhodes Timolean vieta come home ,which like this the dog is a dumb  witness to various peoples lives .in the way mention and seen but never do we know the dogs view of all this .Its a simple story of three people and the damage that war can do . From the fallen hero , to the man damage because of what he saw and the damage of being behind the lines during the war .I was also reminded of a book like A month in the country , this book has a similar feel of damaged souls after the horrors of world war one .This is a post war story of the out falling of war , in particular the war to end all wars .

Do you have a favourite book from france ?

The Ogre by Michel Tournier



The Ogre by Michel Tournier

French fiction

Original title – Les Roi des aulnes

Translator – Barbara Bray

Source – personnel copy

Belligerent ghouls
run Manchester schools
spineless swines
cemented minds
Sir leads the troops
jealous of youth
same old suit since 1962
he does the military two-step
down the nape of my neck
I wanna go home
I don’t want to stay
give up education
as a bad mistake
mid-week on the playing fields
Sir thwacks you on the knees
knees you in the groin
elbow in the face
bruises bigger than dinner plates
I wanna go home
I don’t want to stay

Another school in Manchester The smiths talk about there brutal school days .

Well I had a lucky day a few weeks back I found this and Roger Vailland book the law both Prix Goncourt winners . The Goncourt is the top french prize for fiction and one of the original prizes for fiction around the world . Michel Tournier . Was born on Paris , but has always had a connection to Germany , he studied german and spent many a summer in his youth there . A number of his books have a German connection like this one .He is often mentioned as a possible Nobel winner .Although with Mondiano winning last year it may be to late now

Febuary 8 1938 , sometimes you have to reach bottom before you at last see a glimmer of hope pierce the clouds .It was the  Colaphus that revealed to me for the first time the astonishing protection I was to be the object of , and which still hovers over me .

When do we know what is bottom thou ?

The Ogre or as it was also published The erl king is his most well-known book . The book is the story of one man growing from a shy boy to the so-called Ogre of Kaltenborn . Abel Tiffauges tale is one of what nuture can do . The story is told by Abel and narrated as we see him move from a simple man working at a garage , a keeper of pigeons and then he joins the army and is caught by the Germans and ends up working at a Nazi school were his job is to recruit kids for this school . How does this bullied school boy become the Ogre of a Nazi school ? When will he see the world for hat it is around him .

He had to make a superhuman effort now to overcome the viscous resistance grinding in his belly and breast , but preserved , knowing all was as it should be when he turned to look up for the last time at Ephraim , all he saw was a six -pointed star turning slowly against a black sky .

The closing lines of this book as he sees the world slightly differently .

This book is an example of what happens when a simple man in a way meets an evil world . Abel becomes like the world around him but how easy it is to get drawn in by the Nazi mindset . Abel is one man but he maybe is also the voice of so many that fell foul of the Nazi regime those how came to blindly believe  at what they are told . But given his past you see how that lead to the present . I was reminded in a way of Alex in clockwork orange especially near the end of the book were both characters see what their effect on the world has been. What we have here is a book full of ideas and how ideas can change the world for good or bad  , The book has been made into a film in the 90’s which I must try to find to watch .Has anyone seen it ?

What is your favourite Prix Goncourt winning book ?

What became of the white savage by François Garde

What became of the white savage by François Garde

French fiction

Original title –  Ce qu’il advint du sauvage blanc

translator – Aneesa Abbas Higgins

Source – Prize winner


In eighteen hundred and forty-six
On March the eighteenth day
We hoisted our colors to the top of the mast
And for Greenland sailed away, brave boys
And for Greenland sailed away

The lookout in the crosstrees stood
With spyglass in his hand
There’s a whale, there’s a whale
And a whalefish he cried
And she blows at every span, brave boys
She blows at every span

The captain stood on the quarter deck
The ice was in his eye
Overhaul, overhaul! Let your gibsheets fall
And you’ll put your boats to sea, brave boys
And you’ll put your boats to sea

I choose a Pogues song about Whalers in the 1800’s seemed fitting to this book .

This was a lucky win for the French inisitute on their facebook page , which ask for comments on the cover , I put this is what happens when you fall asleep and leave the pens out for the kids , which won me this book . The book is a prize winning French novel it won the Prix Goncourt Roman , which is the section of the french prize that is awarded to the best first novel . This is The first Novel by Francois Garde , he worked as a senior civil servant for many year in the french overseas territories in Pacific and Indian oceans .

When he reached the top of the small cliff he realised that he was alone . There was no sign of the dinghy drawn up on the beach , no sign of a boat floating on the blue-green water . The schooner lying at anchor in the entrance to the bay was nowhere to be seen , no sails visible on the horizon . He closed this eyes , shook his head .Nothing they had left .

The opening as he sees he is all alone .

This like an earlier Goncourt Roman winner I reviewed HHhH is a novel based on a historic event .This is the true life story of  Narcisse Pelletier a young French sailor who in the 1840 was apart of a french ship that left him behind and was shipwreck in the far reaches of Australia .He is lucky to have been found by a tribe of Aboriginals whom adopt him after he removes his clothes and they see he is a man just like them  . The  story starts when he is discovered after seventeen years in the wild and taken under the wing of a French geographer whom brings the young man named the White savage because of the way he looks .On the way back to France the two men try to discover what happened to Pelletirer , who he is where the rest of the crew are and what he has done for the last seventeen years .

“He belongs to neither the black nor the yellow races . This is evident from the colour of his skin , his build and the texture of his hair . Nor is he of the semitic races this can be seen from his high forehead , straight nose , straight brown hair and full beard . I must also point out that he is circumcised , not in the way that Jews and muslims are , but rather in the manner of the natives of this country .

Narcisse when he is first found is a mystery where did this White savage come from .

To be truthful I hadn’t heard of Narcisse Pelletier or his story before this book . But have always been a fan of Robinsonade  books like The island before tomorrow  , pincher martin or even my childhood favourite Abels island , books inspired or similar by Robinson Crusoe .This in a way is the flip of that story when Crusoe tamed the savage , This sees the white man go native to survive another reason I love these stories is traveling up every year to my grans we passed through the village of lower Largo the home of Alexander Selkirk , whom many thinks was the role model for Robinson Crusoe after he spent five years on an island of the coast of Chile . If you like a novel with a lump of true life this is the one for you as the story unfolds from the two mens points of view , Narcisse telling his story and Octave the geographer telling the story of the journey back via a collection of letters . A book about who we really are where we from or where we have grown !

Have you a favourite novel from the Robinsonade Genre ?

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 !!)

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February 2023


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