“Tomorrow, yes, I will leave this house. I’ll abandon the village and the life here, all the faces that I love I will leave. The friends, the objects, the doors, the pavement slabs, the tall eucalyptus and the wild olive trees, the orange groves, the roads, the markets, the music, the fruit, the dancing, the window of blue, I’ll leave it all, no strength left.”
Looking out to sea, Collette Fellous remembers her 1950s Tunisian childhood, her father, and lifelong friend, the writer Alain, who “died like a Greek hero, with an unheard howl, in the middle of the Aegean Sea, at the helm of his yacht.” She looks at the past in attempt to understand the brutal present on which she wishes to turn her back.
Intellectuals have never had a more important contribution to make to culture and to democracy than now, in our age of post truth politics, trumpery and newspeak. We need to recreate a public sphere in which intellectuals and the general public can talk to each other in more profound ways than tweeting soundbites.
Intellectuals are a rare breed however there have been a number of sightings in past months. Some of these controversial individuals are likely to be found in South Kensington next Tuesday 20 March at 6.30pm since Pascal Bacqué will be at Librairie La Page, 7 Harrington Road, London, SW7 discussing his epic and hallucinatory novel just published by Massot éditions.
Of War, Mankind and Planet Earth is a madly ambitious, hypnotic 440 page novel; the first of five volumes. Fifteen years of research and five very different drafts took Pascal Bacqué on a journey through his life and that of the world. Taking in 6000 years of history, he travels through the centuries to create a pot pourri of people, places and events, telling the never-ending story of war through the ages.
« You can get totally immersed in this book, play mind games, dream, admire and disagree . . . It is a book to be read aloud, a book on which to meditate, to be listened to with the third ear, to be read in one sitting, backwards, fast, or on edge of your chair . . . It is an extraordinary book, an addictive narrative which cannot be put down and which, once read, possesses you. » Bernard-Henri Lévy
World War Two and the Holocaust take centre stage. 1945: the end game is being played out. Ian Bute and Tolkien travel East with Churchill, and as they do so the secrets of ancient, millennial, old Europe emerge from the rubble. On their journey they encounter seventy archetypal men from through the ages, and rub shoulders with all the major world figures of literature, music and politics. A parallel narrative gives an added Tolkienesque dimension to this odyssey from West to East, culminating in a dramatic showdown in a clash of empires.
The event at Librairie La Page has been arranged in collaboration with the Hexagon Society, a centre for French and English cross-cultural exchange that facilitates encounters between thinkers and artists and the general public.
@EditionsMassot @BHL @LIBRAIRIELAPAGE
Pascal Bacqué is a poet, a writer, and artistic collaborator and a devotee of the Talmud. He has worked as director of the collection « Libelles » for L’âge d’Homme, as a member of the editorial board of the magazine La Règle du Jeu, and as director of the French Talmudic College with René Lévy. His works include Imperium (L’âge d’Homme, 2007), The Legend of Elijah (L’âge d’Homme, 2011), Ode to Armageddon (L’âge d’Homme, 2014).
New year, new in from France: here is our list of top 5 reads in French creating a buzz across the Channel for all of you Francophiles out there . . . Special thanks to our friends in Paris for their recommendations.
The books reviewed are listed alphabetically by author surname. @EditionsGrasset @beigbedersays @robert_laffont #francoisjonquet @olivierguez @jschnerf
@robert_laffont @EditionsduSeuil @EditionsZulma
I, Self, Me: social media and the human condition in the digital age
59 million people die every year. But Beigbeder refuses to submit to such a fate, and sets off instead to discover the secret to eternal life. His journalistic investigation morphs into a work of literature – “a book of ‘non-fiction science’; a novel in which all the scientific developments have been published in Science or Nature.” Beigbeder is as irreverent and rebellious and original as he was twenty-three years ago when I first read him. He has lost none of his self-deprecating humour and mischievous attitude underpinned by an eclectic body of knowledge; quite the contrary, he has matured and honed his skills. Twenty years ago he despaired of making love last – today he despairs of making life last. “To publish your photo is now more important than your signature on a cheque, or on a marriage contract.” A radio-TV host celebrity in France, Beigbeder’s relationship with image and selfies is paradoxical: he is delighted when fans ask to pose with him, yet is intensely irritated by the one-upmanship involved. When Robert Pattinson a.k.a. Harry Potter is promoting his new film Maps to the Stars at Cannes, he signs a photo for Romy, one of Beigbeder’s two daughters. She is disappointed not to have snapped a selfie with her hero to post online for all her friends to see. Her father is hurt that his daughter has never asked him for a selfie (while other kids do, as he’s on TV).
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I dropped out of university in the early 1970s and ran away to Paris where I spent eight years soaking up the French language and culture. I enrolled at the radical university of Vincennes and did various jobs, from telephone operator on the SNCF enquiries line to picking grapes, milking goats and teaching English in companies. When I came back to the UK in 1981, I found that I was unemployable, so I announced myself as a translator.
When you were growing up, what books had an impact on you? I lived in a house full of books. My father collected books and had very eclectic tastes. We used to go to Portobello Road market together every Saturday and he taught me how to identify a first edition. I had unrestricted access to his entire library. We lived in a small suburban house where there was no privacy. I shared a bedroom with my sister and the only place I could be alone was the loo. During school holidays, I think I spent most of my waking hours locked in the toilet with a book. I was a serial reader, so I’d find an author and then read everything by them. I graduated from Enid Blyton to Angela Brazil – I loved boarding school stories – and Agatha Christie. As an older teenager, it was Sartre and Camus, Zola and Isaac Bashevis Singer.Continue reading Interview | Ros Schwartz | Translator of the Week
Are (were) your parents great readers? Tell us a bit about yourself. I’ve enjoyed reading since I was a child — yes, my parents encouraged me to study and explore books. After studying French in high school and living for a summer with a French family in Clermont Ferrand, I have loved reading in other languages.
Did you want to work in the publishing industry from the start? I’m relatively new to the business of publishing, although I’ve written a book (Capital Dilemma: Germany’s Search for a New Architecture of Democracy) I only co-founded New Vessel Press with Ross Ufberg in 2012. We’re both passionate about literature and foreign literature in particular — I read French and German and Ross reads Russian and Polish — but neither of us has prior experience in publishing. We’ve been learning as we go along which has made building a new house a challenge but great fun. Nowadays the publishing world is changing so rapidly that I’d venture that we have just as much of a clue as to where things are going as more traditional, established houses.Continue reading Interview | Michael Z. Wise, co-founder, New Vessel Press | Indie Publisher of the Week
La rentrée littéraire is a curious phenomenon: hundreds of new books of all genres flood French bookshops and the review pages of the literary press between the end of August and the beginning of November. It is a way for publishers to capitalize on the awards season, and at Frankfurt Book Fair in October – at which France is the guest of honour this year – as well building up a buzz leading into the Christmas period when the most books are sold.
Anglophile French friends in Paris send recommendations. And then there are wonderful talk shows about books like La grande librairie (France 5) or Jérôme Garcin’s Le Masque et la Plume (France Inter) and of course, radio France Culture – all are streamed on the web.
“The Duke of Westminster, the richest man in England, walked past, a cigar clamped between his teeth, in an out-at-elbow suit with corkscrewing trousers and his jacket pockets stuffed with tokens he had forgotten to cash in on his way out of the gaming room. A woman walked a step ahead of him, not turning round. She had an imperious expression and a very mobile face and wore a boater with a black ribbon. She was dripping with jewellery. Blanche said to her son, ‘Look. That’s Mademoiselle Chanel. Thanks to her we can cut our hair short without looking like servants’.” [Your Father’s Room, p. 36]
French novelist Michel Déon was born in Paris and died in Galway in 2016 at the age of 97. Admirers of Fournier and Flaubert and the world according to Proust would love his writing which is pared down and, although quintessentially French, has a universal resonance. The author of more than fifty works of fiction and non-fiction, and a member of the Académie Française, Déon was also a member of the 1950s French literary movement, ‘Les Hussards’, founded by Roger Nimier to oppose Existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre. (The group was named after Roger Nimier’s novel Le Hussard bleu – The Blue Hussar). The distinguished and controversial right-wing novelist, Paul Morand, was an inspirational figure for the group. “They form a fascinating quartet of original, cosmopolitan, witty minds, far superior to their British contemporaries, the Angry Young Men,” poet, novelist and translator, James Kirkup wrote in The Independent in 2001.Continue reading Review | Your Father’s Room, Michel Déon | Book of the Week
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I spent half my childhood in eastern Australia, on the edge of the Coral Sea, where I went to a school whose motto was “Every pupil a good swimmer”. That sub-tropical beginning, living barefoot, catching lizards, going to the beach every week, meant that when my parents brought me back to foggy, suburban south London, to an undreamt-of land of rain, shoes and no lizards, I was instantly on the lookout for another somewhere to run away to. Luckily I was sent to France at the age of thirteen on a school exchange, and that was it. I found languages easy to learn – French and German first – and I followed that relaxed path through school and 3 years at Cambridge, but as Søren Kierkegaard says, life is understood backwards but has to be lived forwards, so while I was successfully getting out of England as often as I could, I began to understand that easy didn’t necessarily mean the same thing as satisfying. So I tried other things: I wrote (in secret), I pestered a publisher for a job, I interested myself in what was being written in France and Germany. When I became a publisher’s editor and bought the rights to a French novel by Michel Déon called Un Déjeuner de soleil, I awarded myself my first translating job. Later, when I started writing more determinedly (i.e. wanting to get published), I realised what a really useful starting-off point translating had been. Looking back much later, I see that I’ve been incredibly lucky: languages seem to have taken me everywhere I’ve wanted to go. Continue reading Interview | Julian Evans | Translator of the Week
Since 2004, Georgia de Chamberet has occasionally written for 3:AM Magazine.
“I am the son of a bastard who loved me. My father was a furniture dealer who collected and sold the property of deported Jews … I had to dismantle that great lie which passed for an education, word by word. Aged twenty eight, I experienced a first episode of delirium. Others followed. I was regularly interned in psychiatric hospitals … For years, I have been but the sum total of myriad questions. Today, I am sixty three years old. I am neither wise, nor cured. I am an artist. And I believe I can pass on what I have come to understand.”
A Life of Disquiet: Self-portrait of an Artist, a Son, a Madman is a powerful account of a dysfunctional father-son relationship marked by aggression and conflict, and its consequences. The book has received wall-to-wall press coverage in France, and has been a word-of-mouth success with over 40,000 copies sold to date.
Ebury Street in London’s Belgravia: a quiet, residential, affluent area. The perfect place for a bookshop where readers can enjoy peaceful browsing away from the madding crowd, and dip into some of the best French writing available in English translation. However the Belgravia Books Collective is not just a shop, but also the home of independent publishing success story, Gallic Books. It has been very much on my radar and, at last, I am going to talk to one of the founders.
Jane Aitken and Pilar Webb met when they were both working at Random House children’s, and they went on to co-found Gallic Books in 2006. Headliners Muriel Barbery (trs. Alison Anderson), Antoine Laurain (trs. Emily Boyce & Jane Aitken), Michel Déon (trs. Julian Evans) and Yasmina Khadra (trs. Howard Curtis), have an enthusiastic following among discerning British readers who relish a good, well-written read from foreign shores.