“I always stay at the Louisiane when I’m in Paris, if only for sentimental reasons. It is not the most comfortable of hotels, but I like to think of figures such as Henry Miller and Ezra Pound staying there in the years between the wars. There is still a lingering louche whiff of a hôtel de passe, and of what I imagine Paris to have been like in the immediate post-war period, with those cobbled streets, open-backed buses and the faces that you see in Brassaï’s photographs.”
Madeleine is a perfectly-formed, psychologically acute first novel of love and war, shameful secrets and cowardly treachery. Euan Cameron’s prose sparkles with unsettling beauty and intelligence as he vividly brings to life the world of the French haute bourgeoisie that is shot through with chauvinism, moralistic posturing and anti-Semitism.
“Louis XIV was both King of France and a global ruler with global ambitions. He founded colonies in America, Africa and India, tried to seize Siam (as Thailand was then known), sent missionaries and mathematicians to the Emperor of China and launched the struggle for France’s global markets which continues to this day . . . Louis was a man in pursuit of glory, a king devoted to dynastic aggrandisement and a leader bent on national expansion. He is also an argument . . .” from the introduction by Philip Mansel.
King of the World is the most comprehensive and up-to-date historical biography in English of Europe’s longest-reigning monarch: Louis XIV. Taking seven years to complete, it draws on all the latest research in France, Britain and America and pays special attention to the culture of the court, on which Philip Mansel is an acknowledged expert.
How is it that great leaders can delude themselves that they are working for the greater good, but engage in behavior that is morally wrong? This conundrum lies at the heart of King of the World which is a rich and rewarding read.
“So many books have been written with Paris as a character and there are so many clichés about its seductive beauty, as a writer you need to find your Paris and step away from the great dark magnet that it is. Often the dark Paris is what is most interesting.” Alicia Drake
The vision of Paris as an intellectual’s city with writers and artists chain-smoking on café terraces, arguing about literature, art and Existentialism has been consigned to the attic by most contemporary novelists at work today who are worth reading. Tatiana de Rosnay and Alicia Drake are two such writers whose vision of the City of Light is anything but a picture postcard. They graced the stage at this year’s Beyond Words French Literature Festival at the French Institute in South Kensington.
There is, of course, some superb non fiction on offer which gives a genuine, riveting, and rather more leftfield take beyond the usual stereotypical reads – my favourite being the memoirs of late, great John Calder who I was lucky enough to know. The Garden of Eros: The Story of the Paris Expatriates and the Post-war Literary Scene is essential reading for anyone curious about visionary entrepreneurs operating in the publishing industry of yesteryear, and the Paris-London-New York golden triangle.
“The flooding was not going to subside. Linden had turned off the TV. He had felt slightly nauseous. The Seine’s upwelling had upset him, but his parents’ state worried him all the more. The bad timing of their visit to Paris stupefied him. How could their family weekend have turned into such an ordeal?”
After a prolonged separation, the Malegarde family is set to celebrate the fortieth wedding anniversary of Paul and his wife Lauren, as well as his seventieth birthday. It is a shock for the elderly couple used to secluded rural life in the Drôme valley to arrive in a capital saturated by monsoon-like rain. Linden and Tilia, based in San Francisco and London respectively, join their parents in Chatterton Hotel in the 14th arrondissement. The family has not been reunited in such a way since they were teenagers. Continue reading Review | The Rain Watcher, Tatiana de Rosnay | Book of the Week
The Governesses by Anne Serre | Translated by Mark Hutchinson | Les Fugitives
Published 25 March, 2019 | PB 120 pages ISBN 978-978-0993009396
“Experience had shown you, however, that no pact lasts forever. You knew that the members of the household would once again be shuffled together like playing cards, and that when the next hand was dealt the alliances would fall out differently.”
The Governesses is a most unusual erotic fable about sex and power, illusion and eroticism, beautifully translated from the French into supremely elegant, languid prose. Its atmosphere is reminiscent of Alain Fournier and Julien Green.
Inès, Laura and Eléonore are governesses, responsible for four boys. The “mistresses of games and pleasure” they radiate a wild and frisky innocence, and have the run of the upstairs salons in the country house of Monsieur Austeur and his wife, Julie. “The excessive silence of the households they wait upon” may be “conducive to reading thinking and raising little boys who are champion hoop rollers, and to the elderly gentleman’s repose, and the waning love of Monsieur and Madame Auster,” but it is stultifying. Their employers’ home is “a boundless void.” The young women have nowhere to go, and there are no distractions.Continue reading Book 2 Review | The Governesses, Anne Serre & Now, Now Louison, Jean Frémon | Les Fugitives
Charles Boyle is the quintessential self-published author who also publishes books by other authors (similar to Virginia and Leonard Woolf who set up the Hogarth Press in 1917 and published works by key modernist writers as well important works in translation). CB Editions publishes books that are enticing, witty, essential reading. His blog is at Sonofabook.
Here is a selection of CB Editions’ top reads: Jennie Walker (one of Boyle’s pen names), 24 for 3 which was picked up by Bloomsbury; Jack Robinson (one of Boyle’s pen names), Days and Nights in W12, Robinson, By the same author, An Overcoat: Scenes from the Afterlife of H.B.; Gabriel Josipovici, Only Joking; Andrzej Bursa, Killing Auntie & other work; Gert Hofmann, Lichtenbergand theLittle Flower Girl; David Markson, This is Not a Novel ; Lara Pawson, This is the Place To Be; Diane Williams, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine; Will Eaves, The Inevitable Gift Shop.
Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, winner of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Prix Goncourt among many others, and short-listed for the Nobel Prize in Literature, talks to Georgia de Chamberet about writing in French, immigration, exile, language, and fighting injustice.
An extract from the interview is reproduced below; the full interview was published in Banipal magazine No. 35 in 2009 and is available at banipal.co.uk
Banipal magazine is an independent literary magazine. It was begun in 1998 by two individuals who loved Arab literature and believed in promoting dialogue between different cultures by bringing this literature with the world through translation into English.
The Banipal Trust / Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation prize administered by the Translators Association 2018 judging panel is Pete Ayrton, Georgia de Chamberet, Fadia Faqir, Sophia Vasalou.
How many hours a day do you write? I write in the morning, on average for three hours, although I sometimes stay at my desk all that time and just write one phrase, it depends. The principle is that it’s a discipline and whatever happens I must stay in front of the page, or computer, and not give up. It’s a practice I have followed for 30 years.
“He is off his head. He has episodes when he zones out. It is not unpleasant. From time to time, he tries to reason with himself: he cannot stay here indefinitely, it has been a cold summer, he will catch another bout of flu, he needs to take care of himself, he needs to go back down into the city, find some clean clothes, do something [ . . .] Painfully, he climbs over the railings separating the communal garden from the property where he has taken to sleeping. He grips the branches and hoists his body up almost falling flat on his face on the other side. He ends up kneeling on the ground. He wishes he could feel sorry for himself, or disgust. Anything. But no, nothing. Nothing but this absurd calm.”
Look who’s back . . . and sleeping rough now that sofa surfing is a thing of the past: Vernon, Mr. Superstar D.J. and former owner of cult record shop ‘Revolver’. At the end of Vernon Subutex 1 he was beaten up by a gang of neo-Nazis – along with his TV screenwriter friend, Xavier, who was trying to rescue him but ended up comatose in hospital instead.Continue reading Review | Vernon Subutex 2, Virginie Despentes | Maclehose Press
During a recent trip to Paris I indulged my compulsive book browsing and buying by visiting some of my favourite bookshops. They are plentiful and varied since France enjoys a fixed minimum price agreement unlike the UK where the Net Book Agreement was abolished in 1997 leading to the closure of over 500 independent bookshops, along with chains such as Dillons, Borders and Books etc. The success or failure of a book now largely lies in the hands of supermarkets, Waterstones and Amazon. Here are a few finds for the Francophile literary flâneurs among you. @AuDiableVauvert @ediSens_edition @EditionsdelAube @Diacritik @Gallimard @GlenatBD @_WProject_
Shredded: Life After Terror by Philippe Lançon (Gallimard)
“My book is not a narrative about Islamism or the state of the health service —subjects about which I am not sufficiently well-informed — it is a personal and intimate narrative. It is the story of a man who was the victim of a terrorist attack, who spent nine months in hospital, and who recounts as accurately as possible, and I hope with a lightness of touch, how this attack and his hospital stay changed his life and the lives of those around him; his feelings, his sensations, his memory, his body and his somatic perceptions, his relationship to music, painting, how he breathes and writes.” — Philippe LançonContinue reading BookBlast® France | Top 5 French Reads June, 2018