In France the Literary season begins with the ‘Rentrée Littéraire’, The start of the Literary year which coincides with the start of the school year, the end of August start of September. In France in this short timeframe about 650 books are published, some float and many sink. Lire Magazine gives excerpts from the most awaited titles, meaning of course established writers
Three of my favourite French writers, Sorj Chalondon, Yasmina Khadra and Mathias Énard are present and I will give you an all too brief taster of their books from the excerpts I have read
Sorj Chalandon ‘My Father’s Profession’
Chalandon, a foreign correspondent, who covered many battle zones Treats very personal subjects and has drawn on personal experiences in previous books. See blog
This book begins with André, Émile’s fathers, funeral and an unknown woman who attends followed by a flashback to 1961 and De Gaulle’s television announcement calling to counter the French Generals’ putsch in Algeria, whilst Piaf is playing on the radio we are led to believe that André is a strict disciplinarian. I’ll keep you posted when it’s released
Yasmina Khadra ‘The Last Night of the Raïs’
Khadra, a great Algerian writer and ex-director of the Algerian Cultural Center here in Paris has treated amongst others, questions of violence and the east-west tensions including the haunting ‘The Attack’ read last year.
This book treats the last hours of Mouammar Kadhafi, as his empire falls pieces around him Khadra’s book is set in an abandoned house where Kadhafi is hiding with the two last remaining members of his personal staff, each with different views of him and the opportunity to air them. Khadra uses this situation to propose answers to the questions what was going through his mind? In the absence of doubts, did he have regrets?
The excerpt begins with Kadhafi thinking of his childhood, his origins and finishes with the introduction of his aide-de-camp who is surprised and does not know how to react when after 13 years in his service Kadhafi notices him for the first time This will be a major book this year and I’ll keep you posted
Mathias Énard ‘Compass’
Mathias Énard whose previous books include Zone and Street of Thieves is back with “Compass”, a book with parallels to Zone, his main protagonist Franz, an oriental music specialist at the university spends a sleepless night in his apartment after being diagnosed with a serious illness and after reading an article sent to him by Sarah whom he had so loved.
This sleepless night takes us from Istanbul through Beirut and Palmyra on the trail of Beethoven, Heine, Proust, Lawrence and others who were obsessed to the point of losing their way by their Orient, real or imagined.
The short excerpt is already dense, we discover a first part of a document from Sarah from 15 years earlier, a prologue from her thesis concerning Sadegh Hedayat who in the first half of the 20th century tried to bridge the gap between east and west by studying western literature (yes I had to look this up). We then flash back and relive the her thesis viva seen through his eyes and reflecting his negative views on academic orientalists.
This promises to be, as for Zone, an interesting but dense read.