I spoke recently about going back to a German author I greatly appreciated, Julie Zeh. Last weekend I was at the lending library and came across ‘Décompression’ not yet translated into English. This book took a short week to read, a thriller with two voices
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This week I decided to play catch up with culture and chose the 1975 Prix Goncourt La Vie Devant Soi, translated into English as The Life Before Us which Romain Gary wrote using the pseudo Emile Ajar which amongst other things allowed him to win a second Goncourt which the awards committee avoids. Tell me more
What a subject matter for an epic film! Sorj Chalandon’s latest book ‘The Fourth Wall’ has yet to be translated into English, and thanks to matrenaud for insisting I read this book. I had met Sorj Chalandon 2 or 3 years ago at the Paris book fair and read his 2011 book, ‘Return to Killybegs’ about an IRA traitor during the troubles, based on a true experience of Chalandon’s, a war reporter who had himself been confronted with the situation of discovering an IRA friend who had been a traitor for twenty years, already a strong story. His latest book The Fourth Wall concerns another conflict he covered in the early 80’s, the war in Lebanon. Here was a complex civil war I did not really understand at the time, there were so many sides involved and so much killing that I just could not relate to it back then. This compulsive, thoughtful, yet page turning book written to present the different sides in this conflict, the tragedy of civil war -today’s victim becomes so easily tomorrow’s slaughterer- the senselessness of the violence whilst not judging the protagonists, caught my interest from start to end and left me better understanding this particular conflict. The story follows in a more or less linear manner a French student called George through the tumultuous 70’s in Paris taking in his friendship with a Greek exile who had been weakened by torture and who finishes by persuading Geourge to stage Antigone by Jean Anouilh in Beirut during the civil war, taking one character from each of the sides engaged in the war. In a few brush strokes we grow attached to the characters he paints and feel pain as the events unfold. A formidable story indeed!
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Le Quatrième Mur: First published in France by Grasset in 2013
Grangé is ‘the’ French thriller writer, many of his works have been filmed, most famously ‘The Crimson Rivers’ featuring Jean Reno and Vincent Cassel.
Grangé has sold more than 3.5 million books in France and more than 5 million world wide.
So this week I went back to one of his earlier page-turners that has not been translated into English ‘La Ligne Noire’ or ‘The Black Line’ published in French in 2004, considered by some as his best book, “Somewhere in South East Asia between the Tropic of Cancer and the equator, there is another line, a black line, marked out by dead bodies and fear”
I had read a readers comment that said “The presumed killer is completely crazy and the journalist is no better!” Which I would consider a fair comment.
First of all this is a long book 600 pages, but 600 pages of guilty pleasure (well it is a thriller). As could be expected of a good thriller, most of its characters are flawed, and the prime suspect is so obviously guilty that there has to be a sub plot, and of course there is. The book is about tragic events and multiple personalities, as the maim character, Vincent, by taking on the identity of a woman, Elizabeth, tries to get close to a psychopathic killer, Jacques Reverdi, who is in prison in Malasia for murder. Manipulation, treason and a particularly horrific murder ritual, with of course the twist at the end.
This book would of course sell in English!
La Ligne Noir: First published in French by Albin Michel in 2004
Back to the lending library for an audio book, where I came across a prolific German thriller writer who burst onto the scene in Germany in ’06 knocking The Da Vinci Code of of 1st place on the best sellers list, his books have been translated into French over a 10 year period and are now becoming available in English.
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Jérôme Ferrari’s book ‘The sermon on the fall of Rome’ a ‘Goncourt Prize winner’ which has now been translated into English by Geoffrey Strachan is a book of many layers centred on a village in Corsica (which could be a village in any disappearing rural community), following one family from the first photo ever taken in the village at the end of the First World War, where all of the family were present except the central character of the first layer, Marcel, up to tragic events in the present day and the death of Marcel. A perspective is drawn using excerpts from St. Augustine’s Sermon on the fall of Rome. On the 24th August 410, an army of Visigoths sacked Rome, causing amongst other things a large number of refugees to flee towards North Africa Tell me more
As of today I am a grand father!
After ‘Queen of the South’amongst other books translated from Spanish into English and French, since turned into a television series, read easily ten years back, his latest book translated into French but not yet into English ‘Le Tango de la Vieille Garde‘ which can be thought of a little like the song ‘Every time We say goodbye, you know I cry a little‘ is a film waiting to happen.
The story set in three distinct periods, the late twenties, the late thirties and the early sixties follows Max and Inzunza two characters from different worlds, her rich, with no worries for tomorrow and he poor surviving by scams.
In the late twenties they meet on a transatlantic liner from Spain to Argentina, She with her wealthy composer husband working on a Tango (a simple bet with Ravel to better his Bolero) and he as the House dancer, suave and debonair, surviving by ripping off rich women. He takes them through the back streets of Buenos Aires to the birth place of the true Tango and lives a passion with Inzunza before disappearing with her valuable pearl necklace.
We meet them again in the late thirties in Nice between the Spanish civil war and WW2, he by now an accomplished cat burglar and she estranged from her husband, they once again are passionate lovers before events force a second separation.
The third confrontation is in their twilight years where Max who has come through difficult times meets once again Inzunza with her son (A chess champion challenging the Russian world champion) and at the bequest of Inzunza becomes embroiled in a dangerous case of burglary.
Throughout we are aware of their unrequited love, (if only life could let them be together).
As always these stories are intertwined. This is once again a compelling story, worthy of an English translation, I’d pay to watch the film.
Le Tango de la Vieille Garde: First published in Spain in 2012
Translated into French by François Maspero, published by Seuil in 2013