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Boek-LAB #11 The French bookshops’ October selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #11 offers you a selection of books carefully chosen by French Bookshops from London, Amsterdam and Berlin to discover Boek-LAB

Each month, the Instituts français from Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom share their book recommendations from prestigious bookstores which promote francophone literature in three major European cities: Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam), Librairie La Page (Londres) et Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin).


Book cover: Chien 51 by Laurent Gaudé

Chien 51, Laurent Gaudé

Greece is bankrupt and has been bought by Gold Tex, a multinational that will drastically transform the country. The population rebels. Zem Sparak is one of the protesters who betrays his brothers in arms. For this, he is exiled and survives in zone 3, the most miserable neighbourhood of Magnapole, with no hope of returning. He spends his nights in a nightclub in the RedQ district where he takes Okios, a drug as addictive as opium and that helps him find Athens as he left it. He is what is called a vulgar "dog", a downgraded policeman, called to work hand in hand with the police forces that rule the city. One day, he is called in for the murder of a man found disembowelled. Placed under the supervision of a zone 2 investigator, he will conduct a new investigation that will bring his past back to life and bring him back to the world of humans and hope.

With Chien 51, Laurent Gaudé has produced a novel that is a mixture of crime and science fiction, both mysterious and melancholic; and hard to put down.

Philippe Francoual

Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Ada et Graff by Dany Héricourt

Ada et Graff, Dany Héricourt

Ada and Graff are septuagenarians tossed about by life.

They observe each other, end up taming each other and share their wounds by starting a common story.

Each caught up in a past they would like to forget, they combine their strength so that the light is stronger than the shadows that threaten them.

Héricourt creates endearing and singular characters, on the one hand an eccentric old English widow expatriated to this somewhat lost corner of the Massif Central, and on the other a Roma tightrope walker and horse trainer abandoned by his traveling circus with his mare due to injury.

With this rich, dense and moving story, the reader embarks on a multidimensional journey to the heart of Europe, history and culture.

Emmanuelle Liebert

Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: La petite menteuse by Pascale Robert- Diard

La petite menteuse, Pascale Robert- Diard

Lisa, a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl, is lying to everyone. She lies to her friend, to her teacher, to the police, to the magistrate, to everyone. A lie with serious consequences. A man, accused of rape, as a result of Lisa's lie, will be sentenced and imprisoned for several years. He will appeal his conviction and at the retrial Lisa will retract her accusation; no there was no rape, this whole story was made up. Lisa asks for forgiveness. So why lie? Pascale Robert-Diard, a legal columnist for 20 years, and inspired by a true story, dismantles and reconstructs the process, which will result in the terrible condemnation of an innocent person. It shows how the closed off universe of college, the behaviour of boys, and the gaze of others, crushes souls to the point of sometimes destroying them. She explains and makes us understand why Lisa had no other choice, other than destroy herself, but to lie. Let's listen to what Irène Théry, who has just published Moi aussi, la nouvelle civilité sexuelle (Seuil) says. Much more than protecting their daughters, Irène Théry tells us that the imperative duty of parents is to explain to children, to those who will become men, what sexual civility is: parents, educate your sons!

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: V13 by Emmanuel Carrère

V13, Emmanuel Carrère

V13, for vendredi (Friday), November 13, 2015. This is the code name of the trial for the attacks perpetrated that day by three groups of terrorists in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris and in Saint Denis, attacks at the Bataclan, at the Stade de France and in six coffee shops. All the members of the commandos were killed except one, Salah Abdeslam, who did not activate the explosive device he was carrying. Twenty defendants will be tried in this extraordinary trial which will last more than nine months. Emmanuel Carrère volunteers to report on it for the weekly magazine, L'Obs. For nine months, five days a week, he will be present. V13 is his legal chronicle. The author reports with precision and simplicity, the testimonials of the ordeals experienced by the victims and the suffering of the survivors. The behaviour of the defendants and their lines of defence. Emmanuel Carrère scrupulously reports what he has heard and seen. His writer's gaze, full of humanity, devoid of hatred, helps us to share and understand, to get closer to those who have survived this tragedy. A useful book, essential, and undoubtedly restorative.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Le jeune homme by Annie Ernaux

Le jeune homme, Annie Ernaux

"If I don't write about them, then things haven't come to an end, they have only been experienced. " Extract

It's a simple story, that of a brief love affair between a woman and a man thirty years her junior. It is also, by an honest and uncompromising pen, a 48-page novel on the events that allowed Ernaux, the first French female author to receive a Nobel Prize, to start writing. Becoming the mistress of this young man allowed her to do exactly what her work explores: to look back and understand the past. The pleasure one finds in reading these short pages is characteristic of Ernaux's style and the themes that are dear to her- relationships, classism, sexism - while the weeks spent with this student become the means for her to overlay thoughts, eras and identities. “With him, I went through all the ages of life, my life.” To read Le Jeune Homme is to go to the heart of what defines the talent of the 2022 Nobel Prize for Literature laureate. It is to follow an "I" which, between literature, history and sociology, invites us to reflection without ever forcing it: Annie Ernaux writes life by tracking her own. Le Jeune Homme can be read in one sitting and yet remains with us for days. It shows that indeed, the reality of existence is magnified and concretized when it is written, but also when it is read.

Hugo Scheubel
ZADIG Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Trois soeurs by Laura Poggioli

Trois soeurs, Laura Poggioli

“If he beats you, he loves you” (Russian proverb).

According to figures from the Russian Interior Ministry, in 2013, a woman died every 40 minutes under the blows of her partner. And this, without even a law or the police taking any action to protect these women victims of blows and abuse perpetrated by those who are so close to them. However, during the summer of 2018, a macabre news item shook Russian society. Three sisters murdered their father, a monster who for years beat them, humiliated them and abused them. Russia then divided itself in an unprecedented way between defenders of young girls, and advocates of the untouchable place of men in the intimacy of the home. A few years earlier, the author Laura Poggioli left for Russia and fell in love with its culture, its language, but also and above all with Mitia, a man with whom she also experienced an inexplicably violent love. Three Sisters therefore offers her the opportunity to combine the tragic story of the Khachaturian sisters with her memories of a Western woman and recounts the history of Russia up to the era of Putin- in which even the most damning evidence is not enough to reach justice. Both novel and essay, this work intelligently questions the concepts of domination, submission and silence, and it is in this that this novel proves to be sorely necessary.

Mélanie Chanat
ZADIG Buchhandlung (Berlin)


About the bookstores

Interior shot of Zadig Buchhandlung bookshop. In the foreground is a selection of comic books on a display table, around the room are floor to ceiling bookshelves and display racks
Zadig Buchhandlung - Berlin

Open since the 15th of September 2003, Libraire Zadig is located at the heart of Berlin Mitte’s historic centre. The name Zadig is a reference to Voltaire's eponymous tales, written at the time of his epistolary exchange with Frederic II, during the Enlightenment century. Between tradition and modernism, Zadig represents seriously and with malice the cosmopolitism and the humanist mind of the author. In the multicultural city that is Berlin, Zadig aims to embody the diversity of French-speaking voices by offering the best and the latest editorial releases. Focusing particularly on French-German themes, this Library aspire to be an open-place for exchanges between the French-speaking and Francophile community of Berlin through public meetings that contribute to shape the French-speaking cultural and literary landscape.

Image of the windows of Le Temps Retrouvé bookshop. A grey shop with books displayed in the window.
Le Temps Retrouvé - Amsterdam

Le Temps Retrouvé has been established in September 2014. The bookstore is located at 529 Keizersgracht, in an old house from the 17th century, at the heart of Amsterdam’s historic centre. Le Temps Retrouvé is a general bookshop and is the only one dedicated to francophone books in the Netherlands. It offers a wide range of novels: new releases and classics, as well as comics and graphic novels, essays and biographies, detective stories and fantasy literature and poetry. It comprises a whole room dedicated to children's literature. Together with the fondation l'Échappée Belle, and with the support of the Institut français of the Netherlands, Le Temps Retrouvé organises numerous meetings with French authors.

Image of the front of Librarie La Page bookshop. The front is painted red and brightly coloured books are displayed in the window
Librairie La Page - Londres

Since 1978, the bookstore Librairie La Page offers to all the London francophiles the opportunity to find books in French in South Kensington. As a haven of culture and stories, the bookstore expanded its activities by opening an online store to meet clients’ needs all over the United Kingdom. Committed to create a strong link between publishers, authors and readers, La Page is working towards a renewed cooperation with local francophone institutions, including the Institut français for the promotion of francophone literature and works translated from English.

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