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Boek-LAB #12 The French bookshops’ November selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #12 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:  Le colonel ne dort pas by Emilienne Malfatto

Le colonel ne dort pas, Emilienne Malfatto

In a country in the midst of war, the Colonel arrives to lead the Special Section of the Northern Troops and of the Reconquest, after the fall of the Dictator. He is a specialist in torture, and it is for his skills and his talent that he is hired. While he continues his mission, he himself is condemned to a life of torment- tortured by his demons, as well as ghost of the men he killed who haunt him, sleep evades him. He cannot stop his mission however, not only is it his destiny, but it is the only thing he knows how to do.

Emilienne Malfatto has worked as a war photographer and journalist. With this book, she describes to us concisely and poetically, the brutality of war criminals who obey orders, devoid of conscience and regret. This book is all the more poignant as the reader does not know in which country the action takes place, leaving us free to relate the story to past and present conflicts.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: L’île haute by Valentine Goby

L’île haute, Valentine Goby

Caught in the turmoil of the Second World War, a child leaves Paris for the mountains in order to cure his asthma. Welcomed by a Savoyard family in the heart of winter, he must navigate between two identities to stay alive. Thanks to the generosity and humanity of his hosts and the company of their neighbour Moinette, he will open himself up to the harsh and exuberant nature that surrounds him with the arrival of Spring. A dedicated teacher will complete this process.

The author offers us a luminous and moving account of a sensual awakening to nature; a real explosion of colours and sensations. With beautiful and poignant language, she traces the accelerated shift into adulthood of young Vadim/Vincent following the upheavals of history and pays tribute to all those who risked their lives to save Jews during the Second World War.

Emmanuelle Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Le salon by Oscar Lalo  

Le salon, Oscar Lalo  

A real treat for lovers of literature!

Our narrator needs to go to the hairdresser- he is ahead of schedule, and strolling, he passes in front of a bookstore, and looks in the bin of books on sale at one euro. What ? Flaubert is on the sidewalk! He decides to buy the book… and his life changes! Or rather, his life begins. Here he is in a fancy hair salon and he can't pay the extravagant bill. As unbelievable as it is, the boss accepts that this strange customer pays his debt by giving a lecture on Flaubert. Kind of him, but the narrator is neither a reader nor a lecturer! So, he goes back to the bookstore to ask for help. So begins a beautiful friendship with the old bookseller, grumpy but erudite and benevolent. In this lively, funny novel, full of literary references, Oscar Lalo delights the reader by declaring his love of literature and booksellers.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Le ministre et la Joconde by Bourhis, Bourgeron and Tanquerelle

Le ministre et la Joconde, Bourhis, Bourgeron and Tanquerelle

1962. General De Gaulle has promised that The Mona Lisa will visit the United States. The painting is on board the France for this journey, against the advice of the director of the Louvre. The painting will not go alone. André Malraux, then Minister of State, will accompany her. But the crossing quickly becomes a huis-clos where the painting disappears and reappears as if it had taken on a life of its own. Fortunately, the minister is on hand to lead the investigation. This graphic novel, inspired by real events, above all reinvents the image of André Malraux. A story both historical and totally eccentric, that will delight lovers of classic ligne claire comics, masterfully executed here by illustrator Tanquerelle.

Tiphaine Hubert 
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: La vie clandestine by Monica Sabolo

La vie clandestine, Monica Sabolo

Monica Sabolo has graced the Rentrée littéraire 2022 with an unexpected text that touches on the intimate and gives pride of place to memory. The figure of the famous Yves Sabolo, the narrator's legal father, a collector of primitive art now deceased, triggers the whole plot, when the narrator, in need of inspiration, reveals the urge that takes hold of her one morning for a stuffed buzzard bought on the Internet. Following on from this,the improbable project she has, after listening to a radio programme, to uncover the fate of the women of the ultra-left armed group Action directe, is woven into the narrative. The evocation of her Italian-Genevan childhood in a more than bourgeois environment is then sifted through in a sort of self-analysis constructed as anoff the wallpiece of investigative journalism, wherein the themes of forgiveness and gratuitous murder whirl around, and we are confronted with a family secret wherein incestuous oppression hovers. By confronting the bloody epic of the two female gun carriers who made headlines in her youth, Monica Sabolo achieves the improbable synthesis of a crisis of all fictions, of all narratives. The challenge of an attempt to write life by a promising novelist from the world of the media has been met!

Patrick Suel
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Stardust by Léonora Miano

Stardust, Léonora Miano

With Stardust, Léonora Miano gives us a very intimate and poignant story. Returning to her arrival in Paris during her youth, the author becomes "Louise" in order to detach herself somewhat from the very personal story she is about to tell. Engaged in a love affair with an uncertain future, Louise is forced to stop her studies after giving birth to little Bliss. Very quickly, her relationship breaks down and she and Bliss find themselves on the streets, looking for a place to live. Without papers, Louise comes into contact with the harshness of the life of those on the margins of society and resolves with composure mixed with fear not to sink any lower. Thanks to a meeting with a sympathetic social worker, she and her daughter join the rue de Crimée hostel in the 19th arrondissement - a reintegration and emergency accommodation centre for women. There, Louise discovers the tragedy of these lives, the fear and precariousness, the violence that escapes, and she will never stop, for the love of Bliss, fighting selflessly for a better life and some dignity. Stardust is Léonora Miano's very first book and its publication today seems to make sense. In these troubled times, this novel of touching simplicity resonates with accuracy and addresses a painful reality with great modesty.

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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