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Boek-LAB #13 The French bookshops’ December selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Jan 14, 2023

Boek-LAB #13 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:  Lulu by Léna Paul-Le Garrec

Lulu, Léna Paul-Le Garrec

Lulu is a child apart, raised by a smothering mother. He imagines a world of his own in which he creates a new species of animal that feeds exclusively on detritus washed up by the sea. Although school is not his favourite environment and his friends bully him, he becomes fascinated by the ocean and everything the sea dumps on the beach; from shells to pieces of wood, from plastics to glass bottles. He starts to collect all these found objects and thus escapes from his sometimes rather gloomy daily life. One day he finds a mysterious message hidden in a glass bottle and begins a correspondence with the sender, a collector like himself.

He seems happy in this world of his own until Vincent, a friend of his mother's, comes into his life and asks him to write the story of Lulu's father.

A beautiful first novel by Léna Paul-Le Garrec in the form of an initiatory tale that questions our relationship with freedom and nature.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Vivement pas demain : petites proses de rien posées là dans la main by Thomas Vinau

Vivement pas demain : petites proses de rien posées là dans la main, Thomas Vinau

Small prose for great moments of emotion.

The author sublimates the poetry of everyday life, the joys of fatherhood, the beauty of nature, the nostalgia of time passing.

The texts are beautifully simple and allow the reader to navigate between sweetness and melancholy.

A worthy successor to the great Victor!

Emmanuelle Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover:Elle s’appelait Anne Frank by Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold

Elle s’appelait Anne Frank, Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold

The last French edition of "Elle s'appelait Anne Frank" dates from 1987. The book had not been available for a long time, except second-hand. This new edition was therefore necessary and long overdue. For two years, Miep Gies and her husband Henk spent a great deal of energy and imagination to provide supplies, moral support and help to Anne Frank's parents and her sister Margot, but also to the Van Pelse couple (Van Daan in the Diary) and their son, and to Dr. Pfeffer (Dr. Dussel in the Diary), all of whom were hiding in the 'Annexe'. There, in the tiny top two floors of the back office of the Opekta Company, of which Otto Frank was director, they remained holed up for two years until their arrest on 4 August 1944. Miep Gies, whose account was collected and transcribed by Alison Leslie Gold, provides a fascinating, precise and enlightening testimony on this atrocious period. It is also, and above all, an indispensable counterpoint to the Diary of Anne Frank, which allows us to better understand and appreciate the power and strength of this account written by a fourteen-year-old girl.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Trouver refuge, by Christophe Ono-dit-Biot

Trouver refuge, Christophe Ono-dit-Biot

In 2027, in a France that has been won over by an extreme right-wing president, Sacha and Mina lead, with their daughter, an intellectual life. He is a philosopher, she is a university professor, a specialist in Byzantium. One day, in a television programme, Sacha lets slip one comment too many about the president. They are now in danger. Sacha suggests to Mina that they flee from the world to Mount Athos, where he himself had gone on a retreat some thirty years earlier. This is an opportunity for Christophe Ono-dit-Biot to plunge the reader into the ancient Mediterranean while subjecting them to the suspense of an inevitable tragedy. Trouver refuge is a rich, learned novel, at once an adventure novel, a hymn to nature, magnificently described, a reflection on transmission and a call to be vigilant against totalitarianism.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: L’Arabe du futur, tome 6: Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1994-2011) by Riad Sattouf

L’Arabe du futur, tome 6: Une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1994-2011), Riad Sattouf

It is the work of a lifetime; one might say with the mischief that characterises its author. Begun in 2014, when the outbreak of the Arab Spring was still very fresh in the collective unconscious, the sixth instalment by Franco-Syrian cartoonist Riad Sattouf comes full circle, so to speak, by covering the crucial period of his rise to success as a press cartoonist. He is the one of whom Wolinski used to say: "I love this one, he is the best of his generation", who rubbed shoulders with Mathieu Sapin and Joann Sfar in their bohemian years in Paris. The page has now been turned, and we can't wait for the sequel to Le Jeune acteur, in which Sattouf presents his discovery of Vincent Lacoste and the world of cinema. After several series - Pascal Brutal, a description of his youth in a Rennes housing estate, La Vie secrète des jeunes, a three-volume collection of metro shorts published in Charlie-Hebdo, and Cahiers d'Esther, a hilarious account of what haunts today's teenagers - Sattouf proves with each publication that his flair and style, capable of avoiding all the pitfalls when he pushes beyond his relationship with his father by invoking Jung's psychotherapy. And he portrays the "youth" with the wisdom and humour of counting himself among them.

Patrick Suel
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Fariboles by Dimitri Rouchon-Borie

Fariboles, Dimitri Rouchon-Borie

With "Fariboles", Dimitri Rouchon-Borie closes the trilogy he has chosen to devote to the world of ordinary justice. Inspired by the trials that the author has followed as part of his journalistic activity, these tales are anything but devoid of depth; they attempt, with delicacy and sensitivity, to bear witness to these "small" daily lives whose path has deviated in a curious way. If Dimitri Rouchon-Borie is sparing with words when telling a story that in its singularity speaks for itself, he uses a very poetic language when he sets himself up as a story writer. This is the same pen that has already captivated us with his magnificent Démon de la Colline aux Loups, a finalist for the 2021 Goncourt prize for a first novel. Sometimes imbued with a certain desolation, these stories exude an irrepressible humour throughout, and link us to these women and men who, like all of us, are simply victims of their imperfection. Funny people despite themselves, facing judges who, in turn, use flowery and hilarious language to elicit confessions or simple testimony. Dimitri Rouchon-Borie knows how to cover misfortune with an authentic splendour, and one can feel all the attachment he has for people, even those of little means. An attachment to humanity, quite simply.

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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