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Boek-LAB #14 The French bookshops’ January selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Boek-LAB #14 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:  Mes fragiles by Jerome Garcin

Mes fragiles, Jerome Garcin

A short story that recounts both the death of the author's brother from Covid and that of his mother, 6 months earlier. Jerome Garcin recounts his family history, the loss of his twin brother, the death of his father and how life goes on despite everything. He tells us about the stays in hospital, the suffering of his relatives and the care they receive. It is also a story about a disease, Fragile X syndrome, passed down from the author's great-grandparents on his mother's side, which can cause, among other things, learning disabilities behavioural disorders and OCD. This illness was diagnosed late in life, and his mother was not told so as not to burden her with the blame.

It is the story of a family that, despite the trials of life, has managed to keep a touch of whimsy.

A very personal, humorous and touching story that grips you from the first page.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Jean-Luc et Jean-Claude by Laurence Potte-Bonneville

Jean-Luc et Jean-Claude, Laurence Potte-Bonneville

Jean-Luc and Jean-Claude are best friends and look out for one another. They both have learning disabilities and live in sheltered accommodation. Every Thursday, they enjoy a rare moment of autonomy and freedom when they visit a café with welcoming staff.

As a storm rages in this town close to the sea, an encounter with a confused young man will dangerously upset their daily lives...whilst also allowing them to fulfil their dream.

Being very involved within the care sector and working alongside people with disabilities, she writes with great empathy for her characters. With this first novel, she writes a text of profound humanity that celebrates friendship and difference.

Emmanuelle Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Fils de personne by Jean-François Pasques

Fils de personne, Jean-François Pasques

A good year for the Prix du Quai des Orfèvres 2023. This prize, created in 1946, is awarded by a jury, presided over by the Police Prefect of Paris and composed of magistrates and police officers, and rewards a crime novel chosen among manuscripts submitted anonymously.

The body of a former legionnaire is found in one of the ponds in the Tuileries Gardens. What is the link between this macabre discovery and the recent disappearance of three young women? What are the dead man's links with the Polish Church in Paris and the enigmatic Father Wenceslas, and with Nicole, the kind-hearted prostitute? Why was the legionnaire in contact with the CNAOP, the organisation that allows children born "under X" to find their biological parents? Julien Delestran, nicknamed Jul's or the Commander; a gruff police chief, and his team will have to find out. A tribute to Jules Maigret and Simenon; fans of classic, old-fashioned detective stories, where intrigue and investigation take precedence over the bloody, penny-pinching sociology of some modern detective novels, will enjoy this good detective story.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Quand tu écouteras cette chanson, by Lola Lafon

Quand tu écouteras cette chanson, Lola Lafon

Until that night spent in Anne Frank's house, in the Annexe, Lola Lafon had never wanted, never dared, to confront the Shoah. The history of her family, of the persecutions, the history of her mother, a hidden child, like Anne Frank, she had never wanted to know them, to know understand them. So, it is here, within these walls, in this place where, as soon as you cross the threshold, the emotion crushes your heart, that Lola Lafon will remember. Quand tu écoutas cette chanson is first and foremost a vibrant tribute to Anne Frank, far removed from the Hollywoodian distorted image that has too often been given of her. Anne Frank is not the smooth, tolerant little girl who "still believes in the innate goodness of men", the oft-quoted phrase written in The Diary in July 1944. Although Anne Frank hopes that the nightmare will one day end, she is fully aware of the Nazi barbarism. Anne Frank knows what it means to be Jewish in 1942 and she writes it down. Lola Lafon shows that The Diary of Anne Frank is a literary work in its own right and not just a touching blueprint written by a dreamy teenager.  A book of touching sincerity, which will not leave you indifferent.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Les Pizzlys by Jérémie Moreau

Les Pizzlys, Jérémie Moreau

Working as a driver for Uber, Nathan is exhausted day and night providing for his siblings. His car guides him in a quasi-isolating bubble via GPS, which also causes him to have orientation problems during which he feels like he is floating, losing his footing. One day, when he is supposed to drive Annie, a friendly retired Indian woman from Alaska to the airport, his smartphone breaks down and inevitably an accident occurs. Fortunately, both are only slightly bruised, but Nathan is left without his tools of the trade. It is not long before Annie, aware of the young man's malaise, suggests that he and his siblings accompany her to Alaska to recharge their batteries. This is what The Pizzlys invites us to do: to return to nature, to re-engage with it, to understand the changes that are taking place within it, and in a wayto be reborn. To achieve this, Jérémie Moreau's drawings deploy a graphic palette that whose dazzling colours are striking. He uses a fluorescent magenta that contrasts magnificently with a gradation of other equally stunning colours - blues, greens, greys, which are reminiscent of the aurora borealis and the brightness of the light typical of snowy landscapes. Moving and militant, this invitation to find oneself among other living beings is an unmissable one.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Il n’y a pas de Ajar : monologue contre l’identité by Delphine Horvilleur

Il n’y a pas de Ajar : monologue contre l’identité, Delphine Horvilleur

This short text by Delphine Horvilleur should be read as a promise of the dawn. That of an accomplished woman of letters whose youth was marked by the figure of Romain Gary, the great hoaxer of French literature who invented a double by the name of Émile Ajar. As a liberal woman-rabbi and co-author of Des mille et une façons d'être juif ou musulman (a dialogue with the Islamologist Rachid Benzine), she places her earlier work in the vicinity of a survival library for people of spirit. Il n'y a pas de Ajar, a playful and mischievous title, exceeds the dark aura of the illustrious Gary/Ajar figure, hero of the Free French Forces, dandy of French letters married to Jean Seberg, Russian from Lithuania fascinated by his mother, twice winning the Goncourt prize under two identities, then deciding to stop living. For the author questions our very lives by evoking, to support her words, the Jewish-European legend of the dybbuk, that twin being whose soul may have attached itself to our own, which accompanies our existence "to parasitize it or enlarge it, to encumber it or support it" and constitutes a metaphor for literature and its doubles. This monologue against identity, by inventing the character of Émile Ajar's son - himself an invented character - inaugurates the concept of literary assisted procreation. Bouncing on the fashionable terms of transidentity and appropriation, not to discuss them but to stage them touching our lives. Jubilant and instructive!

Patrick Suel
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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