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Boek-LAB #16 The French bookshops’ March selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #16 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 relais des amis by Christine Montalbetti

Le relais des amis, Christine Montalbetti

A writer plagued by the anxiety of a blank page isolates himself in a cabin by the sea to find inspiration. During a walk, his meeting with the waitress of a local café will set off a succession of events that the author will transform into novelistic episodes, inciting a complicity with the reader. Christine Montalbetti excels in inviting elements (flies, litter, etc.) into the story whose literary potential was previously hidden. She skilfully exploits the total freedom that reading allows, as well as its capacity to cross both real and virtual borders. Follow this parade of characters, these friends conjured by the author who lead us around the world with a contagious joy. A story full of fantasy and freedom, a gem to be savoured and shared without restraint!

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Le roi-nu-pieds by François d’Epenoux

Le roi-nu-pieds, François d’Epenoux

Eric is a freelancer in marketing, lives very comfortably with his new wife and their son, spends his holidays in his mother's house and enjoys life. Niels, his son from his first marriage, has been living for several years in the ZAD of Notre Dame des Landes, which is opposed to the extension of Nantes airport. He lives on odd jobs and bartering and cannot stand this consumer society. The two spend part of the summer together, which leads to some heated discussions and reproaches, a constant inter-generational conflict. One morning, the conflict becomes so great that Eric suddenly decides to kick Niels out of the house. Two years go by, Eric is pressured at work, gets fired and is in debt. His wife decides to distance herself from him until a solution is found. Destitute, he decides to join Niels at the ZAD in secret and see how he lives. A novel in two parts on the father/son relationship, on generational antagonisms where Niels is the one who gives his father a life lesson.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Un an dans la forêt, François Sureau

Un an dans la forêt, François Sureau

The Académie Française has sometimes welcomed amongst its numbers, some truly unique characters. François Sureau is a true writer and greatly deserves his seat amongst the Immortals. In Un an dans la forêt, he evokes his childhood memories and his heroes in his lively, rapid, sometimes even dry writing. François Sureau manages, in few words, to bring back to life the magic of happier days. This small collection is devoted above all to Blaise Cendrars, his favourite writer. It recounts a single year in Cendrars' life, 1938, which the writer spent with Elisabeth Prévost in the Ardennes. He was 51 years old; she was 27. Beautiful, a skilled horsewoman, a writer, a great traveler, wealthy and somewhat eccentric, Elisabeth Prévost conquered Cendrars' heart in one day. Invited to spend the day at this beautiful Amazon’s hunting lodge, located at the edge of the forest near Belgium, he stayed there for a year.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: La couleur des choses, Martin Panchaud

La couleur des choses, Martin Panchaud

This year's Fauve d’Or at Angoulême was awarded to Martin Panchaud's La couleur des choses. Simon is a young man who is not completely at ease with life. It must be said that he is not well accompanied and that he is often his own worst enemy seeing as he ends up resorting to the guidance of a fortune teller. Barking up the wrong tree? Maybe not... If the story in this graphic novel is very original (what with the presence of a whale that you will have to follow to the end to decode!) it is the narrative progression that will surprise many. Simon is represented by an orange dot. The whole story, an unsettling detective story, is viewed from above, as if on a map where the characters, who are represented by dots, are walking around. The novel was entirely produced with the help of page layout and cartography software. This year's Fauve d'or rewards modernity, audacity and originality.

Tiphaine Hubert
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Il n’y aura pas de sang versé by Maryline Desbiolles

Il n’y aura pas de sang versé, Maryline Desbiolles

In Il n'y aura pas de sang versé, Maryline Desbiolles pays homage to the first women's protest movements that emerged in the city of Lyon at the turn of the year 1869. These women, all of whom were 'ovalistes'(women who worked in moulinage)at the weaving workshops that were widespreadat the time, were already fully aware of being exploited, even though reading and writing were inaccessible to most of them. For in those days, women had little or no education, and when they were not confined to their role as mothers, they worked hard to survive. The author invites us to follow four of them, whom she brings together, metaphorically, in a relay race. This contemporary allegory, full of humanity, emphasises the mutual aid and contribution of each of them in achieving victory in a society where they do not yet have a real place. With her inventive language, MarylineDesbiolles does justice to those forgotten by history who were the first to work for the recognition of women. Both captivating and endearing, this beautiful story gives us the weapons to seize this relay in our turn and do them full honour.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Kepone by Philippe Godoc

Kepone, Philippe Godoc

Marc Montroy, a young mixed-race journalist, investigates the scandal of chlordecone, also known as Kepone, which was used in the French West Indies from the 1970s until the 1990s to treat banana plantations. Before heading to Guadeloupe, Montroy travels to the "chemical capital" of Virginia, where a prominent professor explains Kepone's role in polluting the land and water and encourages him to expose the scandal - only to be brutally murdered. When Montroy arrives in Point-à-Pitre to find his father Célio, a former customs inspector, the journalist is confronted with the silence that surrounds the mysterious "legal" use of this devastating pesticide. With the help of his father and his friend Max, a pro-independence activist, he understands that all this is the work of the rich white Creoles, the Békés, to silence the descendants of black slaves. But when Célio is also murdered, Marc is far from imagining the deadly spiral he has just put his finger into. This nervous, breathless noir novel plunges us into a major environmental scandal that clearly shows the responsibility of successive French governments and of power-hungry West Indian men who are prepared to do anything. Highly researched, this formidable thriller takes us on a fast-paced search for an unbearable truth.

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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