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Boek-LAB #17 The French bookshops’ April selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #17 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:  Croire: Sur les pouvoirs de la littérature by Justine Augier

Croire: Sur les pouvoirs de la littérature, Justine Augier

Justine Augier traces the birth of her professional and literary vocation as well as her political convictions in contrast to the public persona of her recently deceased mother. The latter was number two in the MoDem and a short-lived Minister for European Affairs during Emmanuel Macron's first term in office.

The author, through references to her previous works, draws a red throughline that emphasises the role of literature as both a political and spiritual commitment and an act of resistance.

She tries to understand her mother through the reading of the books she loved and realizes that her struggles and convictions were ultimately very close to her own.

In this account of grief and legacy, she offers a moving celebration of the therapeutic virtues of reading and writing.

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Là où règnent les baleines by Jolan C. Bertrand

Là où règnent les baleines, Jolan C. Bertrand

A meeting between Roanne, a 15-year-old who is the victim of bullying, and in full revolt against her mother; and her uncle Kierzic, a grumpy and solitary man who lives as a hermit in a lighthouse.

Her uncle, who was bullied as a child, is taciturn and allergic to civilisation: on land and in contact with humans, he withers away. He lives reclusively in a ruined lighthouse lost in the middle of the ocean. He seems to carry a heavy burden that leads him to flee from all humans, starting with his niece.

In the middle of the night and in the middle of a storm, Roanne thinks she hears childish voices from the sea. Intrigued, she approaches the water despite her uncle forbidding it and discovers an underwater world, inhabited by amazing creatures, that no one has ever explored... No one, really no one?

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Irréfutable essai de « successologie », by Lydie Salvayre

Irréfutable essai de « successologie », Lydie Salvayre

Lydie Salvayre, whose ardour you are no doubt familiar with, brings us a caustic, virulent and funny essay! Claiming to subscribe to the genre of the "personal development manual", she sets out her demonstration in eighteen chapters, filled with ironic portraits, assertive advice, and rules of conduct highlighted by an amusing layout. Everyone is concerned: from the different types of writers to the supposedly uneducated "Bookstagrammer", including men of influence, readers and herself! Obviously, the author is angry, obviously, this world of appearances and superficiality cannot suit her! Obviously, this satire is funny... it must be read as such. It is also interesting to find in it what makes the quality of Lydie Salvayre's writing and thinking: the frequentation of great authors, from antiquity to the present day, the taste for language and great style, the love of culture. The reader, who is regularly challenged and encouraged, delighted and annoyed, and sometimes saddened by such a raw portrait of success in our society. Fortunately, the last chapter, entitled "But", reassures the reader that real literature is possible!

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: La visite suivi de Les filles de nos filles by Anne Berest

La visite suivi de Les filles de nos filles, Anne Berest

Two plays dedicated to women, plays that deal with the difficulty of motherhood, of being anything other than a mother, and the difficulty for a woman to obtain recognition for her merits.

The Visit is a long monologue. A woman, a scientist, a researcher, has just had a child. This birth disturbs her and raises a multitude of questions. In the absence of her husband, the young woman talks about motherhood, the life of women, their recognition, everything that makes up a life. One thinks of course of Marie Curie and the difficulties she and her daughter (also a Nobel Prize winner) had in gaining acceptance and recognition for their genius in a scientific world dominated by men, or of Elizabeth Badinter and her revolutionary book, L'amour en plus (Flammarion, 1980) and of many other exceptional women, without whom their brilliant husbands or companions would probably not have become who they did.

Les filles de nos filles is a treasure of a play. Judith, a young woman, unexpectedly arrives at the opening of a photography exhibition. Philippe, the photographer, is famous and on a roll. When he was just a young student, he was Judith's lover. The model for the photographs on display at the opening is Judith. The play is superbly constructed. From one twist to another, the past emerges and "seizes the day".

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Trois femmes disparaissent by Hélène Frappat

Trois femmes disparaissent, Hélène Frappat

A novel, biography or investigation, Trois femmes disparaissent goes to the heart of three generations of actresses whose histories seem to be destined to repeat themselves. First, the oldest, Tippi Hedren, the muse of Alfred Hitchcock, consecrated in The Birds and Marnie. A half-hearted consecration, given that she quickly went from being an object of desire to being an object of contempt for having rejected the advances of Hitchcock, who terrorised her. Then comes her daughter, Melanie Griffith, also an actress, who will not be spared either for her roles as a submissive woman in the 80s, notably in Brian de Palma's Body Double. Our eyes then turn to Dakota Johnson, daughter and granddaughter of the two aforementioned actresses, who in turn fell into the role of the subjugated woman in Fifty Shades of Grey. By probing the careers of these three women, Hélène Frappat slips into the shoes of a not unironic detective to give us an astonishing account of their lives and the roles they have played. One thing leading to another, an incredible cameo of disturbing coincidences unfolds, bringing deserved justice to these women who "disappeared" for having bent over backwards.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Les deux dormeurs by Samy Langeraert

Les deux dormeurs, Samy Langeraert

The unnamed hero of this short story leads a quiet existence centredaround hiswriting practice. In the mornings and on Mondays, he works as an ad writer for a travel agency, and the rest of the time as a poet whose inspiration is found in a shadowy corner of the cafeteria of an art centre. A third character is added to these two, the 'scribe', whose mission it is to reflect on existence, to bear witness to everyday life and to be enthusiastic about a group of retired Portuguese people who are also regulars of the cafeteria and who meet at the same time every day to play cards, but also for a striped T-shirt to which the poet dedicates all his poems. Time humbly fades away, day after day, slowly, under the watchful and sometimes amused eye of these authors who have nothing in common and yet live side by side. Samy Langeraert takes the time to look at what surrounds him, with grace and detachment, and in the end, there is an unfeigned pleasure in contemplating what, at first glance, could be everything or nothing.

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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