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Boek-LAB #18 The French bookshops’ May selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #18 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:  La poésie des marchés by Anne-Laure Delaye

La poésie des marchés, Anne-Laure Delaye

Lucie, a young female market analyst in the energy sector, finds herself struggling with monotony and the search for meaning in her daily life.

With her two sidekicks, she launches poetic and offbeat initiatives in parallel with her professional tasks, activities that involve a pet iguana and the housing of a homeless artist in an empty office, and that will soon overtake them.

A very accurate presentation of this sector of activity, both envied and decried, combined with a critique of capitalism and its excesses; all with a benevolent humour.

A moving invitation to find poetry and humanity even in the most unlikely places, or how to reconcile the virtual and the living in an increasingly dematerialised society.

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Le petit roi by Mathieu Belezi

Le petit roi, Mathieu Belezi

Mathieu lives in a home where violence, both verbal and physical, is a quasi-daily issue. He is a witness to these conflicts and tries to grow up as best he can in this suffocating atmosphere. One day, when the situation gets worse, the mother decides to take Mathieu to live with his grandfather on an isolated farm in Provence for an indefinite period of time.

His grandfather, who is gentle and kind, welcomes him into his home and gives Mathieu the love and gentleness of a home, he who only wants to be loved. But the violence he has experienced, and the abandonment by his parents brings out his hateful impulses, both towards a classmate whom he takes great pleasure in humiliating and towards the animals around him. These impulses are even more rekindled when his mother reappears from time to time and Mathieu believes that he will leave with her. His grandfather, as well as all the people he meets in his life around the farm, will unfortunately not change anything.

Le petit roi is a novel published in 1998 and curiously fallen into obscurity. Mathieu Belezi is the author of Attacking the Earth and the Sun, in September 2022, which was awarded Le Monde’s literary prize the same year. In view of its success, the publisher Le Tripode decided to republish the author's entire oeuvre.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Le nageur by Pierre Assouline

Le nageur, Pierre Assouline

We love all of Pierre Assouline's biographies and historical novels, especially when he finds an original angle such as in Le portrait or Sigmaringen. With Le Nageur, he returns to the form of the classic biography, but we feel so close to this man that this story has a very personal tone, as if he were telling the story of a member of his family, and that's what I liked about this new book. In Le nageur, the admiration and respect, almost fascination, that Pierre Assouline has for this man sweeps the reader away from the very first pages. The writing and the rhythm first- the tension is maintained throughout the story, no slackening, like a long-distance swimmer who gives himself the luxury of sprinting from time to time for pleasure. Even though we know from the start that he will be betrayed, deported with his wife and their little daughter, we follow the story like a thriller. Secondly, as with all his books, the quality of the narrative and the meticulous research work gives the story, without dulling it, the seriousness of an academic work but with the appeal of a novel.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Le scénario de Prague by Natalia Borodin

Le scénario de Prague, Natalia Borodin

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".

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Feu le vieux monde by Sophie Vandeveugle

Feu le vieux monde, Sophie Vandeveugle

This first novel opens with Silvia, a child whose sleep is disturbed by the stifling heat. When she opens her bedroom window, all she hears from outside is the whirring of a gigantic iron and steel bird approaching her hometown in a disturbing manner. A war is raging. Nino, her brother, is on the front line, like all the young people of Bas-les-Monts, mobilised to fight against an enemy that gives them no respite. The front moves with the wind, because this enemy manifests as a succession of fires of great violence. At an unspecified time in history, the country is in the grip of global warming and an inexorable drought, in front of which men seem very weak. More than just a warning, Fire of the Old World resonates in a singular way, as the burning climate emergency demands that we act quickly and proportionately. For in the face of the flames, it is these thoughtful young people who will come to reconsider the question: is this old world really worth saving? This counter-utopia is illustrated by powerful, poetic language, and resolutely invites us not to think but to act.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Napoléon est mort à Saint-Denis by Noé Bezborodko

Napoléon est mort à Saint-Denis, Noé Bezborodko

A group of enlightened people from Saint-Denis, fervent admirers of Napoleon, are delighted to celebrate the bicentenary of the death of this illustrious character. And for such an occasion, it is a question of making an impact and of distinguishing themselves from the other Bonapartist groups that our enlightened group despises. So why not ask for the support of someone close to Napoleon who, like them, will be able to restore the emperor's glory?Yes, why not "summon" Marshal Ney, his chief of cavalry? A heavy offence to common sense, but never mind: with a magic trick, the marshal is back in the flesh, disconcerted at having been brought back to life in 2021 by a band of madmen. A totally crazy and uncontrollable plot follows, involving an ex-British secret service agent, young suburbanites on a treasure hunt, a descendant of Napoleon who is almost as crazy as his ancestor, and more or less successful attempts at resurrection. Interweaving historical details and current issues, this inventive and entertaining first novel regales us with the folly (and stupidity) of mankind with humour and outright glee.

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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