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Boek-LAB #20 The French bookshops’ July selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #20 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 grande ourse by Maylis Adhémar

La grande ourse, Maylis Adhémar

Zita, the daughter of Pyrenean farmers, returns home after several years abroad as an agricultural engineer.

She finds her village in turmoil following repeated bear attacks that are decimating the flocks of sheep.

She meets Pierrick, a divorced father and the archetypal city-dweller who is keen on organic farming and the rewilding of the Ariège valleys, where the bear reigns as a predator. The couple move to the town, but the mysterious slaughter of a young animal shatters their honeymoon, forcing her to take sides in defence of her farming heritage.

This vibrant story takes us to the heart of the Pyrenees, where the reintroduction of bears is not universally supported. Adhémar accurately evokes the work of shepherds and their attachment to their land through magnificently embodied characters.

A magnificent ode to nature and pastoralism!

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Ravage by Ian Manook

Ravage, Ian Manook

A manhunt in Canada's far north in the 1930s plunges us into an icy universe and a bewitching human storm.

A poacher hunts on the land of two Native American trappers who complain to the authorities. A team of men is sent to the scene, only to be greeted by the poacher with a hail of bullets. One of the men is wounded and taken back to town.

From then on, it's no longer a simple dispute between hunters but a veritable murderous expedition, armed to the teeth and drunk with vengeance, against this lonely, dangerous, elusive and fascinating man who manages to stand up to the hunters and the authorities. It's a breathless, fascinating human chase.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: La vie absolue by Didier van Cauwelaert

La vie absolue, Didier van Cauwelaert

A perfect book to start your holiday: light, funny, sympathetic, well-written and, as always with Didier van Cauwelaert, original. Some of you may remember one of his first novels, La vie interdite (1999). In this zany and charming book, Jacques Lormeau, an ironmonger in his thirties from Aix-les-Bains, who died prematurely, returns to the living to try and make himself heard by his beloved wife. Well, Jacques Lormeau is back, and in better shape than ever! Didier van Cauwelaert has resurrected him, so to speak, since he is still dead. This time, he's back among the living to unravel a complicated case. Will he manage, despite the obvious obstacles, to communicate with his family and resolve the family imbroglio ?Don't miss out on the fun, and take La vie absolue with you on holiday.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: L’œil by Claire Castillon

L’œil, Claire Castillon

Claire Castillon has produced an excellent collection of short stories. In each of them, she portrays one of the problems, more or less serious, of our world: the difficulty of human relationships, mental illness, loneliness, misunderstanding of oneself and of others. But she also highlights hope and the world of possibilities. Each text is a different universe, a different genre, but always written with lucidity and finesse. The humour, sometimes wry, underlines the tenderness we feel for these strange characters, who are both close and disconcerting. The author has also revived the genre of the 'punchline' short story, with each story complemented by a confusing or reassuring counterpoint. A portrait gallery of mystery, smiles and anxiety.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Les terres animales by Laurent Petitmangin

Les terres animales, Laurent Petitmangin

A serious nuclear accident five times more intense than the one at Fukushima saw the peaceful town near the power station emptied of its inhabitants, either voluntarily or under pressure from the army to leave as quickly as possible. However, some people have chosen to stay after taking refuge in the surrounding countryside, because it's not always possible to imagine living anywhere other than where you've always been. And sometimes memories of a past life seem to take on greater veracity when they remain in their place. So, although the land and air are contaminated, five characters form a small group of friends whose unshakeable friendship seems to be the very reason for their resilience. At least until the day when the unexpected arrival of a child upsets this fragile house of cards, but also breathes new life into this small community. Laurent Petitmangin's powerful, taut narrative explores, with great humanity and sensitivity, the human soul, which, once returned to the animal kingdom, must find new bearings. This is an intense novel that makes you think about the place of humans in the living world.

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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