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Boek-LAB #21 The French bookshops’ August selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #21 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:  William by Stéphanie Hochet

William, Stéphanie Hochet

Recently married and the father of three children, the young William Shakespeare abruptly left his hometown of Stratford and his family to pursue his vocation as an actor and playwright. Five years later, he finally returned home.

The author gives us a fictionalised version of the playwright's documented disappearance, and at the same time, she recalls episodes from his personal life that have troubling similarities.

Stéphanie Hochet presents a highly successful description of Elizabethan London, both historically and sociologically. She brilliantly evokes the birth of modern theatre with the building of the Globe, a legendary theatre on the banks of the Thames that is still in operation. Above all, she recounts the birth of an immense playwright.

A delightful moment in the company of William, Barnabas, Kit and Richard, between fiction and reality.

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Suite inoubliable by Akira Mizubayashi

Suite inoubliable, Akira Mizubayashi

Japan, 1945: the emperor, wishing to show his power and influence to the world, asks all young people to enlist in the war. Ken is a very gifted young cellist who decides to visit his friend Hortense, a French violinmaker who has lived in Japan for many years, to entrust her with his instrument before he goes off to war. It'sa very old cello, a very precious Goffriller, on loan to Ken for 6 years as a prize. Hortense is asked to travel to Switzerland to return the instrument. Several years later, we find a cello similar to Ken's in the workshop of a famous Paris luthier who, at its owner's request, must repair it. While taking the instrument apart, Pamina, his colleague, discovers a hidden letter. Remembering that she had once seen a copy of this instrument in her father's workshop, Pamina sets out on the trail of Ken, Hortense and other artists repressed during the war in Japan. After Ame brisée and Reine de cœur, discover the final part of the Mizubayashi trilogy.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Tu la retrouveras by Jean Hatzfeld

Tu la retrouveras, Jean Hatzfeld

We are in Budapest in the winter of 1944-1945. Two girls, Sheindel and Izeta, one Jewish, the other Roma, whose parents have been massacred, take refuge in the city zoo, devastated by bombing and vandalism. Many animals have been slaughtered; elephants for their ivory and many others for their meat. Those that escaped the massacre are wandering around the zoo, terrorised and starving. As the Hungarian militia and German soldiers continue their atrocities against the Jews and Roma and the Red Army enters Budapest, the two girls, alone in the abandoned zoo, manage to survive. They look after the animals that can’t leave the zoo and help those that can escape to the Danube and to freedom. They remainin the zoo until the city is liberated, looking after the animals with the help of a young Russian lieutenant who takes a liking to the two girls. Long after the war, Sheindel returns to Budapest in search of her friend. A very moving novel about friendship and the extraordinary bonds that can exist between animals and children.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Croix de cendre by Antoine Sénanque

Croix de cendre, Antoine Sénanque

Antoine Sénanque offers us a formidable adventure novel. We are in the 14th century, twenty years after the great plague that ravaged Europe. In the monastery of Verfeil in Languedoc, the old prior Guillaume sends two young brothers, Robert and Antonin, to fetch a magnificent piece of vellum on which he wants to record his memoirs. It sounds simple enough... but it isn't! The Prior's memory preserves all that remains of the famous Master Eckhart, a great theologian whose teaching was first admired and then condemned. What's more, he knows terrible secrets that could threaten the power of the Church. Louis de Charnes, the powerful Grand Inquisitor, stands in their way. Memories, faith, the thirst for power, adventures and history become intertwined. In his novel, Antoine Sénanque incorporates real characters, texts and events into his fiction, and draws you in, making you want to discover the truth, all the while fretting for Robert and Antonin.A fascinating novel, full of erudition and twists and turns.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: J’ai 8  ans et je m’appelle Jean  Rochefort by Adèle Fugère

J’ai 8  ans et je m’appelle Jean  Rochefort, Adèle Fugère

One morning, 8-year-old Rosalie stood in front of the bathroom mirror and noticed, to her surprise but not astonishment, that a moustache had formed above her upper lip. Could it be that the pagan prayer she had made before going to bed had come true? In addition to the moustache, Rosalie is now Jean, Jean Rochefort, because if you're going to change, it's better not to do things by halves. Because for Rosalie, sorry, Jean, the schoolyard taunts are over, and the time has come to take matters into his own hands so that he and Simon, his best friend, can free themselves from their fears and their fears of others. Jean braves the shady moments of his daily life with a delightful sense of humour and finds a new poise that is sure to amaze many. Adèle Fugère's lively first story is a touching and funny testament to young people's need to assert themselves in a society in need of emancipation. This short novel is a marvel, an oasis of joy in this decidedly serious autumn literary season, as well as an indirect tribute to Jean Rochefort.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Mes pas dans leurs ombres by Lionel  Duroy

Mes pas dans leurs ombres , Lionel  Duroy

Adèle Codreanu, an extravagant young journalist, takes offence when the newspaper she works for asks her to go to Romania to report on a story. Why should she, a French woman, admittedly born of Romanian parents, go to a country about which she knows nothing and about which her parents have never spoken of? Once she arrives in Bucharest, while doing random research for her story, she is horrified to discover that the Romanians had exterminated 400,000 Jews during the war. Why had her parents never mentioned this, and why did Romanian history books make no mention of it? Over the course of her interviews and readings, particularly of Aharon Appelfeld, Adèle realises that the Holocaust perpetrated by the Romanians had simply been hushed up, and that most Romanians are completely unaware of its existence. So, she is compelled to speak out, to write and to scream, because the world needs to know, even at the cost of shedding light on her own family's abuses. In this new novel, Lionel Duroy movingly details this tragic part of Romanian history and the collective amnesia that followed. It's a deeply moving tale of inhumanity and the impossibility of accepting the unacceptable - themes that, alas, still seem to only have some truth in the hands of writers.

Mélanie Chanat
ZADIG Buchhandlung

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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