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Boek-LAB #22 The French bookshops’ October selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #22 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 violon d’Adrien by Gary Victor

Le violon d’Adrien, Gary Victor

Haiti, an island plagued by violence, anarchy, poverty and corruption.

Adrien, a studious child on the brink of adolescence, grows up with a single mother and a fickle father. At a concert given by Monsieur Benjamin, a virtuoso violinist, the young boy is dazzled, fascinated and won over. The musician agrees to teach him, and Adrien embarks on a passionate apprenticeship that delights his teacher and arouses the jealousy of his classmates. Needing to acquire a violin to practise and progress, the family embarks on a desperate search for an instrument, which is unavailable in Haiti and has to be imported.

Courageous and determined, Adrien will attempt the impossible to continue his apprenticeship, even if it means putting his life in danger.

Through the story of the quest for a violin, Gary Victor presents us with an uncompromising portrait of the troubles that are shaking the country and denounces the negligence of its leaders.

This is a vibrant and luminous tale, despite the sombre context, thanks to the power of music and the humour of an author who is the spokesman for a people who have been stricken and battered by history and natural disasters.

Emma Liebert
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Le chien des étoiles by Dimitri Rouchon-Borie

Le chien des étoiles, Dimitri Rouchon-Borie

Gio belongs to the Traveller community. He was seriously injured in a gang attack and is still very fragile. He prefers the dreams of his nights to the nightmares of his days.

When his father decides to take revenge, the fight is so violent that Gio decides to leave his camp and the misfortune that has befallen it behind. He is accompanied by Dolores, an enterprising little girl, and Papillon, a young man whom death visited far too soon.

Together they will face the city that welcomes them, the fortunate encounters and the more malicious ones, as well as the misfortunes that befall them.

Gio sees himself as a protective big brother to Dolores and Papillon, while he dreams only of flying away like an owl at night to escape his everyday life.

A beautiful, dark novel, full of sensitivity and brutality.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Book cover: Suite inoubliable by Akira Mizubayashi

Suite inoubliable, Akira Mizubayashi

Many of you will have been charmed and touched by Âme brisée (Gallimard, 2020, Prix des libraires 2020). The soul evoked by Mizunayashi is the little wooden stick between the back and the soundboard of a violin. Broken Soul told the story of a child traumatised by seeing his father, a violinist, brutalised and arrested by Japanese soldiers after his violin was trampled on by a Japanese non-commissioned officer. The story takes place in 1938, at the time of the Japanese invasion of China. You will be reunited with the protagonists of Âme brisée, of which Suite inoubliable is the sequel. Suite inoubliable is composed like a baroque dance: Prelude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuets and Gigue follow one another, each dance forming a chapter. The Prelude and Allemande take place between 1931 and 1945, the terrible period of nationalism. The following movements take place both in the present and in the past. A superb book about friendship and love, and an ode to Bach and chamber music. A soothing book that will do you good.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Vie et mort de Vernon Sullivan by Dimitri Kantcheloff

Vie et mort de Vernon Sullivan, Dimitri Kantcheloff

From the very first lines, the tone is set: this is the life of a man who lived "episodically" or, perhaps, didn't even exist, or rather, who existed too much!

In reality, as we know, Vernon Sullivan is the double that Boris Vian invented for himself in order to deliver "a bestseller" to his publisher friend, who was on the verge of bankruptcy! The anecdote is well known. What makes Dimitri Kantcheloff's novel so captivating is undoubtedly the very bebop rhythm of the narrative. The author brilliantly immerses us in the smoky atmosphere of the post-war cellars and bistros of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. We meet Queneau, Sartre and the whole merry band, and hear jazz tunes that weren't yet classics! Vian, of course, was one of the ringleaders of the party: cocktails, trumpets, pretty girls, hoaxes, puns and pseudonyms, family life... it's all there. But the author also reveals a lesser-known facet, that of insomnia, doubts, despair and the need for recognition, that of a hyperactive man who has to live fast, before the disease wins the battle. This highly enjoyable story, lively, funny and serious, offers readers a timeless interlude, a plunge into the world of the zazous; it will delight fans of Boris Vian's work and, no doubt, arouse the curiosity of others!

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Que notre joie demeure by Kevin Lambert

Que notre joie demeure, Kevin Lambert

Present day Montreal. Céline Wachowski, a renowned architect, is at the height of her career and on the verge of unveiling an enormous project. We meet her at a glamorous birthday party, above which she seems to float, visibly uncomfortable at being the object of both adoration and almost reverence from the people around her. The stage is thus set for a grippingly written account of this woman's dazzling success, just before her downfall. Kevin Lambert decides to divide his story into three parts. The first, a long, densely written introduction, feverishly recounts the rise of this architect from almost nothing to the very top. Then comes the second, where the controversy creeps in, insidiously. Because this architectural project raises important questions in terms of its social repercussions, leaving out the least privileged stratum of society. The response will be extremely violent. The third and final tableau concludes as a kind of echo of the first and shows clearly and with finesse the traces left by the turmoil. Kevin Lambert's writing is rich in subtlety, and in this, his third novel, the author proves that he is unrivalled in his ability to describe the complexity and contradictions of human beings, whatever class they belong to.

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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