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Boek-LAB #3 : The French bookshops’ December selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

Boek-LAB #3 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), Libraire La Page (Londres) et Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin).


Le temps perdu
Marcel Proust

Contrary to popular misconception, Swann’s way never was rejected by the publishing house Gallimard. The text presented to André Gide, in November 1912, was entitled Les intermittences du cœur. It comprises 712 pages, of which almost every single one was either crossed out or annotated. This text was equally accompanied of a multitude of typewritten or handwritten notes which made it very difficult to read. The rest is history. André Gide refused the manuscript and would eventually regret it: "Rejecting this book will remain (...) one of the regrets, one of the most bitter remorse of my life.”

However, this book rejected by Gide is not the one that was later published by Bernard Grasset. The manuscript presented to Grasset in 1913 had been significantly amended, shortened and rewritten, its title changed to Swann’s ways. This new edition with foreword and annotation by Jean-Marc Quaranta is fascinating. It highlights how far Proust has come to find the ideal expression, sentence and rhythm. We thought we knew everything about Marcel Proust, yet, there is still a lot to learn about his writing. While the recent publication of The seventy-five sheets of paper by Gallimard has given us an insight of the genesis of La recherche, Le Temps perdu, provides us with its original version.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)


Maria Pourchet

When Feu's heroine Laure speaks, she uses “you” to refer to herself. She watches her life passing by, analyses her own actions, and listens to the comments made by her mother and grandmother... from their grave. They blame her, encourage her from “beneath the granite." Clément, on the other hand, speaks using “I”. He too, suffers his very much alive but violent and toxic mother. Clément’s only confident is his dog, ironically named Papa, and only he knows of the hardships of being a man. This fire is the one of passion, of the flesh, one that gives way to wilderness and sweeps everything away. Maria Pourchet delivers a lively novel, modern, dark and funny, with sometimes a caustic humour. It is a novel about passion, and above all about loneliness.

Véronique Fouminet Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)


Le secret des parents Nicolas Mathieu, Pierre-Henry Gomont

It is the second time that Nicolas Mathieu, (Goncourt Prize 2018, And their

Children after them) writes for children. If you thought that a writer's talent only lies in one genre, you are wrong. Nicolas Mathieu knows how to speak to children as well as to adults. In this book elegantly illustrated by Pierre-Henry Gomont, the author offers some answers to children as to why their parents sometimes seem to dislike them. This story happens while a plum pie is cooking, reminiscent of the Lost Time’s madeleine. It gives a chance to adults to go back to their own childhood and to save their children’s one... before it is all too late.

Isabelle Lemarchand Librairie La Page (Londres)

Rose Royal Nicolas Mathieu

Following Le secret des parents, Rose Royal was published by Babel last May. Rose, in her fifties, drinks a little too much, is loved a little too harshly, doesn't really know how or why life is slipping through her fingers. She buys a gun, just in case. She uses it one night, without any consequences, except for meeting a man she will unfortunately fall for. So is life. From her fifties to her seventies, her journey will be tainted by new encounters and surprises, both sweet and brutal. As you might have guessed, we are impatiently waiting for Connemara to be published by Actes Sud in February. Our hearts already in our throats.

Isabelle Lemarchand Librairie La Page (Londres)


Changer : méthode Édouard Louis

Shouldn’t this fifth part of Édouard Louis' autobiographical work be compared with Mona Chollet's Réinventer l'amour, published by Zones this same year? Both books complete the reflections initially offered in their previous successful works, equally marked with flair and lucidity. With its pragmatic title Changer: méthode, this work seems to engage in some sort of questioning, if not political engagement. Considering his Bildungsroman En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (Le Seuil, 2014) retelling his working-class childhood, one that could have condemned him to a “shattered and random journey”, Édouard Louis takes an unexpected step in his literary journey. Although we feared that the mediatic attention the author received could have tarnished his atypical and sensitive work, the different chapters rhyming his life (His friends, his loves, his troubles in the style of Aznavour) demonstrate that Edouard Louis has successfully overcome the Bourdieusian social wall. After all, isn't "writing books that are weapons for others" the happy end of an accomplished program?

Patrick Suel Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

L’île du docteur Faust Stéphanie Janicot

In this book, Stéphanie Janicot brilliantly rewrites the myth of Faust. An alchemist is dreaming of solving the greatest existential questions but ends up making a pact with the devil to make his desires come true. Through its many mythological references, L’île du docteur Faust takes us on a journey on an island off the coast of Britany in an atmosphere

in between tale and reality. There, and for six months, eight women are cut off from the world to undergo a rejuvenation treatment, administered by Doctor Faust. However, unlike Marlowe's or Goethe's Faust, this Doctor is a woman. One of the exiled woman will resist the temptation of eternal youth and refuse to sell her soul to Doctor Faust, preferring to unravel the famous island’s mystery, more dubious than ever. Stéphanie Janicot delicately portrays eight women, from different backgrounds and social classes, but with one thing in common: their advanced age. This novel is an opportunity for reflection and introspection, questioning the place of older women in our society, the passing of time, our possibly missed lives, our desires and our loves.

Claire Roy Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

About the bookstores

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.

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.

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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