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Boek-LAB #4 : The French bookshops’ January selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

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).


L’amour la mer
Pascal Quignard

Many will recall Pascal Quignard’s novel Tous les matins du monde, superbly

adapted on screen by Alain Corneau, retelling the imaginary life of a real character, Jean de Sainte Colombe, musician and guambii virtuoso of the XVII century. Pascal Quignard returns to his passions: ancient music, painting, especially Nicolas Poussin’s, his contemporaries, and above all love. He retells a journey made of love, music, and the life, from youth to death, of several 17th century musicians, instrumentalists and composers. A bewitching, polyphonic tale to be read as a music score, with changing rhythms and cadences, fast and slow movements. Pascal Quignard's writing moves and sometimes even upsets: L'amour, la mer, the other event of this 2022 literary season.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

La carte postale
Anne Berest

Anne attempts to discover who wrote a mysterious postcard received sixteen years earlier. The story of the incredible life of a Jewish family who, from Russia to France passing through Palestine, fled persecution. The author skillfully interweaves the story of the past and the present, a family saga and quest for identity.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Les Grandissants
Marion Muller-Colard

At La Page, we discovered Marion Muller-Colard with great interest and delight, particularly through two of her novels published by Gallimard, Le jour ou la Durance, and Wanted Louise. This novelist, a Protestant theologian, addressed questions of adolescence and fragile family bonds, without decorum or clichés. Les Grandissants is a beautiful phrase that evokes this age when adolescent children are in constant movement, in the process of growing up, inspired by the parable of the prodigal son (the younger son who leaves a comfortable and peaceful family situation as "even when everything is good, you have to know how to leave") to speak of children who leave the parents' home. It is a text that goes against the idea of exile, allowing a reflection on departure, which truly isn’t one because it is not a rupture.

Isabelle Lemarchand
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Le Vélo à ma sœur
Fabien Vehlmann
Charles Dutertre

It's not grammatical, it's logical! Last June, the Nantes-based publishing house Six Citrons Acides released a refreshing album, touching upon the creativity of children and the humour of grammar. Fabien Vehlmann, who we know from the script of Seuls (the comic strip), skillfully played with words and creativity. And Charles Dutertre's drawings never fail to bring us into the DIY-poetic world of playful grammar.

Isabelle Lemarchand
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Michel Houellebecq

The preconceived assumptions, often generated by the author himself, that Michel Houellebecq's work is inherently reactionary should be silenced. His new novel has been published in hardcover, as a nod to his German readership, which rarely spreads this French prejudice towards him. This German tropism suggests that there is an alchemy to Houellebecq's narrative that is always in tune with the times in which it is written,

and this a unique place must be acknowledged. As a tale of a very near future time, with a playful yet anguished tone, Anéantir is a moral treatise as well as a cartography of the world we live in, playing with the obsessions and palinodes of our time.In this respect, let us salute the flair of Jean-Yves Ferri, scriptwriter of the excellent latest Asterix (Asterix and the Griffin published in October), one of whose characters is a clone of Michel Houellebecq. Named Terinconus, this sad sire leads the illustrious Julius Caesar and his Roman subjects on a quest for the absolute, which turns out to be an erudite mystification with very venal motives. It is the least we can say for two best-selling books that cannot be ignored!

Patrick Suel
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Partout le feu
Hélène Laurain

Despite a promising future that the society around her likes to dream about,

Laetitia slips into a form of acute solastalgia following the death of her mother, and joins a group of environmental activists. This very group, a reason to exist, to work together to awaken consciences, is nipped in the bud by the police after a burning action against a nuclear power plant. What follows is a stark, unbearable solitude. The refuge the narrator finds is her obsession with Nicolas Humbert's film Wild Plants, which is the raison d'être of this compelling 'green fury'. This breathless first novel, an echo of the climate emergency, is a splendid poem of anger, an uninterrupted flow of incandescent v

erses with a poetry devoid of punctuation, very musical, which summons both rage and black humour, and is read in one breath. An imposing hymn that instills a social courage that is quite apodictic at the beginning of the year.

Mélanie Chanat
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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