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Boek-LAB #5 : The French bookshops’ February selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Sep 21, 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).


Monument national
Julia Deck

The national monument is alive and well. After a successful career and three marriages, Serge Langlois is living happily in his castle near Fontainebleau, surrounded by his "family", his young wife, his children and a whole team who take care of him. With this new novel, Julia Deck follows in the path of Georges Simenon who, in Les Volets Verts, told the story of a great actor (everyone at the time recognised Raimu) who fell in love with a very young woman. Obviously, things have changed (not so much) and Julia Deck plunges us into the world of famous people, which fascinates and makes us dream. Several destinies are intertwined, stories of jealousy, stories of couples, we even glimpse the presidential couple who receive the "monument", stories of inheritance, everything is there in this Dallas or this French Dynasty.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Porca miseria
Tonino Benacquista

Tonino Benacquista, whose novels and screenplays are well known, offers us here a powerful autobiographical account, dedicated to his grandfather. Son of Italian immigrants, yet himself born in France, the author delivers a sensitive and touching text, without self-indulgence or pathos. True to his lively, witty and lucid style, Benacquista retraces his almost self-taught path. Of course, his parents cannot help him, his older brothers and sisters have their own concerns, and school does not suit him at first sight, but... but then comes the discovery of fiction! The reader discovers a child who neither likes nor wants to read, but understands the power of fiction, and then of literary creation. The confrontation of the different destinies of the family members underlines the importance of determinism, the difficulty of immigration, the power of language. The reader becomes a friend of the man who, having refused to be a "wop", has become, to our great pleasure, an enthusiastic lover of words.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Le Journal d’Alix
Iegor Gran

We never tire of Iegor Gran's humour, not only because it is always renewed, but also because it disturbs as much as it comforts: we can still laugh about things which are quite politically wrong. For Alix, a young woman who works as a civil servant in the Ministry of Culture, where the vision of work is particularly terrifying, writes down her moods every day in a moleskin. There is only one small leap between the problems of corporate life (of unbounded pettiness and hilarity) and her personal fixation: Alix has decided to eat man, human flesh, and explains her approach in detail. Through what could be an absurd subject, the author tackles very topical issues such as patriarchy, corporate life, human misery and the value of writing down one's thoughts.

Isabelle Lemarchand
Librairie La Page (Londres)

De nouveaux endroits
Lucile Génin

Lucile Génin's first novel can be read in one breath. The story of Mathilde, a teenager with no bearings, who oscillates between childhood and adulthood with as much balance as her mother does when she drinks too much. Her mother's alcoholism invades Mathilde's life to the point that she takes a trip to the end of the world to try to answer the questions that pollute her life. Of course, it is something else that she will find, and other answers will open new doors, to new places.

Isabelle Lemarchand
Librairie La Page (Londres)

Clara Dupont-Monod

Perhaps this is the type of women's writing we have all been waiting for, especially for the literary prizes of 2021. In this short novel of just as short a title, S'adapter - perhaps the counterpart in infinitive form of Michel Houellebecq's Anéantir? - Clara Dupont-Monod reveals herself as a Cévenol author who makes stones speak, in a disconcerting flight of considerations on filial love and on the almost shamanic affinity that humans have for nature. It takes place in France, in the depths of the Protestant valleys where his characters evolve. Among them is a profoundly maladjusted child, whose brothers and sister scaffold their dreams, as well as the elongated stones that line the floor of an ancestral courtyard, which has seen many wars, and which take sides with the children. For the twists and turns of their lives too, which are built around the blind and "different" brother, which never cease to meander even after his death, to shape each of their inner trajectories. S'adapter is a feat of rural fiction that contains a finding: that of a narrative of nature through the filter of our brains. A book not to be overlooked!

Patrick Suel
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Le Zoo des Absents
Joël Baqué

René Cormet, a quiet retired man and former accountant of a delicatessen, meets Stella, a vegetarian and cashier of a supermarket, through whom he discovers L214, anti-speciesism and veganism. Thanks to new friendships, especially with Lison, in whom he sees the daughter he never had, René leaves his monotonous life to go to Switzerland and participate in a futuristic foundation working to eradicate animal suffering. Curious and beautifully candid, René will find himself, in spite of himself, the keeper of a zoo unlike any other, where the animals are somewhat absent. This dystopian fable, sometimes told with a lot of humour, does not fail to question us about predation and our relationship with other beings, both human and animal. A comedy that calls for wisdom and reflection, and offers a strong echo to our society in the making.

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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