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Boek-LAB #7: The French bookshops’ May selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Boek-LAB #7 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: Cœur du Sahel by Djaïli Amadou Amal

Cœur du Sahel, Djaïli Amadou Amal

In her new book, Djaïli Amadou Amal, who herself comes from northern Cameroon, and from the region where the story takes place, tells us of the fates of a group of women, living in a mountain village where the living conditions are such that it will be necessary for them to move to the city and seek work as servants for unscrupulous and wealthy families.

This is how we meet 15-year-old Faydé, who lives with her mother and brothers in such misery that she convinces her mother to allow her to join her friends in the city, both to help her family to survive but also to escape the attacks of Boko Haram that are rampant in the surrounding villages. It’s a new language, a new way of life, and new rules that she will have to learn. A world where forced marriage, rape and conjugal violence are no longer surprising as they become the daily lives of these women. A world of forbidden loves, sensuality and a resourcefulness in order to escape their life of misery. A strong and powerful hope to escape a destiny which nevertheless seems already mapped out for them. Faydé and her friends, soon joined by their families, fight, fail and dream of a better world without distinction of class, origin or religion whilst attacks against women rage on around them.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie la Page (London)

Book cover: La Fille parfaite by Nathalie Azoulai

La Fille parfaite, Nathalie Azoulai

Two girls who are total opposites become friends and explore each other’s differences in order to better share them. A luminous and moving story that evokes the richness of friendship and the weight of parental expectations.

The author touches on many themes that she develops over the course of Rachel and Adèle’s journey, which will span over twenty years. Are girls destined to literary studies, which are better adapted to their sensibilities? Should you choose a scientific path of study at school, to the detriment of your own interests in order to guarantee better options for further education? Should you follow your parents' advice, or reject it, with the risk of disappointing them?

Amidst all these options, which are those that correspond to the perfect daughter? She who through loyalty to her parents makes their dreams her own, obliterating herself and holding herself back from her own passions; or she who manages to emancipate herself from parental influence in the interest of having her own experiences, only to end up accepting the family heritage? The author keeps her opinion to herself, and lets the reader draw their own conclusion.

Emmanuelle Liebert
Librairie La Page (London)

Book cover: Vider les lieux by Olivier Rolin

Vider les lieux, Olivier Rolin

“Vacate the premises” is the injunction received by Olivier Rolin! But how to go about it? And what does it mean to “inhabit” somewhere? Following the shock of his forced move, the author offers us an intimate account of his apartment, his readings, his Parisian neighbourhood, his street, la rue de l’Odéon- “the main road of the literary district”. Each object, particularly each book (and there are lots of them!), carries within it a memory, recounts an era, reveals part of his identity... Olivier Rolin draws together these digressions, the digressions that each of us makes when preparing to move. The discovery of this “personal atlas”- as each title page reveals where the book was read, is a real pleasure for the reader who discovers literary anecdotes as well as personal recollections, from around the world. In this way, in a style that is both alert and sincere, the author brilliantly creates a new autobiographical form.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Spinoza's Éthique translated and annotated by Maxime Rovère

L’Éthique, Bento de Spinoza

Annotated and translated by Maxime Rovère

Maxime Rovère, “Spinozist”, if ever there was one, translator of Spinoza's correspondence and author of Clan Spinoza, in which he helped us rediscover Spinoza through his letters with his intellectual contemporaries, contradicting many received ideas; has recently undertaken a colossal task: a new translation of Ethics, with annotations. The result is stupefying! Stupefying because Ethics becomes much more readable as well as comprehensible. The positioning of the notes, written by himself and five international experts, not at the bottom of the page or at the end of the book, but at the end of each chapter, makes reading easy. Everything, or almost, is clear from the first page. You will understand that the very heart of Ethics is based on a "rationalist", quasi-mathematical approach to our reasoning faculties, our intellect, so that Ethics is accessible and addressed not exclusively to scholars but to everyone (page 9). I am willing to bet that this new annotated translation will become a bedside book for many of you.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Des vivants et des luttes: l'écologie en récits

Des vivants et des luttes - L’écologie en récits

Éditions Wildproject

“To what extent does ecology alter our stories- the stories we tell, and the way in which we tell them?” Introduced in this way by its publishers, this collection of 30 texts will be revolutionary for anyone in search of a new outlook amidst the continuous stream of new stories that contemporary publishing drowns us in, both in the fields of poetry and in fiction. Published by Wildproject, pioneering French publishers since 2009 in the fields of ecological and environmental philosophy, the texts take their origin from a writing workshop associated with the “Ecopoetics and Creation” master's programme, run by the university of Aix-Marseille. Preceded by a portfolio of 9 very graphic black and white pages, with a very militant tone, the texts evoke memory and trauma, natural elements and feelings, footprints and landscapes, all with an unprecedented drive. The texts reference the likes of Greta Thunberg and Saint-John Perse, Wangari Mathai and Henry David Thoreau, Rachel Carson and Romain Gary, as well as man of letters and activist Gary Snyder and Fernand Cheval’s major life’s work, the Palais Idéal. Mururoa’s nuclear tests are compared semantically to Montaigne’s essays; and through Sandra de Vivies’ short and flamboyant opening text, we learn what fagnes are- small marshes in the Ardennes located at the highest altitudes, according to the Larousse dictionary; that the author employs as a metaphor to discuss Europe.

Patrick Suel
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Tè Mawon by Michael Roch

Tè Mawon, Michael Roch

Whilst Europe, Asia, the United States, and even the rest of the world seem to have disappeared, Lanvil stands majestically in the Caribbean as a refuge for those who have escaped an end of the world about which we know almost nothing. An overpopulated megapolis, Lanvil divides itself almost naturally between those of “anba” and those of “anwo”. Anba, Pat and his family rely on petty theft in order to survive for just one more day, dreaming of regaining the ancestral “Tout-Monde, dear to Glissant; and working to dynamite the established order to achieve it. Anwo, Ézie and Liona, translator sisters that everything seems to divide, meander through the upper echelons of power, working towards a similar goal, supported by disturbingly high-tech technology. Moving from event to event, the plot unfolds breathlessly, cadenced by fantastic linguistic rhythm surprisingly evocative of creole. To the rhythm of this exultant polyphony, Tè Mawon takes us to an ostensibly utopic world that we should all be able to hope for. This inventive Afrofuturist novel vilifies power structures and astonishes us with its underlying optimism. Michael Roch learnt creole to reinforce the veracity of this insurrectionist novel and it is undoubtedly from this that the novel draws its strength.

Mélanie Chanat
Zadig Buchhandlung (Berlin)


About the bookstores

Zadig Buchhandlung - Berlin
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

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
Image of the windows of Le Temps Retrouvé bookshop. A grey shop with books displayed in the window.

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
Image of the front of Librarie La Page bookshop. The front is painted red and brightly coloured books are displayed in the window

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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