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Boek-LAB #9 The French bookshops’ August selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

Boek-LAB #9 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: Fuir l'Eden by Olivier Dorchamps

Fuir l’Eden, Olivier Dorchamps

Adam is 17 and lives with his little sister Lauren, and his father who will only be referred to as the “other” through the entire narrative. They live next to Clapham Junction, in a tower block named Eden, part of the brutalist architectural movement, comprised of huge geometric and angular forms that are striking in their repetition.

Adam has only one wish- to leave Eden behind, but he is reluctant to abandon his sister with their father. One day when the beatings were heavy than usual, Adam’s mother left without leaving any trace.

For Adam, living in this neighbourhood isn’t a means to an end, and when he isn’t working at the convenience store where his mother used to work, he spends most of his time with his best friends Ben and Pav, far from the dealings on his estate. Several times a week he also goes to read to Claire, who lost her sight following a terrible accident and who has taken on the position of surrogate mother.

Then one day on the subway platform, Adam will meet Eva, who tries to throw herself onto the tracks and who will turn his life upside down.

A punchy novel that will surprise you and make you laugh.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie la Page (London)

Book cover: Embrasser Maria by Sophie Rabau

Embrassez Maria, Sophie Rabau

Les audacieuses is a collection that publishes female authors who use their skills in favour of reimagining the lives of their heroines.

Sophia is Maria Callas’ oldest friend. Shortly after Maria’s death, Sophia, who still lives in the Paris appartement where her friend used to live, scours the recently published works on the life of Maria Callas. With sadness, she discovers that none of the biographies mention their friendship, and that no one remembers her. She decides to tell the story that everyone seems to have forgotten, and that she is now the only one to know. This novel is an exchange between Sophia and a mystery character, no doubt a musician, who listens to her with kindness.

From their shared love of fashion, Maria’s love affairs, their meeting in Brooklyn, to Maria’s relationship with her mother, Sophia shares everything she knows.

Sophie Rabau recounts with humour and a little impertinence the speculative life of Maria Callas.

Emma Liebert
Librairie la Page (London)

Book cover: Guerre by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Guerre, Louis-Ferdinand Céline

In the publishing world, the discovery of unpublished texts is a major event. When the texts are by a famous author, and when the author, like Louis-Ferdinand Céline, is controversial, the event is of even greater importance. Close to 6000 papers secretly preserved by Jean-Pierre Thibaudaut, Libération newspaper’s Moscow correspondant for close to thirty years are due to be published. Amongst these papers was the manuscript for Guerre, which was the first of the texts to be published in May last year by Gallimard, under the direction of Pascal Fouché. Céline wrote this text in 1934, two years after the publication of Voyage au bout de la nuit. Guerre, though it is also about the Great War, is not a missing chapter from Voyage, or from another of Céline’s novels. Guerre is a novel in its own right, the second volume in a trilogy begun by Le voyage and ending with Londres, which was also found amongst the papers. All of Céline’s favourite themes are present here: death, fear, sexuality, and the insurmountable divide between social classes. The language he writes in is raw, strong, sometimes even poetic. All the genius and originality of Céline is contained within this strongly autobiographical novel. The publication of Guerre is certainly one of the most important literary events of recent years...until the forthcoming publication of Casse-pipe and Londres, announced by Gallimard for 2023.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: La confrérie des giflés by Jean-Luc Gaget

La Confrérie des giflés, Jean-Luc Gaget

The story begins because of a slap... a big slap, received in public, in a cafe, and delivered without explanation by a stranger. How confusing it! The receiver of the slap wants to understand why...and so does the reader! The first-person narrative recounting this quest drags us into a world that is both logical and fantastical, or at the very least a world with a different sense of logic. Its alert and joyful style, and its humour captivate the attention of the reader, and we accept without question the unrealistic elements of this adventure that is rich in twists and astonishing characters. The hero of the novel, Jérémie Soldatini (what a story there!), both disillusioned and full of hope, naive and thoughtful, lucid and lost, is very endearing. In this first novel, Jean-Luc Gaget, Cesar-winning screenwriter and dialogue writer, puts all of his delightful virtuosity in the service of literature.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Qui sait by Pauline Delabroy-Allard

Qui sait, Pauline Delabroy-Allard

Origins, identity, and the intrinsic need to know where we come from- these are the starting pointsforthis highly anticipated novel by Pauline Delabroy-Allard. As a woman is about to give birth to her first child, she suddenly becomes aware of the multiple identitiesthat appear on her identity card. Three first names attached to her first name, including a masculine one – what does this mean for her, and why? Unable to count on the support of her parents to unravel this mystery, the narrator embarks on this quest alone, during the course of which it will become clear that these three ghostly characters continue to live on, buried inside her. Nothing else will matter, except to bring a buried past to light, to reclaim the past and, above allto bring life back into her own existence. This fascinating introspective narrative reveals itself to us with a certain feverishness, with great sensitivity and elegance. A very endearing story that underlines with emotion and accuracy the manifest power of the past over the present.

Mélanie Chanat
ZADIG Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Le livre des soeurs by Amélie Nothomb

Le livre des sœurs, Amélie Nothomb

Le livre des sœurs, Amélie Nothomb's latest novel , successfully propels the reader into a new adventure inside the self. The destinies of Tristane the narrator and her sister Laetitia give an account of the words that can convey the difficulties of our existence. The former, an early reader, is the eldest as well as the main character who then introduces us to her sister. Their two parents have no wisdom to bequeath to them, able only to testify to the happiness and the passion they felt for each other even before giving birth to them.

The two sisters protectively bury themselves in the perpetual project of a rock band whose members they recruit with ardour and exacting standards, a project which is a more than absolute declaration of their love for each other. Rebellious and out of time despite all the modern comforts and polite society surrounding the protagonists, this Nothombian intrigue sits neatly at the crossroads of art and psychoanalysis, evoking the idea of a mystical marriage between two nuns, all the while set to a backing track of Led Zeppelin.

We must give thanks to the biting style which effectively hides Nothomb's intentions, as although she is a generous author with a free voice, she is all too often reduced to being more about style than substance. Hasn't her seemingly kitsch and pop work been hidden for too long due to the simple fact that she won over a female readership before any other?

Patrick Buel
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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