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Book of the week: Hear Our Defeats by Laurent Gaudé

"Hear Our Defeats is a grand poem, a crazy and wise book. Crazy because the reader gets carried away by all the voices and some unknown magic, if not by Gaudé's restrained lyricism." -Le Figaro Littéraire

"Urgent, epic, this philosophical novel encourages both lucidity and humility, to try to save what beauty is left in the world" - Les Echos

Hear Our Defeats follows French intelligence officer Assem, “a killer for the Republic, constantly on the hunt for new targets”, as he tracks down a former member of the U.S. Special Forces suspected of drug trafficking during the War in Afghanistan. On his way to Beirut, he becomes involved with Miriam, an Iraqi archaeologist on a quest to save ancient artifacts across the Middle East from the destruction wreaked by ISIS.

Woven into this plot are philosophical meditations on our bellicose history: Hannibal’s failed march on Rome and the burning of his fleet on the waters of the Mediterranean; Grant’s pursuit of the Confederates into rural Virginia; Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; and Emperor Haile Selassie’s swift retreat from Ethiopia. The aim is seemingly to reflect on the way time obliterates all human accomplishments, and how past battles provide fuel for today's conflicts.  

Hear Our Defeats was translated by Alison Anderson, and it is published by Europa Editions

"Laurent Gaudé knows how to write with composure. His book, in which the very pulse of the world can be felt, reminds us of our duty not to despise our own fatigue. If for nothing more than this, its melancholic way of showing us what dominates us, it is of interest to the historian of power. Because literature, whether reserved or passionate, only becomes historic in order to bring us the news of our own history in the making." - Le Monde des Livres


Born in 1972, Laurent Gaudé is initially a playwright who then turned to writing novels. He was awarded the prix Goncourt des lycéens and the Prix des Libraires for his novel La Mort du roi Tsongor in 2003, before being awarded the prix Goncourt for Le Soleil des Scorta, in 2004.

Alison Anderson works as a literary translator. Her translations include Europa Editions’ The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and works by Nobel laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio. She has also written two previous novels and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Literary Translation Fellowship. She has lived in Greece and Croatia, and speaks several European languages, including Russian.

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