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Boek-LAB #10 The French bookshops’ September selection from London, Amsterdam and Berlin

Boek-LAB #10 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: Clara lit Proust by Stéphane Carlier

Clara lit Proust, Stéphane Carlier

This joyful novel establishes an exchange between two characters in spite of the decades that separate them.

On the one hand Clara, a young hairdresser in a provincial town post 2000s.

She finds herself a little cramped in her daily life until a client passing through the Cindy Coiffure salon forgets a copy of Proust's "Swann’s Way", which she will discover and read with delight. The encounter with this book will breathe new life into her existence and provoke many changes.

On the other hand, Marcel, a writer and prodigy from the beginning of the 20th century, who revolutionized literature and continues to inspire respect 100 years after his death.

The author magnificently manages to bring together these two universes that everything opposes and offers a brilliant introduction to the reading of In Search of Lost Time to all those who imagine this work beyond their reach.

A fulfilling read!

Emma Liebert
Librairie la Page (London)

Book cover: Les Méditerranéennes by Emmanuel Ruben

Les Méditerranéennes, Emmanuel Ruben

In December 2017, Samuel Vidouble left to celebrate Hanukkah with his maternal family in the suburbs of Lyon. While the 9 candles are burning in the family candlestick, an item lost and found many times and that seems to be the link between all the characters, Samuel asks his relatives about Algeria and the story of his grandmother, Mamie Baya; of the capture of Constantine in 1837 and the exodus from 1962, up until the present day.

Each chapter traces the story of one of the women of this large family, of her relationship with Jewish traditions, of her own version of the disappearance of the candlestick, of her links with Algeria, of French citizenship and of her own memories. The story will take Samuel to Constantine and then throughout Algeria, in the footsteps of his family where he hopes to find Djamila whom he knew in Paris and who left to join the revolution in order to put an end to Bouteflika's Algeria.

Emmanuel Ruben crafts a feminine and family saga: North African, Mediterranean and historical, undoubtedly inspired by her own history, a story crying out to be discovered.

Philippe Francoual
Librairie la Page (London)

Book cover: Cher connard by Virginie Despentes

Cher connard, Virginie Despentes

Five years after the publication of the final instalment of Vernon Subutex, Virginie Despentes latest novel is epistolary, an exchange between Rebecca, a famous actress with a strong character, and Oscar, a novelist who has had his moment of fame and who is now blocked for inspiration.

Feminism and the effects of the #MeToo movement, drugs and addiction are the central themes of this new novel. But Cher Connard is also a story of redemption, that of a man, a run of the mill misogynist, who over the course of his exchanges with Rebecca, finally understands that what he did to Zoé, his assistant, was not the expression of his love for her but nothing but an unbearable sexual harassment. The strength of the book lies in the meticulous descriptions of Oscar's progressive realization, and of his redemption. These exchanges will lead Rebecca, who is in contact with Zoé, to take a view at women’s behaviour. As a result of these exchanges and Oscar’s redemption a deep empathy and understanding will emerge between Rebecca and Oscar. Despised and reviled at the beginning of the novel, Oscar will finally become a friend, an accomplice and can be affectionately called Dear asshole. A rich book, a masterful lesson in humanity, that reminds us how important and necessary a voice like Virginie Despentes’ is.

Pierre-Pascal Bruneau
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Les lien artificiels by Nathan Devers

Les lien artificiels, Nathan Devers

A young man, a little lost, a little depressed, clicks on an ad for a new video's unlike anything he’s ever experienced! More than a game, it's a virtual world. Entering this “metaverse”, he gradually understands its rules, dangers… and possibilities! Here he is absorbed, to the point of renouncing real life. Thanks to the intervention of the creator of the game, who is not far from believing himself to be a god, Julien, or rather his avatar, becomes a recognized poet, a star of the Antimonde. But Adrien Sterner, the creator, cannot let the situation escape him; Julien suffers virtual and real consequences! The Antimonde staged here strongly resembles ours; the intrusions of the virtual into the real, and vice versa, make it possible to question reality as well as our relationship to the virtual, and to screens in general. A futuristic and extremely contemporary novel that also offers interesting poetic breaks and very funny moments. Nathan Devers, whose writing is lively, creative and effective, delivers a breathtaking and intelligent novel.

Véronique Fouminet
Le Temps Retrouvé (Amsterdam)

Book cover: Sa préférée by Sarah Jollien-Fardel

Sa préférée, Sarah Jollien-Fardel

Jeanne stands up to him and does not lower her gaze. Him-a man, a father of unspeakable violence that neither her mother nor her older sister manage to avoid. However, one day, for having lacked caution, Jeanne ends up at the family doctor following her father's blows. And although she explains to the latter, at the age of eight, that her bruises are not the result of a bad fall on her bike, the silence that will follow will forever convince her of the cowardice of adults. As a young woman, taking refuge in Sion then in Lausanne, Jeanne never ceases to hate her father, to continue to fear him for the beatings and the brutality he showed towards her mother. However, the peace that swimming gives her, the friends she learns to make and her work, manage to give her a glimpse of an almost sweet and benevolent life, even to find herself in love and madly loved in return. But the fear is anchored in her, the guilt of leaving her mother to grapple with daily violence, the hatred- Jeanne will never be able to rid herself of it fully and will end up getting lost in it. A moving first novel of incredible strength, told in very beautiful language, sharp and incisive. The great revelation of this year’s rentrée littéraire.

Mélanie Chanat
ZADIG Buchhandlung (Berlin)

Book cover: Fantaisies guérillères by Guillaume Lebrun

Fantaisies guérillères, Guillaume Lebrun

At the beginning of the 15th century, the Kingdom of France is doomed. For Lady Yolande of Aragon, known as YO, things have gone on long enough. One day, through in a vision, YO understands that God the Master invites her to hasten destiny along by training the perfect fighter, capable of driving the enemy out of the country. The explosive Yolande therefore rolls up her sleeves and enthusiastically sets up a school made up of fifteen little girls, all baptized "Jehanne" for the purpose. In the training program, military and intellectual knowhow, as well as an introduction to the writing of illustrious learned women of past centuries. When the savagery of the twelfth Jehanne is revealed, she and YO embark on a mission of madness, which, as history recounts, will end at the stake. This humorous debut novel, told in wonderfully inventive language and intertwining expressions of the time and today's English; reinvents the history of France as we would have liked to learn it at school. A petulant and irreverentbook, undoubtedly the most exuberant of this rentrée.

Mélanie Chanat
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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