A Month of French Authors/ Un Mois d’Auteurs Français

Today for the letter C, the French authors Philippe Claudel and Sandrine Collette

 

Philippe Claudel was born in Dombasle-sur-Meurthe in Lorraine (eastern France) on February 2, 1962.

I discovered Claudel when I was already living in the United States. My parents-in-law visited us regularly and always arrived with an extra bag loaded with literature. Picture books and children’s magazines for their grandkids. Novels, newspapers, and magazines for their son and me.

I shouldn’t say that I waited for their arrival because of the books, but it is true that excitement always grew inside me when they unpacked their luggage. Anyone who loves reading knows that the expectation of a book is comparable to opening a treasure chest.

This is on one of their visits that I discovered and fell for Philippe Claudel’s writing.

It is said that plot isn’t his strong suit. I would say that plot is a very American word. My most favorite books and movies lack suspenseful ingredients that so many American readers and moviegoers adore. But these quiet books and movies have often the potential to stir more emotions than an action-packed novel or film. It is possible that the language, words that have rocked my childhood and youth, remain the reason why I am still a little partial to French literature and movies.

I admire the American writers for their capacity to write novels that I can’t put down. I envy the American language for its strength but the French language never fails to move me.

My favorite novels written by Claudel remain “La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh” translated in English under the title “Monsieur Linh and his Child” and “Le Rapport Brodeck” or “The Brodeck’s Report” in English.

I read that Claudel woke up one day with the opening sentence of “The Brodeck’s Report.”

“My name is Brodeck and I am not responsible.”

Here is what The New York Times wrote about this novel.

Besides my two favorite novels I adore Claudel’s book “Parfums,” or “Parfums A Catalogue of Remembered Smells,” in English. In this unique book filled with short but evocative memories of the scents that were the background of his childhood, the author manages to offer a very personal book that talks to the universal human relationship with smells.

Many French readers admire Claudel for his sparse prose that shoots right to the heart. My French partner for this monthly challenge wrote a very short post about Claudel’s novel “Le Café de l”Excelsior.” She picked this extract from the novel especially for her nephew who had just lost his father. In the extract the author evocates with poignancy but no sentimentality the unstoppable passage of time.

Claudel’s novels and films are available in the US and I definitely encourage you to check out his work if you haven’t done it yet.

 

Philippe Claudel est né a Dombasle-sur-Meurthe en Lorraine le 2 février, 1962

Son talent en tant que romancier et metteur en scène est incontesté en France. La plupart de ses romans sont empreints de tristesse ou sans doute davantage d’un sens aigu du passage du temps qui finit par nous laisser orphelins de ceux et celles que nous avons connu et aimé.

Un extrait de “Le Café de l’Excelsior:”

“Nous délaissent sans prévenir les plus beaux de nos jours, et les larmes viennent après, dans les après-midi rejouées de solitude et de remords, quand nous avons atteint l’âge du regret et celui des retours. Les visages et les gestes que nous traquons dans l’ombre des puits de nos mémoires, les rires, les bouquets, les caresses, les silences boudeurs, les taloches aimantes, l’amour et le don de ceux qui nous mènent au seuil de la vie creusent notre souffrance autant qu’ils nous apaisent. Nous vivons parmi de grands pans de lumière hâchés de noirs fracas. Il faut nous en convaincre.”

Et un très court billet écrit par la Livrophage qui a sélectionné ce passage pour son neveu qui venait de perdre son père.

Puis bien sûr il y a “Les âmes grises” et “Le rapport de Brodeck,”magistral et adapté en BD par Manu Larcenet.

“Je ne sais pas si l’on peut guérir de certaines choses. Au fond, raconter n’est peut-être pas un remède si sûr que cela. Peut-être qu’au contraire raconter ne sert qu’à entretenir les plaies, comme on entretient les braises d’un feu afin qu’à notre guise, quand nous le souhaiterons, il puisse repartir de plus belle.”

Et une mention spéciale aussi à “Trois petites histoires de jouets.”

Un extrait:

“C’était un petit Pierrot bancal, grossier, mal peint, au regard ourlé de noir, au sourire de mystère et de mélancolie, une larme figée à son œil gauche, un pantin à trois sous que l’on vendait dans les rues jadis. Alors il sentit, en même temps que le pantin paraissait le fixer lui, et lui seul, comme il n’aurait pu fixer personne d’autre, même si des milliers, des centaines de milliers d’hommes et de femmes eussent été dans le même lieu, il sentit s’ouvrir dans sa chair une immense déchirure, comme si d’un coup et sous l’effet du regard de ce Pierrot de bois, tout son être se fendait en deux, jusqu’à l’âme, une déchirure nette, violente mais aucunement douloureuse, un voile que l’on fend d’un trait, un voile ou plutôt un lourd rideau posé sur la part la plus intime de sa mémoire, et cela depuis plus de cinquante années.

Il tituba.

Son front heurta la vitrine.

Le pantin le regardait toujours par au-delà la paroi de verre et par-delà du temps.”

“Barrio Flores” est quant à lui un récit de voyage à Cuba.

Bien d’autres livres et recueils de nouvelles marquent la carrière brillante de Claudel. Ses livres sont assez tristes, même très tristes et déprimés/déprimants, mais remarquablement écrits.

 

 

Sandrine Collette est née à Paris en 1970.

En plus de sa biographie et bibliographie, une interview et aussi des extraits que certains lecteurs ont particulièrement aimé sont disponibles sur le site Babelio.

Ni mon amie bloggueuse ni moi n’avons lu Collette, mais elle l’a vue deux fois aux Quais du Polar à Lyon et cet automne à Brive. Elle lui prédit un grand avenir.

Quant à moi, j’aime énormément les grands espaces et la nature, et Sandrine Collette leur donne un rôle important dans ses romans.

Et puis quelqu’un qui dit ne pas voyager mais est capable de planter un roman dans un décor de Patagonie…

Comme nous ne l’avons pas lue, voici seulement trois extraits de ses romans, illustrant son style litéraire. Si vous l’avez lue, dites nous le.

Extrait de “Il reste la poussière:”

“C’est le mot qui l’interpelle, un mot qu’il n’a jamais entendu. Le bonheur.

Souvent, pour maudire le sort, la mère, devant une bête morte, une récolte gâtée par le mauvais temps ou trop de factures à la fois, s’écrie: Malheur! Cela, il connaît. Une patte cassée, malheur. Une charogne tombée dans la réserve d’eau, malheur. Et malheur encore, les fils qui tardent à finir leur ouvrage ou le vent qui couche les clôtures, laissant échapper le bétail. Toute sa vie baigne dans ce mélange de résignation et de poing levé au ciel, s’étrangle de peur devant les éléments déchaînés, de rage face au monde qui n’est ni juste ni beau.”

Extrait de: “Les larmes noires sur la terre:”

“Voilà, ce n’est qu’un enfant mort. Peut-être est-ce le premier que tu vois de ton existence, oui bien sûr, je le devine dans tes yeux, tu croyais qu’un enfant est éternel, nous le croyons tous avant qu’ils ne trépassent, parce que l’ordre des choses voudrait que les parents ne connaissent jamais la mort de leurs petits, mais il n’y a pas d’ordre dans le monde, pas de chronologie, pas d’obligation – et pas de justice.”

Extrait de “Un vent de cendre:”

“Tout le monde a fait l’expérience une fois dans sa vie de ces moments étranges qui donnent l’impression d’avoir déjà été vécus. Une sensation au détour d’un chemin, un lieu à la fois inconnu et familier, lointain et au bord de la conscience en même temps ; la certitude d’avoir un jour prononcé les mêmes mots, d’avoir fait les même es gestes. Mais où, quand, pourquoi, impossible de le dire. Cette sensation reste, ardente et vaine. Perdus d’avance, ces souvenirs ne reviennent jamais en mémoire, inaccessibles, d’un autre temps, d’un autre monde.”

 

Sandrine Collette was born in Paris, in 1970.

My French friend has met the author twice at the famous Quais du Polar, the yearly international crime fiction festival, held in Lyon, France and once at another French book festival. She predicts the author a brilliant future.

The author who has a master in philosophy and a doctorate in political sciences is indeed one the big names in contemporary crime fiction in France. Her first novel “Des nœuds d’acier,” published in 2013, won the prestigious Grand Prix de littérature policière the same year, bringing her immediate visibility.

I haven’t read Sandrine Collette since crime fiction is not my favorite genre. But my husband used to be a big fan when we lived in France. His books stayed behind when we left Paris for the San Francisco Bay Area. Later, when we had decided to stay in the US, my father-in-law offered to forward us a complete list of the books we had boxed and stacked in his basement. The task was quite phenomenal, but one day we received five handwritten single-paced pages with the title of each book. My father-in-law had not listed the crime fiction novels but wrote a quick note implying that maybe we didn’t really need those novels.

We flew to Paris shortly after and decided to ship every book, except some of mine left in my native rainy Normandy. They had not really enjoyed staying in my parent’s basement and I had to get rid of quite a few molded books.

But the crime fiction novels arrived in California. Year after year my husband started to read more American thrillers than French crime fiction novels. That’s what happens to immigrants. But the books are still home. Or rather, in our garage, too.

If you read some French I encourage you to read the interview with Sandrine Collette. She doesn’t travel and yet managed to set her novel “Il Reste la Poussiere” in Patagonia. Which to me signals talent.

Her books, unfortunately, aren’t translated in English.

See you tomorrow with letter D!

A demain pour la lettre D!

Thank you for reading!

Merci de nous lire!

Good luck if you participate to the A to Z Challenge!

Bonne chance si vous participez au Challenge de A à Z!

Comments

  1. j’ai commencé “Des nœuds d’acier”, ça me plait ! A lire dans le train, un livre court, pour goûter cette auteure

  2. So sorry that Sandrine Collette’s books are not translated into English but I’m putting Philippe Claudel on my “to read” list. Parfums sounds intriguing.

    • Knowing you, Claire, you will love Parfums. I know that it’s sometimes disappointing to see that so few French writers or writers from other countries are not always available in American English.

  3. I love the way you describe Claudel!

  4. Everyday I am presenting a restaurant (or two) Evelyne and I recently visited.

    Le Colonial (San Francisco): this 1920 French Colonial Vietnam place is a must. It is on Cosmo Place, another C plug… very hidden gem near the tourist traps of Union Square. Unfortunately, a little too well known now…

    Evelyne’s husband.

  5. I haven’t read these ‘C’s Evelyne, though I have read some of the other Colette!

  6. Behind the Story says:

    I also enjoy suspenseful novels with a good plot. Writing a novel with a good plot is very hard for me, though. So I’m happy to hear that you like Philippe Claudel’s novels even though plot isn’t his strong suit and that you like quiet books that stir the emotions.

    You are such a hard worker to write something every day about your favorite French writers. Congratulations.

    • I agree that plotting can be hard but maintening a reader’s attention without suspense is even harder, in my opinion. I love quiet settings and slow pace. He’s a master.
      Yep, I’ve started something this month, which by the way explains my absence from other blogs 🙂
      My biggest challenge is to add (almost always manually) the French accents. A real challenge!!!!

  7. I love the way you wrote about how plot isn’t as important to you, or however you phrased it. Indeed, my favorite books are the ones where plot is loose and characters evolve. I’m aware there are elements in there still, like crisis and resolution, but I tend to like the books where when someone asks me what it’s about, I hem and haw over it, unsure of what it was about.
    Claudel’s Parfums sounds appealing.

    • Thank you, Joey. Quiet books are harder to read for people who love page-turners, but like you I like to follow the slow growth of a character. Do you read some of my French posts as well? I know you understand French pretty well.

      • I do. I read the French bits, and then if I have any trouble, I read the English to make sure I’ve got it. 🙂

  8. I re-discovered a young lady-author with “C” some days ago : “Cecile Coulon” “Trois saisons d’orage” – I think she’s worth of diggin’ a bit ! In my blog a critique of this book and here her wikipedia input : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C3%A9cile_Coulon

    Thanks for your work !!!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Tonight my husband mentioned reading Curt Mekemson’s comment about this tradition (Letter B) and he suggested adding the name of a restaurant where we ate together for each letter of the alphabet. So here is the deal: every day my husband will comment on each of my posts and add a restaurant from North America (USA and Canada) starting with the same letter. If he cannot come up with one name for a specific letter he will list a dish starting with this letter instead. He already added his pics to the letters A, B, and C. […]

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