A French Book Reading Resource

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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Mon Jan 23, 2023 8:21 pm

I was underemployed when I started French (read: waiting tables & mostly broke), so my early reading was almost 100% older books that were in the public domain (read: free). I still have a soft spot for those big fat 19th century novels, and I think it's worthwhile to read at least some of the major authors. My actual list would have a lot more modern authors, but - sticking to the old stuff - here's my biased human-bot take on the chat-bot:

1. "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo (1862) - yes. Alt: Notre Dame de Paris
2. "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert (1857) - yes
3. "Candide" by Voltaire (1759) - yes
4. "Les Fleurs du Mal" by Charles Baudelaire (1857) - Once in awhile I'll read a poem or two, but they don't impact me the way they seem to impact so many others.
5. "Les Liaisons dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos (1782) - never read. Maybe one day I will.
6. "Les Trois Mousquetaires" by Alexandre Dumas (1844) - yes! Alt: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo
7. "L'Étranger" by Albert Camus (1942) - yes. Alt: La peste, which was a better novel & better expressed Camus' humanism
8. "Les Chants de Maldoror" by Lautréamont (1869) - never read, doesn't sound interesting
9. "Les Mains Sales" by Jean-Paul Sartre (1948) sub: Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit. It's a hateful book, but riveting
10. "Le Rouge et le Noir" by Stendhal (1830) - Started, didn't finish. Maybe one day I'll try again.
11. "Le Père Goriot" by Honoré de Balzac (1835) - I don't like Balzac, but I'm glad I've read him so that I know I don't like him & can roll my eyes at folks who drop his name but obviously haven't read him either.
12. "Les Contemplations" by Victor Hugo (1856) sub: Guy de Maupassant, Bel ami
13. "Les Fleurs du Mal" by Charles Baudelaire (1857) sub: Arthur Rimbaud, Le Bateau ivre
14. "Les Revenants" by Albert Camus (1942) sub: André Gide, L'immoraliste or La symphonie pastorale
15. "Les Enfants Terribles" by Jean Cocteau (1950) Cocteau=movies. Sub: Jean Genet, Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs
16. "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" by Marcel Proust (1913-1927) - Not for everyone, but at least try Proust.
17. "L'Ecole des Femmes" by Molière (1662) - I guess. But I'd sub: Jean Racine, Phèdre
18. "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo (1862) Sub: Jean Anouilh, Antigone
19. "La Bête Humaine" by Emile Zola (1890) Yes for Zola, but not this one. Sub: Germinal or Au Bonheur des Dames
20. "Les Châtiments" by Victor Hugo (1853) Sub: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince (How did chat-bot miss this one?)
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:47 am

On a more modern note, I recently finished Giulano da Empoli's Le mage du Kremlin (2022). It's a novel based upon the life and career of Vladislav Surkov, a spin-doctor known as Putin's Rasputin, following him from his days in the theater world through the decadent 1990s to the rise of the dictatorship.

I avoided it for awhile even though it was the novel that "everyone in France was talking about" last summer (at least, that's what the reviews say) - nationalist politics pretty much disgust me, whether it's in my own country or others. And it's hard to talk about this book without diving into politics, so I'll tread lightly:

- It was fascinating to have an inside look at what has been happening in Russia the past few decades. The US media tends to simplify things, and this book was much more nuanced and insightful.
- It was frightening to see how "reality tv" could be used to create a new narrative. At times it reminded me of 1984.
- I found myself comparing what happened in Russia to similar actions by the spin-doctors in the US, Brazil, and other countries.
- Every couple pages I'd put down the book & have to ponder what I'd just read. And to wish that my friends were reading it so I could compare notes.
- It's actually a good novel apart from the politics - there's a lot more here than just a look inside the Kremlin.

For a more complete discussion, see The Wizard of the Kremlin in Foreign Policy magazine.

Highly recommended.

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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Jan 24, 2023 12:56 am

kanewai » Mon Jan 23, 2023 9:21 am

I was underemployed when I started French (read: waiting tables & mostly broke), so my early reading was almost 100% older books that were in the public domain (read: free). I still have a soft spot for those big fat 19th century novels, and I think it's worthwhile to read at least some of the major authors. My actual list would have a lot more modern authors, but - sticking to the old stuff - here's my biased human-bot take on the chat-bot:

1. "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo (1862) - yes. Alt: Notre Dame de Paris
2. "Madame Bovary" by Gustave Flaubert (1857) - yes
3. "Candide" by Voltaire (1759) - yes
4. "Les Fleurs du Mal" by Charles Baudelaire (1857) - Once in awhile I'll read a poem or two, but they don't impact me the way they seem to impact so many others.
5. "Les Liaisons dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos (1782) - never read. Maybe one day I will.
6. "Les Trois Mousquetaires" by Alexandre Dumas (1844) - yes! Alt: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo
7. "L'Étranger" by Albert Camus (1942) - yes. Alt: La peste, which was a better novel & better expressed Camus' humanism
8. "Les Chants de Maldoror" by Lautréamont (1869) - never read, doesn't sound interesting
9. "Les Mains Sales" by Jean-Paul Sartre (1948) sub: Céline, Voyage au bout de la nuit. It's a hateful book, but riveting
10. "Le Rouge et le Noir" by Stendhal (1830) - Started, didn't finish. Maybe one day I'll try again.
11. "Le Père Goriot" by Honoré de Balzac (1835) - I don't like Balzac, but I'm glad I've read him so that I know I don't like him & can roll my eyes at folks who drop his name but obviously haven't read him either.
12. "Les Contemplations" by Victor Hugo (1856) sub: Guy de Maupassant, Bel ami
13. "Les Fleurs du Mal" by Charles Baudelaire (1857) sub: Arthur Rimbaud, Le Bateau ivre
14. "Les Revenants" by Albert Camus (1942) sub: André Gide, L'immoraliste or La symphonie pastorale
15. "Les Enfants Terribles" by Jean Cocteau (1950) Cocteau=movies. Sub: Jean Genet, Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs
16. "A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu" by Marcel Proust (1913-1927) - Not for everyone, but at least try Proust.
17. "L'Ecole des Femmes" by Molière (1662) - I guess. But I'd sub: Jean Racine, Phèdre
18. "Les Misérables" by Victor Hugo (1862) Sub: Jean Anouilh, Antigone
19. "La Bête Humaine" by Emile Zola (1890) Yes for Zola, but not this one. Sub: Germinal or Au Bonheur des Dames
20. "Les Châtiments" by Victor Hugo (1853) Sub: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit prince (How did chat-bot miss this one?)

Thanks so much for your book listing and suggestions it was great to read and definitely food for both thought and action in my future book reading.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Jan 24, 2023 1:08 am

As for Giulano da Empoli's Le mage du Kremlin (2022),it sounds like a great and worthwhile read but I don't know if I am up for reading something that is both contemporary and heavy duty. I think it would over whelm. I have seen lots written on it.

It is always such a special treat to read your thoughts on what you have read.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Jan 24, 2023 8:15 pm

kanewai » Mon Jan 23, 2023 1:47 pm
On a more modern note, I recently finished Giulano da Empoli's Le mage du Kremlin (2022). It's a novel based upon the life and career of Vladislav Surkov, a spin-doctor known as Putin's Rasputin, following him from his days in the theater world through the decadent 1990s to the rise of the dictatorship.

I avoided it for awhile even though it was the novel that "everyone in France was talking about" last summer (at least, that's what the reviews say) - nationalist politics pretty much disgust me, whether it's in my own country or others. And it's hard to talk about this book without diving into politics, so I'll tread lightly:

- It was fascinating to have an inside look at what has been happening in Russia the past few decades. The US media tends to simplify things, and this book was much more nuanced and insightful.
- It was frightening to see how "reality tv" could be used to create a new narrative. At times it reminded me of 1984.
- I found myself comparing what happened in Russia to similar actions by the spin-doctors in the US, Brazil, and other countries.
- Every couple pages I'd put down the book & have to ponder what I'd just read. And to wish that my friends were reading it so I could compare notes.
- It's actually a good novel apart from the politics - there's a lot more here than just a look inside the Kremlin.


kanewai

You always do such very thoughtful posts here, that I feel you are owed an honest answer on this.

Yes, there has been an extensive amount written on the book and since your comments are always so apposite I will be honest with you.

I pride myself on wading through all the really melancholic French literature both past and present when necessary; however the book you suggest would make me morose beyond what I am able to handle. I am sure it is a great book however "Every couple pages I'd put down the book & have to ponder what I'd just read," and become so morose about its implications that I would not be in good shape. Suffice to say I am absolutely sure the book is everything you say it is however I don't think I could handle it.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Wed Jan 25, 2023 7:50 pm

Carmody wrote:kanewai

You always do such very thoughtful posts here, that I feel you are owed an honest answer on this.
...

I pride myself on wading through all the really melancholic French literature both past and present when necessary; however the book you suggest would make me morose beyond what I am able to handle. I am sure it is a great book however "Every couple pages I'd put down the book & have to ponder what I'd just read," and become so morose about its implications that I would not be in good shape. Suffice to say I am absolutely sure the book is everything you say it is however I don't think I could handle it.
Ahh, thanks! I'm glad you do so much to keep this thread alive.

Skip this book; it definitely made me more worried about the state of the world than I already am. But as an aside, the parts where I had to put the book down weren't the bad parts, but the parts that helped shift my perspective on events.

Such as, there was an incident when Boris Yeltsin got drunk at the White House, and then held a joint press conference with Bill Clinton. I only vaguely remember it as a joke for late-night American tv. I didn't realize how it must have looked in Russia. It was a bigger deal there, at least with Yeltsin's handlers. They asked why the Americans would put him on tv in that condition, they wondered if it was an attempt by Clinton to humiliate their country, it felt deliberately disrespectful ... and the rich & powerful decided it was time to find another president. Those were the moments where I thought, oh wow I never looked at it from that perspective before.
Last edited by kanewai on Wed Jan 25, 2023 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:46 pm

So I am after, a too long hiatus, back to reviewing books.

Candide by Voltaire

I am of the belief that one can’t just sit down and read the classics-any or all of them. Rather one needs to wait for the opportune moment to do so. Somewhat akin to a planetary alignment making possible the coming together of an author with my appreciation of him.

So it has taken me quite some time but I have finally come around to Candide by Voltaire and am grateful I waited for it.

I found it a short entertaining picaresque novel that I have already started rereading. For those not familiar with picaresque think of a contemporary graphic action novel with lots of action but no pictures, although the action here is clearly graphic.

There is also, lots to learn from this book when it comes to vocabulary and idioms but all of it really interesting.

So often with the classics it turns out that they don’t ring the bell with me that I hoped they would but this one does and I would definitely recommend people give it a try if they are looking for a different paced book that will entertain. Yes, it was written in 1 7 5 9 (264 years ago) but there is something strangely contemporary to the type of entertainment it offers.

And while on the topic of entertainment, I must mention that this is one of the very few books that I have read by a French author that is not melancoholic. If people out there know of other French titles that entertain rather than sink into melancohlia then please let me know, but for me for now Candide remains unique in its joyful galloping, rollicking movement through a landscape of wars, earthquakes and other assorted tragedies that leaves me certainly wanting more.

Score: 8/10

nb: come to think of it The Iliad is pretty rollicking in its own way, but the author was not French.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby DaveAgain » Wed Jan 25, 2023 10:37 pm

Carmody wrote:If people out there know of other French titles that entertain rather than sink into melancohlia then please let me know, but for me for now Candide remains unique in its joyful galloping, rollicking movement through a landscape of wars, earthquakes and other assorted tragedies that leaves me certainly wanting more.
I recently came across a mention of Voyage autour de ma chambre, that described it as a French Laurence Sterne, so perhaps that might be one for you?

Arthur Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gérard is a collection of funny short stories, the fictional memoir of a French officer's career in the Napoleonic wars.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby guyome » Thu Jan 26, 2023 7:59 am

Carmody wrote:And while on the topic of entertainment, I must mention that this is one of the very few books that I have read by a French author that is not melancoholic. If people out there know of other French titles that entertain rather than sink into melancohlia then please let me know,
Well, Barthes said that Voltaire was "le dernier des écrivains heureux", so I guess you're out of luck :(

If you want to read more 18th c. literature, you could give a try to authors like Beaumarchais and Marivaux (theatre), or Montesquieu's Lettres persanes. And of course, there's always more Voltaire available for reading (Zadig comes to mind).
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Thu Jan 26, 2023 3:48 pm

guyome » Wed Jan 25, 2023 8:59 pm

Carmody wrote:
And while on the topic of entertainment, I must mention that this is one of the very few books that I have read by a French author that is not melancoholic. If people out there know of other French titles that entertain rather than sink into melancohlia then please let me know,

Well, Barthes said that Voltaire was "le dernier des écrivains heureux", so I guess you're out of luck :(

If you want to read more 18th c. literature, you could give a try to authors like Beaumarchais and Marivaux (theatre), or Montesquieu's Lettres persanes. And of course, there's always more Voltaire available for reading (Zadig comes to mind).


Thanks so much for sharing the Barthes quote; nice to know I am not alone in my perceptions.

Looks like I have to check out: authors like Beaumarchais and Marivaux (theatre), or Montesquieu's Lettres persanes.
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