A French Book Reading Resource

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kanewai
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:55 am

La Mort dans l'âme is the third book in a trilogy by Jean-Paul Sartre, Les chemins de la liberté. I remember loving them in college, and thinking that I would read them in French one day. I might have to add them to my queue.

MorkTheFiddle wrote:And the books by Céline trouble me, too. Are they novels or are they propaganda?
I suppose a complete list would include works by collaborators too, but I've read one book by Céline & that was enough. I understand that he's a great writer, but he was a nasty human being & it shows in his writing.
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fr: Margeurite Duras, Un barrage contre le Pacifique: 80 / 100
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Carmody
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Fri Mar 19, 2021 1:35 am

Kanewa

but he was a nasty human being & it shows in his writing.


Agreed.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Sun Mar 21, 2021 11:23 pm

Alliance Francaise is just out with its new selection of books for Spring!

Here it is:
https://www.culturetheque.com/US/litterature-essais.aspx
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby PfifltriggPi » Tue Mar 23, 2021 4:54 pm

As I mentioned in my log, I just finished Maria Chapdelaine by Louis Hémon. Originally published in 1913, this book has become considered a central part of Québécois literature. This consideration is somewhat troubling, however, since the author was not Québécois, but rather a European Frenchman who travelled to, among other places, Lac-Saint-Jean in northern Québec where he set this book.

The book itself is not very long nor very difficult although it does contain a fair amount of parler québécois which might pose a problem for some people. It was originally published as a roman feuilleton and, it seems, one can to an extent see the sentiments of the author towards New France and the people who live there change throughout the book although, like every European, he does sometimes show a bit of a patronizing attitude towards the inhabitants of rural Québec.

As for the book itself, to make an English compariason without spoiling too much, it reminds me somewhat of the Little House on the Prairy and somewhat of the Anne of Green Gables books, although Maria Chapdelaine is, as far as I know, much more fictional than those other two. The scene and general context, however, are very true-to-life and Hémon regularly takes on the tone of an anthropologist leading to detailed descriptions of the life and circumstances of the real-world equivalents of his characters which must have been quite interesting to his Parisian audience.

I personally found the book emotional and deeply moving, although I strongly suspect that most other readers will not react in the same way I did. In fact, it has provoked a wide range of reactions as well as a vigorous debate on materialism and the value of intangible aspects of life which I shall not broach here. This range of reactions is all the wider as Hémon himself died shortly after finishing the book and thus left no comments on what he meant. Some readers might find it beautiful and inspiring, some might find it pessimistic, some might find it polemical (the last, especially, I would remind that this is the work of a Frenchmen writing about a different people, not a Québécois writing about himself.) Nearly all, however, will come away affected in some fashion or another.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby lysi » Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:05 pm

MorkTheFiddle wrote:The list from Wikipedia includes the following works by French (I think) authors. Plus the trilogy by Günter Grass, whom I added because of his stature as a major novelist. I checked all the links to be sure they work. (at least on 17 March 2021 ;) )
French WW2 Novels from Wikipedia


I'd like to add to this list (and I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet!) the fairly long (2621 pages) work written by Charles De Gaulle, the leader of the Free French who continued fighting after the surrender of Vichy, Mémoires de guerre et mémoires d'espoir. It goes over the entire period from the surrender up to the establishment of the French Fourth Republic, then continues onto the Algerian war when he was called to prevent the military coup and solve the crisis caused by the Algerian War. This work is of great value to understanding the Gaullist legacy that almost every political party in France claims, but more than that, it's an enjoyable work in itself. The style is nothing like you'd expect from a military general and politician, it's very heavily literary, well edited and above all very engaging, at least it was to me because I'm interested in this topic quite a bit. The work is full of propaganda, obviously, and the way he describes a lot of events has an extreme anti-american and anti-english tone, which I find adds to its value as a book as well as historical value, since what view other than a leader of one of the major countries of WW2 could be as useful for understanding the context in which it took place? I can't write too much about the literary style because I already forgot most of the style aspects of the book but you'll see things like pas dropping with savoir, oser, pouvoir, and cesser, past subjunctif, and plus-que-parfait subjunctif with its value as a conditional. I think the value of Mémoires de Guerre et Mémoires d'espoir is validated by the fact that it's cited many times in Le Bon Usage, the French grammar book of choice. Though, despite being heavily literary, there really isn't that much vocabulary needed (only 10k words for 99.5% comprehension which is pretty good, 14.3k total unique words), but you will need to search up certain military words, some of them you'll remember just because of how odd and specific they are. I've remembered the word 'spahi', which is described as 'Cavalier de l'armée française appartenant à un corps d'Afrique du Nord créé en 1834 et organisé en une « subdivision d'arme » de la cavalerie en 1841. ' by Larousse, without even specifically trying, for example.

One thing I can suggest to do is to combine your reading with INA's timeline of all Charles de Gaulle's public speeches and discourses, which is really enjoyable. Seeing Charles de Gaulle put on his WW2 military uniform during his Discours du 29 janvier 1960 is incredible. It's interesting because if you look at the style of discourse and speech in general for every French president, up to Sarkozy the style was very literary. It seems like this hit its peak under Mitterand, who actually spoke with past subjunctif quite a few times, which is something that's very rare, and he specifically trained himself to do it.

Anyway, a really good book and I highly recommend it. I wouldn't suggest reading the 2621 pages in one sitting, or even in one month. I stopped reading it in order to read other books and then picked it back up multiple times, which is good for variety.

EDIT: Though I said the style was literary, it doesn't go as far as archaisms and stops short of things that are becoming (or are) slightly incomprehensible to most french speakers. That is to say, he never goes as far as 'dont' as a replacement for 'ce qui' and 'ce que', aka taking a phrase as an antecedant, or qui as a substitute for lequel/laquelle for non-personnifable objects, nor even subjunctif imparfait with the value of conditional (at least, if my memory is correct). You'll see plenty of 'ne saurait's and I think even a few cases where 'que' with ne expletif represents 'sans que' but I think that's about it. In this sense it's a very modern book, since it only goes up to the acceptable limits of literary language for most modern french people who aren't readers in the first place.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Mon Mar 29, 2021 12:13 am

lysi

Thanks so much for your comprehensive advise. It is greatly appreciated.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Mon Mar 29, 2021 12:48 am

Just for the fun of it:

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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby AroAro » Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:34 am

I have finally checked what books I've read in French in recent months. Well, there are not many of them because I rotate my books between 4 languages but this time at least I can wholeheartedly recommend these two books to everyone.

The first one is "Karpathia" by Mathias Menegoz published in 2014, it won Prix Interaille and was in the running for the Prix Goncourt as well. It is set in the first half of the 19th century, the action starts in Vienna and then moves to Transylvania where Alexander Korvanyi settles in a vast domain that belongs to his family since generations. But the tensions between three different nations living in the area quickly make it impossible to live here peacefully and he needs to make some tough decisions to show his authority but things don't go as smoothly as he and his wife would like them to happen.
The subject and the setting of the story is quite uncommon for French writers to come up with and I know that 19th century Austro-Hungarian Empire is not everyone's favorite time to explore but the book is worth giving it a try. It was not easy to get into the story in the first 100 pages or so but once it takes us to Transylvania the things start to get really exciting (I may be biased here because I learn Romanian and I find everything vaguely related to Romania to be interesting). I really liked the way the author incorporated social tensions into the book, he gave each of the nations (German, Hungarians and Vlachs/Romanians) a "voice" and an opportunity to show their perspective. The author even makes allusions to "vampires" (but he does not use this word) though it's a realistic novel so the vampire turns out to be something else.
The level is probably C1/C2, I had to look up some words from time to time related to military, weaponry and hunting. I'm really looking forward to Menegoz' next novel because this one was excellent in my opinion (better than the actual Goncourt winner that year, Lydie Salvayre's "Pas pleurer").

The second book is "Stupeur et tremblements" by Amelie Nothomb. Well, I'm not a big fan of this writer and the aura that surrounds her, I'm not buying this kind of hype or self-creation, so I was really reluctant to reach for one of her books. But in the end I decided to read "Stupeurs et tremblements" which is probably her best known book. And I don't regret it, it was quite gripping at times and the last part made me really sad and frustrated, so kudos to the author for delivering such emotions. Maybe I was never a victim of mobbing at work as it is described in the book but I had a tough client (who also happened to stem from East Asia) who was very severe and demanding to the point of absurdity so I could at least partially relate on a personal level to what was going on in the book.
I think the level required is somewhere between B2 and C1.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Wed Apr 07, 2021 1:58 pm

Many thanks for your book reviews; most appreciated.

The "Stupeur et tremblements" by Amelie Nothomb is one of my favorites. No one likes Nothomb. I love her.
Most people like chocolate but I happen to like vanilla. Whatever.

Thanks so much for your commentary.
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Re: TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Apr 13, 2021 1:58 pm

Top French publishing house asks would-be authors to stop sending manuscripts

https://www.france24.com/en/france/20210411-top-french-publishing-house-asks-would-be-writers-to-stop-sending-manuscripts


French official's attempts to outlaw ‘I hate men’ book backfires as sales skyrocket
https://www.france24.com/en/20200910-french-official-s-attempts-to-outlaw-i-hate-men-book-backfires-as-sales-skyrocket
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