TOTW: A French Book Reading Resource

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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Aug 20, 2019 12:10 am

Have just finished La vie sexuelle de Catherine M. by M.C. Millet.

Biography
Born in Bois-Colombes, France, she is best known as the author of the 2002 memoir The Sexual Life of Catherine M.; the book details her sexual history, from childhood masturbation to an adult fascination with group sex. The book was reviewed by Edmund White as "the most explicit book about sex ever written by a woman".

She is married to the poet and novelist Jacques Henric.
In April 2016, Catherine Millet received the Prix François Morellet from Régine Catin, Laurent Hamon and Philippe Méaille. Awarded during the National Days of Book and Wine (Saumur), in partnership with the Château de Montsoreau-Museum of Contemporary Art, it rewards a personality for his commitment and his writings in favor of contemporary art.

On December 2017, during an interview on the French radio France Culture she claimed "I really regret not having been raped, because I could show that you can recover from it"

In January 2018 she co-authored a public letter to Le Monde newspaper criticising the #MeToo movement.. The letter was signed by over a hundred French women, including actress Catherine Deneuve, and generated considerable controversy.


I always read books 3-4 times, so this is just the first time through for me, but at this point I would give it 4/10. I will write more after my next reading.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby kanewai » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:40 am

I've read a few more books since I poked my head in here.

Alexandre Dumas. Le comte de Monte-Cristo (1844). It was interesting in the beginning, dragged a bit in the middle, and was a complete page-turner near the end. I needed to download a character list to keep track of who was who, but it was worthwhile.

Michele Houellebecq. Sérotonine (2019). Like all of Houellebecq's books, it's kind of brilliant and kind of reactionary and misanthropic. This one might be less misanthropic than his others. He's a major voice in modern literature, and I'd definitely recommend folks read Houellebecq at least once; I don't know that it matters which novel.

Yasmina Khadra. Les hirondelles de Kaboul (2002). A book club selection. It was a fascinating look into a hidden culture. There's a good discussion on the forum here.

Alexandre Dumas. Vingt ans après (1845). I've been complaining about this book on my blog since April. It's good enough that I want to finish, but also frustratingly uneven. And oh so very long.

Carmody wrote:Ok, I know this is using very bad judgement, however I am thinking about reading Les Misérables.
No, that's using very good judgement!

And then:
Carmody wrote:Probably for me, I try to steer towards the Classics when possible, but I hear Victor Hugo and Flaubert can be a bore.
oh la la ... Victor Hugo can be maddening, but his novels are action-packed, and full of anger and almost unbearable pain, but they're also about redemption. Hugo goes off on a lot of tangents in Les Misérables, and these can be tedious, but overall he is not a bore! The novel is amazing, and since it's broken up into many smaller books it's easy to read one section at a time.

From The Temptation of the Impossible: Victor Hugo and Les Misérables:
Mario Vargas Llosa wrote:It is the case that, albeit to a lesser extent, all fictions make their readers live "the impossible", taking them out of themselves, breaking down barriers, and making them share, by identifying with the characters of the illusion, a life that is richer, more intense, or more abject and violent, or simply different from the one that they are confined to by the high-security prison that is real life. Fictions exist because of this fact. Because we have only one life, and our desires and fantasies demand a thousand lives. Because the abyss between what we are and what we would like to be has to be bridged somehow. That was why fictions were born: so that, through living this vicarious, transient, precarious, but also passionate and fascinating life that fiction transports us to, we can incorporate the impossible into the possible and our existence can be both reality and unreality, history and fable, concrete life and marvelous adventure.
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Marcos Chicot. El asesinato de Sócrates: 35 / 768
Ibrahim al-Koni, Les mages: 60 / 620
Andrea Camilleri, La forma dell acqua: 5 / 100
L.L. Arabic: 16 / 30

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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Tue Aug 20, 2019 2:46 pm

kanewai

Thanks for your detailed responses to the different books that you have read; they are greatly appreciated. I have lots to learn about French literature.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Wed Aug 21, 2019 2:58 pm

Would be most grateful to anyone willing to share titles of French books that are not drenched in melancholia. I have read a lot of French literature and know the culture and its literature is very heavily saturated with melancholia and suffering. However do people have ideas for authors and titles that are a bit more upbeat. There must be people out there in addition to Marcel Pagnol who can write a book with less melancholia and suffering.

Actually, I find melancholia and suffering interesting, but I like to balance it out with other things.

Thanks.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby DaveAgain » Wed Aug 21, 2019 3:44 pm

Carmody wrote:Would be most grateful to anyone willing to share titles of French books that are not drenched in melancholia. I have read a lot of French literature and know the culture and its literature is very heavily saturated with melancholia and suffering. However do people have ideas for authors and titles that are a bit more upbeat. There must be people out there in addition to Marcel Pagnol who can write a book with less melancholia and suffering.

Actually, I find melancholia and suffering interesting, but I like to balance it out with other things.

Thanks.
There's a subset of Alphonse Daudet's Lettres de mon moulin that are funny (lots aren't!)

https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... et#p114951

And Tartarin de Tarascon has its moments.

https://www.ebooksgratuits.com/details.php?book=171

Georges Feydeau's plays are funny too.

EDIT
Pierre Pevel's "Les enchantements d'Ambremer" was good too, but that one's a fantasy/scifi.

https://www.babelio.com/livres/Pevel-Le ... nts/714204
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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:50 pm

DaveAgain,

Many thanks for the info, and yes fantasy/scifi is not my thing although lots of people and my wife included love it.

I would like the books to be French fiction from the 20th or 21st century if possible.

Many thanks.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Wed Aug 21, 2019 11:20 pm

Carmody wrote:Would be most grateful to anyone willing to share titles of French books that are not drenched in melancholia. I have read a lot of French literature and know the culture and its literature is very heavily saturated with melancholia and suffering. However do people have ideas for authors and titles that are a bit more upbeat. There must be people out there in addition to Marcel Pagnol who can write a book with less melancholia and suffering.

Actually, I find melancholia and suffering interesting, but I like to balance it out with other things.

Thanks.

If you have not read La condition humaine by Andre Malraux or Pilote de guerre by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, try them. War, but little suffering or melancholia, and no SF. [sorry about lack of accents; for some reason my keyboard doen't want to do them :roll: )
What about poetry? Henri de Regnier is an easy-to-read not-too-cryptic symbolist poet. Except for a bit of Apollinaire, Regnier is the only 20th century poet I am familiar with.
And I second the recommendation of Feydeau's plays, which are funny.
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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:35 am

MorkTheFiddle

Well the plot summary for La condition humaine is:
Plot summary
The novel occurs during a 22-day period mostly in Shanghai, China, and concerns mainly the socialist insurrectionists and others involved in the conflict. The four primary protagonists are Chen Ta Erh (whose name is spelled Tchen in the French original of the book), Kyoshi ("Kyo") Gisors, the Soviet emissary Katow, and Baron Clappique. Their individual plights are intertwined throughout the book.

Chen Ta Erh is sent to assassinate an authority, succeeds, and is later killed in a failed suicide bombing attempt on Chiang Kai-shek. After the assassination, he becomes governed by fatality and desires simply to kill, thereby fulfill his duty as a terrorist, a duty which controls his life. This is largely the result of being so close to death since assassinating a man. He is so haunted by death and his powerlessness over inevitability that he wishes to die, just to end his torment.

Kyo Gisors is the commander of the revolt and believes that every person should choose his own meaning, not be governed by any external forces. He spends most of the story trying to keep power in the hands of the workers rather than the Kuomintang army and resolving a conflict between himself and his wife, May. He is eventually captured and, in a final act of self-determination, chooses to take his own life with cyanide.

Katow had faced execution once before, during the Russian Civil War and was saved at the last moment, which gives him a feeling of psychological immunity. After witnessing Kyo's death, he watches with a kind of calm detachment as his fellow revolutionaries are taken out one by one, to be thrown alive into the chamber of a steam locomotive waiting outside, intending, when his turn comes, to use his own cyanide capsule. But hearing two young Chinese activists talk with trembling fear of being burned alive, he gives them the cyanide (there is only enough for two), himself being left to face the more fearsome death. He thus dies in an act of self-sacrifice and solidarity with weaker comrades.

Baron Clappique is a French merchant, smuggler, and obsessive gambler. He helps Kyo get a shipment of guns through and is later told that Kyo will be killed unless he leaves the city in 48 hours. On the way to warn him, he gets involved with gambling and cannot stop. He considers gambling "suicide without dying". Clappique is very good-humored and always cheerful all the time but suffers inwardly. He later escapes the city dressed as a sailor.


That plot seems pretty heavy to me; would you agree?

I have read your Saint-Exupery suggestion and somehow did not click with it although I loved his Little Prince.

I find difficulty reading plays even in my own language for some reason; have always been that way..??

Re poetry
I am sure it depends upon who I read, however, at my B2 level of reading I just always assumed that I would lose 75% of the nuance of it. I would in effect just be limited by a more literal reading of any poet.

Mention has been made elsewhere of Victor Hugo, and I keep running across references to his L'homme qui rit The hero in the last pages throws himself off a boat.

Oh, my...I am just going to keep looking and remain grateful to you for taking the time to make thoughtful suggestions.
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Carmody
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby Carmody » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:40 pm

People have been so patient and thoughtful in responding with ideas, that I thought it might be useful if I provided a list of books that I really enjoyed, that are not doom and gloom, and that minimize the melancholy and misery bit.

Sans famille H. Malot****
Le Château de mon père M. Pagnol
Un Sac de Billes J. Joffo
Bonjour tristesse F. Sagan****
35 Kilos d'espoir A. Gavalda
Je l'aimais A. Gavalda
Poisson d'or J.M.G. Le Clézio
Journal d'une femme de chambre O. Mirbeau
Une pièce montée Blandine Le Callet****
Frappe-toi le coeur A. Nothomb****
Le Retour de l'Enfant Prodigue A. Gide

Of course I like a lot of other French authors as well but this is only a short sample list to introduce people to that niche of French literature which is not so deeply depressed and about which I would love to learn more.

Again thanks to people who have made suggestions.
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Re: A French Book Reading Resource

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Thu Aug 22, 2019 11:47 pm

Are you familiar with Babelio, which is a kind of a Good Reads for French? For example today I see there is a panel called
Les livres les plus attendus de la rentrée littéraire de septembre 2019. There's lots of reading there in several genres.
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