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Monsieur Linh and His Child gets Guardian thumbs-up

The Guardian review Philippe Claudel’s Monsieur Linh and His Child:

This novella, by an award-winning French writer (the author of Brodeck’s Report, winner of last year’s Independent foreign fiction prize) who is also the writer-director of the Bafta‑winning film I’ve Loved You So Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime), would be extremely difficult to make into a film – not only because it features a narrative “trick” that would translate awkwardly to the screen, but also because the author takes pains to avoid pinning down the story to one particular decade or location. The side-effect of this deliberately non‑specific narration is to give the story a hazy, romantic quality, like Vaseline on a camera lens or the sepia tint of an old photo…

It does not matter if you see the final “twist” coming a little sooner than the author may have wished, because the twist is more than a gimmick. It has a symbolic meaning that is integral to the two men’s story: about how the will to keep moving forward is deeply connected with the impulse to love and care for others, and about how that impulse is an end in itself, inherently precious, regardless of whether its object really reciprocates or communicates love in return.

Read the whole review over on the Guardian website.

Monsieur Linh and his Child by Philippe Claudel

Philippe Claudel, author of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize-winning Brodeck’s Report, is back! On March 31 we will be publishing Monsieur Linh and His Child, which joins Brodeck’s Report and the earlier Grey Souls as part of a loose, thematic trilogy about the devastating physical and psychological effects of warfare:

Traumatized by memories of his war-ravaged country, and with his son and daughter-in-law dead, Monsieur Linh travels to a foreign land to bring the child in his arms to safety. The other refugees in the detention centre are unsure how to help the old man; his caseworkers are compassionate, but overworked. Monsieur Linh struggles beneath the weight of his sorrow, and becomes increasingly bewildered and isolated in this unfamiliar, fast-moving town. And then he encounters Monsieur Bark. They do not speak each other’s language, but Monsieur Bark is sympathetic to the foreigner’s need to care for the child. Recently widowed and equally alone, he is eager to talk, and Monsieur Linh knows how to listen. The two men share their solitude, and find friendship in an unlikely dialogue between two very different cultures.

For an early review of the novel, be sure to check out the excellent BookMonkeyScibbles blog. Or, depending on how strong your French is, the short video clip below may further whet your appetite.

If you haven’t read Brodeck’s Report yet, these reviews will surely send it to the top of your “to read” list:

“Written with an unsettling, painterly beauty, blessed or cursed with all the hallucinogenic clarity of a bad dream that lodges in the cellars of the mind, the novel transforms modern history intoa fable that merges Kafka and the Grimms. This gothic vision of simmering hate and fear … [is] intensely visualized.” Boyd Tonkin, Independent

“Deeply wise and classically beautiful . . .  a genuinely adult fairy tale that forces its reader to bear witness to the extremes of good and evil of which humanity is capable, without ever simplifying either the context or the individual human beings in which both possibilities dwell . . .  A modern masterpiece.” Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph

“In John Cullen’s deft translation, Claudel’s writing is lucid and passionate. One aspect of his literary skill is his assignment of a whole package of experience to a single powerful metaphor … [an] excellent novel.” Giles Foden, Guardian

And what’s more, with the ink on the fully-signed contract now dry, we can let it be known that MacLehose Press will be publishing a further Philippe Claudel novel in the not too distant future. L’Enquête (The Investigation) was recently released in France by Éditions Stock and is a Kafkaesque tale said to be partially inspired by the France Telecom suicides of 2008 and 2009.