miércoles, 8 de enero de 2014

Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge

Although I haven't participated in any full-year reading challenges for the last few years, I've decided to come out of reading challenge retirement so to speak for the Books on France 2014 Reading Challenge hosted by Emma of Words and Peace.  My goal, in the event anybody's interested in hearing the plans of an inveterate and hence not to be trusted slacker, is to read 24 books by French authors (well, taking advantage of the "books on France" loophole, probably mixing in a handful of books on French history by non-French authors as well) with a chronological focus running roughly from La Chanson de Roland (a reread) to J.M.G. Le Clézio (just finished his Étoile errante a short while ago) and more or less evenly divided among the medieval, early modern, and modern periods.  While I'm not exactly lacking in ideas for things to read since a) my French author TBR has grown to somewhere in the vicinity of 50 titles at hand and b) I intend to finally get around to reading my handsome and sure to be idea-inspiring 1,100 page A New History of French Literature, as always I'd still love to receive suggestions from any of you who might care to share a "shouldn't miss" author or work that I, um, shouldn't miss.  Suggestions?

Books Read
1) Étoile errante by J.M.G. Le Clézio
2) Rue des Boutiques Obscures by Patrick Modiano
3) La ciudad de las ratas [La Cité des rats] by Copi
4) Sylvie by Gérard de Nerval
5) Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein by Marguerite Duras
6) Hell in a Very Small Place: The Siege of Dien Bien Phu by Bernard B. Fall
7) Rosie Carpe by Marie NDiaye
8) Le Père Goriot by Honoré de Balzac
9) The Girl with the Golden Eyes [La Fille aux yeux d'or] by Honoré de Balzac
10) A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne
11) Les bouts de bois de Dieu by Ousmane Sembene
12) Abbés by Pierre Michon
13) Morituri by Yasmina Khadra
14) Winter Mythologies [Mythologies d'hiver] by Pierre Michon

28 comentarios:

  1. Have you read The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq? I actually have a big TBR shelf of French Lit and might try a less onerous version of this challenge, perhaps 12 books.

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    1. Séamus, nice idea: I'd forgotten about Houellebecq, but I've been interested in trying him. Have you read that novel already or is it on your TBR list? Re: your "onerous" comment (ha!), you can participate in the challenge with as few as 3 titles off your big French TBR shelf. I'm only going for 24 because I want to work on my French this year, and I keep buying books in French and then never read them!

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    2. Hi Richard. Better late than never. I read The Elementary Particles quite a few years back. I might, however, attempt a reread if you were taking it on. Just to see how it stands up to it. I loved it at the time, although it's dark.

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    3. Hey, Séamus, I'd be up for that if you were. Maybe later in the year? Also happy to read a different book with you (French or otherwise) instead if you'd prefer to read something new together a la the Stegner novel last year.

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  2. Well, I guess I can squeeze in 3 French books. I'll have to think about it.

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    1. Miguel, I'd be interested in seeing what you'd choose for such a challenge regardless of whether or not you'd actually read the books. I think I'll take the opportunity to finally finish Schwob's Vidas imaginarias (my copy's a translation).

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    2. Hm, this actually sounds like a good occasion to read a bit of Rocambole...

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    3. Miguel, Silvio Astier and I would both be proud of you for that, I'm sure!

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    4. Ah, Roberto Arlt, I see, Rocambole does see right up his alley... One day I have to read Mad Toy, it's been too long since The Seven Madmen.

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    5. Sorry, I thought you'd read that one already. Another fun one!

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  3. I might go to France again this summer, so there will be some French reading, but now way am I going to formalize it. Maybe it is finally time to read some of the journal of the Goncourt brothers.

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    1. Tom, I'm only "formalizing" the reading because I wanted an in-depth "national literature" project to bookend my Ibero-American reading plans. And my short story project, which I hope to finally kickoff soon. Three bookends? Bad metaphor. The Goncourt journals are great, on my radar, etc., but I never manage to pick them up for more than a few pages at a time for some reason. Anyway, I will refrain from open hostility/envy at hearing you have another France trip lined up. Lucky bastard...

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  4. great ambitious plan, thanks for participating! Intrigued by the A New History of French Literature, I'll have to check it out. Right now, they are (re-?)publishing in English The Accursed KIngs, by Maurice Druon, Les Rois maudits. 7 volumes, but great historical fiction on les Capétiens. just an idea of what you could read in French or even in Spanish, but I have tons more, if you lean to a specif genre.

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    1. Druon is great. I've only read the first volume, but wow - what a terrific book.

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    2. Emma, thanks for hosting; I'm looking forward to participating! That French lit survey, edited by Denis Hollier, came out in 1989 (and was reissued by Harvard University Press in 2001), so it's not the most up to date resource available in terms of modern authors. However, the essays from it I've read have been excellent. Should be helpful. Although I'm not all that big a fan of historical fiction, I'll keep the Druon title in mind since you and Scott both vouch for it so strongly. Thanks for the tip!

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    3. Scott, thanks for seconding Emma's praise for the Druon. "Great," "terrific," maybe I better check it out at some point!

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  5. Ooh, I'd love to hear what you have to say on some of the new writers like Antoine Volodine (Bardo or not Bardo) and Marie NDiaye (Rosie Carpe) - but will you be reading in French or English? Anyway, while I'm here I'll mention Laurent Gaude (Ouragon), Louise Lambrichs (Le jeu du roman, A ton image), Patrick Modiano (Rue des boutiques obscures) and Pierre Michon (Abbes or Vies minuscules). Do consider Pierre Michon - I have been very taken with his writing and would love to know what you think.

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    1. Victoria, thanks so much for all these recommendations--I've not read any of them, and some of them I hadn't even heard of before. Very useful introductions for me! I hope to do almost all of my reading for the challenge in French with exceptions made for some fiction titles I already own in translation and some of the nonfiction works; giving my rapidly atrophying French a workout is one of my main motivations for participating in this particular challenge, and hopefully I'll be able to pick up reading speed again somewhere along the line. Anyway, you've been a big help, thanks!

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    2. I enjoyed a lot Patrick Modiano in my late teens, have not read any lately though

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    3. Belated thanks for the comment, Emma. I hope to finish Modiano's Rue des Boutiques Obscures any day now, but I've been having a funky reading month so far (not enough time). Anyway, glad to hear such good things about the author from so many people!

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  6. Sheesh, Richard, could you narrow it down a little?

    Here are a few that I love:

    Le Testament de François Villon
    La Chartreuse de Parme - Stendhal
    La Peste - Albert Camus
    Que ma joie demeure - Jean Giono
    L'Écume des jours - Boris Vian (L'Arrache-coeur is also great, but I dislike the novel for which he's most famous here, usually translated as I Spit on Your Graves).
    Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel - Raymond Radiguet
    Pointe de lendemain - Vivant Denon
    Les Mandarins - Simone de Beauvoir
    Impressions d'Afrique - Raymond Roussel
    Memoires d'Hadrien - Marguerite Yourcenar (but I think you read this already, and besides, she's Belgian).

    And a few contemporary authors:
    I strongly second litlove's suggestions of Patrick Modiano and Pierre Michon (although to be fair, I'm only pages into Michon's Les Onze at the moment, and I haven't read the others).
    Daniel Pennac - Au Bonheur des Ogres
    Jerome Ferrari - Le Sermon sur la chute de Rome
    Victor Segalen - René Leys (but then you might want to save that one for a Chinese literature challenge…)

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    1. Scott, thanks so much for all these suggestions--between your recs and Victoria's (Litlove's) and the books I'd already wanted to read that I own, I should be all set for modern French authors for a while! Of the non-contempo titles you mentioned, I'm probably most excited to hear you rave about the François Villon (previously a probable but now a definite reading target for me for this year) and the Raymond Radiguet (the only book you mention that I already own). Anyway, thanks again for all the great ideas! P.S. Stendhal seems to gets ragged on by a lot of people these days (or at least by Tom & Caroline); glad to see you single out that one title of his here since I was thinking about trying to get to Le Rouge et le Noir this year (I've owned it for about 10 years already, I think).

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  7. Stendhal, ragged on by me? Oh no? I freely admit that I do not know how to read him very well and do not understand his art although I like his memoirs a lot. If you, too, want to have trouble understanding Stendhal, try De l'amour (1822) and work through his theories of love as "crystallization."

    Villon's Testament is awesome. One of the greatest poems of all time. Top, top, top.

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    1. Tom, so glad to hear another strong voice of support in favor of Villon. Very exciting news! Sorry if I slightly misrepresented your reactions to Stendhal. I guess I took them as negative more than perplexed, perhaps sloppy reading on my part (as in your possible rather than definite trip to France above). Anyway, I think I'll wait to be confused by him until I get a least one of his two big novels or his memoirs under my belt.

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  8. This is a great idea for a challenge. A slightly offbeat suggestion would be Christine de Pizan. I read her The Book of the City of Ladies and I would recommend it.

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    1. Thanks for the Christine de Pizan rec, Brian. Although I don't own that book, it's one I've wanted to read for years but keep postponing. I agree that the reading challenges by country or continent can be very tempting. Cheers!

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  9. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Maybe this is the push I need to read Roger Martin du Gard's "The Thibaults."

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  10. You're welcome, Dwight, and thanks for reminding me about that multi-volume doorstopper. One of these days, one of these days!

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