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French Fiction Fridays #5

This week’s French Fiction Fridays selections take readers to Haiti and Russia to fall in love with uncommon characters. In the novel Guillaume & Nathalie by Yanick Lahens, we witness the peculiar seduction of a sociologist and an architect who meet while working together on a community center in Port-au-Prince. Arthur Larrue’s narrator in Going to War happens upon the Russian revolutionary art collective Voïna, who are squatting in his friend’s St. Petersburg apartment and tells, in thrilling prose, the story of their encounter.Filled with breathtakingly sensual descriptions, we hope you enjoy these brief glimpses into two exciting novels, available in French bookstores now. Come back next week to discover more fresh French books.

Guillaume & Nathalieby Yanick Lahens

Synopsis: Guillaume is a sociologist, Nathalie an architect. They meet at the office of the French agency funding the construction of a community centre on which both are working. Guillaume, now 50, his utopian ideals long abandoned, has spent his whole life in Haiti, Nathalie has just returned, having left suddenly at the age of 18. From initial exasperation their mutual attraction turns into a dance of seduction as each gives way to a passion that will not be denied.

Yanick Lahens is a fine storyteller who does not shy away from using the codes of the erotic novel to captivate her readers, writing of the impatience of desire and the unthinking sensuality it arouses. But she also looks beyond the particular situation of her characters and, as she plunges Guillaume and Nathalie into their affair, never forgets where they come from,still less where they are now. But, while the narrative acknowledges the poverty endemic to the Haiti in which it unfolds, and which its two black middle class protagonists are keen to hold at bay, there is nothing miserabilist in the writing. Nor does it dwell on disaster, beyond an unspecified sense of menace hanging over Haiti in December 2009.

Read an excerpt (English)Read an excerpt (French)

Going to Warby Arthur Larrue

Synopsis: While some couples grapple with difficulties in their relationship, others choose to risk their lives by shaking up the politics of the State. But what happens when those people run into each other by sheer chance? The narrator goes to squat at a friend’s apartment, whose keys he has been given, only to find others have already taken up that right. There he meetsreal squatters, two men, a woman and a child, members of the Voïna group (Voina : ‘War’ in Russian).Sharing a night with these colourful characters, the narrator evokes with extreme subtlety hisfew hours spent with the most radical branch of contemporary art. He breaks in through the back door, zooms in with the vigour of a telephoto lens: from the hairs of a beard stranded in the kitchen sink to the pixellized squirrel decorating the little boy’s tee-shirt. Arthur Larrue uses the actions of that group as a pretext to write a kind of thriller both funny and breathtaking, a night rich in twists and turns and shady characters, from the deranged neighbour to the inspector in charge of the “War” dossier. 

Read an excerpt (English)Read an excerpt (French)