French Fiction Fridays #10

September 27, 2013 | By Book Department

In this final instalment of French Fiction Fridays 2013, we are presented with the stories of two kinds of families – the families we are born with and the families we create – and the silences with which they are tenuously held together. In The Unfaithful Wife, Philippe Vilain embodies the voice of a husband who discovers, by reading her text messages, that his wife has been cheating on him. Through his silent brooding, he meditates on their relationship, wondering where he went wrong and kicking himself for his seemingly blind trust. Alice Zeniter’s award-winning novel Gloomy Sunday introduces us to a family of Hungarian railway workers with its own secrets and weaknesses. Their struggles with society’s changes are embodied in the first scene – where the patriarch drunkenly laments May 2, slurring his way through the song “Gloomy Sunday”, the “Hungarian suicide song”.

Thank you for joining us for French Fiction Fridays. We hope you have enjoyed reading these stories and excerpts and are inspired to go out and find these books in French.


The Unfaithful Wife
by Philippe Vilain

It is the story of a couple like so many others: a man and a woman, whose love has become worn out over time. One evening, she goes out for a moment and carelessly leaves her mobile phone on a shelf. Her husband glances at it and discovers a text message which has clearly been sent to her by a lover.
When his wife comes back home, instead of confronting her, he decides to remain silent.
Nothing has changed in her behaviour, except that the person who goes to sleep and wakes up beside him has now become unfaithful to him. Or has she always been so? Is she even the person he thought he knew? Will choosing secrecy save their life as a couple? In the end, if a man is being deceived, hasn’t he also been deceiving himself? This finely crafted novel constantly alternates between farce and tragedy.

Read excerpt (English)

Read excerpt (French)


Gloomy Sunday
by Alice Zeniter
 

The Mándy family have lived in the same timber house next to Budapest’s railway lines for many generations, with each of its members working at the central station. Young Imre has grown up in an impenetrable world of family secrets where many things are left unspoken.
At the fall of the Berlin Wall he leaves school to work in a sex shop. He meets a young woman—a German—who, for him, embodies the myth of the free and easy West. But for the Mándys, whatever the regime, life has always been more about watching the trains
go by than about becoming the passengers
themselves …
Through communism and consumerism, life at the Mándys’ stands still. Imre, a loser of the likeable variety—a sensitive, gentle, romantic dreamer—is the perfect embodiment of a society that expects nothing from the future, and whose tragicomic history betrays its powerlessness to command its own fate.

Read excerpt (English)

Read excerpt (French)

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