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Losing the Light

Michael Wood: Memories of Camus, 19 August 2010

by Albert Camus.
Gallimard, 192 pp., €18.50, February 2010, 978 2 07 012927 0
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Albert Camus: Solitaire et Solidaire 
by Catherine Camus.
Lafon, 208 pp., £39.90, December 2009, 978 2 7499 1087 1
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Albert Camus: Elements of a Life 
by Robert Zaretsky.
Cornell, 200 pp., £16.50, March 2010, 978 0 8014 4805 8
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Albert Camus: Fils d’Alger 
by Alain Vircondelet.
Fayard, 396 pp., €19.90, January 2010, 978 2 213 63844 7
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... glance at what Robert Zaretsky in his critical study calls Camus’s ‘serial infidelities’ and Alain Vircondelet in his new biography refers to as ‘donjuanisme’; but if so this is her only glance, apart from a mention of Camus’s ‘relation intime’ with the actress Maria Casarès. Vircondelet, less discreet and more worldly, suggests everything was ...

Something that Wasn’t There

Lili Owen Rowlands: Daddy Lacan, 20 June 2019

A Father: Puzzle 
by Sibylle Lacan, translated by Adrian Nathan West.
MIT, 92 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 262 03931 4
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... being’. She found the funeral more troubling still. Organised by Judith and her husband, Jacques-Alain Miller, Lacan’s editor and disciple, it was a private affair for ‘intimate friends’ – mostly acolytes of l’École de la Cause freudienne – with Thibaut and Sibylle cast as ‘undesirables’. ‘The postmortem appropriation of Lacan, of our ...

Letting out the Inner Pig

James Peach: Marie Darrieussecq, 16 September 1999

My Phantom Husband 
by Marie Darrieussecq, translated by Helen Stevenson.
Faber, 153 pp., £9.99, July 1999, 0 571 19663 2
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... the context of a disastrous interview that Darrieussecq conducted with the former Prime Minister, Alain Juppé. She agreed to talk to Juppé for Elle, but did not get to read the final edit, where they cut out her questions about ‘la crise sociale’ and industrial unrest, leaving only low-calorie chat about his jogging and reading ...

Oui Oyi Awè Jo Ja Oua

Michael Sheringham: The French Provinces, 31 July 2008

The Discovery of France 
by Graham Robb.
Picador, 454 pp., £9.99, July 2008, 978 0 330 42761 6
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... of ordinary people and reduced the shape and size of France to manageable proportions. He links Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, published in 1913, to ‘the rapid disappearance of undiscovered France, and the desire to believe that it still existed’. The ‘lost domain’ that haunts the novel’s hero is emblematic of la France profonde as a ...


Gabriele Annan: Antal Szerb, 5 June 2003

Journey by Moonlight 
by Antal Szerb, translated by Len Rix.
Pushkin, 240 pp., £6.99, November 2002, 1 901285 50 2
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... novels of more or less the same period, when adolescence became a subject for fiction-writers: for Alain-Fournier in Le Grand Meaulnes, for Alec Waugh in The Loom of Youth, for Thomas Mann in ‘Tonio Kröger’. Szerb’s group centres on a charismatic brother and sister, Tamás and Eva Ulpius, who live in unstructured bohemian chaos with their father, a ...

Earthworm on Zither

Paul Grimstad: Raymond Roussel, 26 April 2012

Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey, 280 pp., £10.99, June 2011, 978 1 56478 624 1
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New Impressions of Africa 
by Raymond Roussel, translated by Mark Ford.
Princeton, 264 pp., £16.95, April 2011, 978 0 691 14459 7
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... experiments had a far-reaching influence on 20th-century literature: from the nouveau roman (both Alain Robbe-Grillet and Michel Butor wrote early appreciations of Roussel) to the monthly meetings of the Oulipo collective, to Jean Echenoz’s pastiche genre novel Lac (which unwinds its espionage caper from the point at which flies, les mouches, become ...

‘Tiens! Une madeleine?’

Michael Wood: The Comic-Strip Proust, 26 November 1998

À la recherche du temps perdu: Combray 
by Marcel Proust, edited by Stéphane Heuet.
Delcourt, 72 pp., €10.95, October 1998, 2 84055 218 3
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Proust among the Stars 
by Malcolm Bowie.
HarperCollins, 348 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 255622 7
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... and Ornella Muti as a rounded Odette – a movie redeemed in part by the elegant performance of Alain Delon as Charlus. Even in this climate, however, we may not be entirely prepared for the comic-strip version of A la recherche (the first few frames from which are reproduced on page 10). Certainly the French weren’t, as Alan Riding’s recent report in ...

Come Back, You Bastards!

Graham Robb: Who cut the tow rope?, 5 July 2007

Medusa: The Shipwreck, the Scandal, the Masterpiece 
by Jonathan Miles.
Cape, 334 pp., £17.99, April 2007, 978 0 224 07303 5
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... to paint a scene of maritime disaster at precisely the time when shipwrecks were in fashion. (Alain Corbin’s Le Territoire du vide might have provided some cultural perspective here: he describes Restoration tourists at seaside resorts deriving emotional pleasure from ‘the curious and gripping spectacle’ of shipwreck victims drowning within sight of ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... which have passed many men of account in the social sciences in France: Aron, Lévi-Strauss, Alain Touraine, Pierre Bourdieu, Serge Moscovici ... In French, what is more, we do not talk of the ‘social sciences’ so much as the ‘human sciences’, which, simply on the lexical plane, establishes a bridge between the young sociology (for example) and ...

The vanquished party, as likely as not innocent, was dragged half-dead to the gallows

Alexander Murray: Huizinga’s history of the Middle Ages, 19 March 1998

The Autumn of the Middle Ages 
by John Huizinga, translated by Rodney Payton.
Chicago, 560 pp., £15.95, December 1997, 0 226 35994 8
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... it of stagnation in the 15th century without seeing – even from documents under his eyes: Alain Chartier, for instance – that the genre was learning, in post-Agincourt France, to depict the ‘despair’ which Huizinga (in accord with his poets) makes its dominant mood. The list of charges is easily extended, through the subjects Huizinga touches ...

Lights by the Ton

John Sturrock: Jean Echenoz, 18 June 1998

by Jean Echenoz, translated by Guido Waldman.
Harvill, 122 pp., £8.99, June 1998, 1 86046 449 1
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Un An 
by Jean Echenoz.
Minuit, 111 pp., frs 65, September 1997, 2 7073 1587 7
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... the more avant-garde forms of narrative that once aspired to kill the linear off. The premise of Alain Robbe-Grillet and other New Novelists these many years ago was that stories which advance so sure-footedly from launch-pad to dénouement have had their day, belonging from now on only in the consciousness-lowering darkness of the movie-house, where the ...

Taking Refuge in the Loo

Leland de la Durantaye: Peter Handke, 22 May 2014

Versuch über den Pilznarren: Eine Geschichte für sich 
by Peter Handke.
Suhrkamp, 217 pp., £14.70, September 2013, 978 3 518 42383 7
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Peter Handke im Gespräch, mit Hubert Patterer und Stefan Winkler 
Kleine Zeitung, 120 pp., £15.36, November 2012, 978 3 902819 14 7Show More
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... admiration that had fallen to Handke over the course of his career had disappeared into thin air. Alain Finkielkraut called him an ‘ideological monster’. Salman Rushdie nominated him ‘International Moron of the Year’ for 1999. Susan Sontag said that there were many many people who would never pick up one of his books again. Presenting the matter in ...

A Mere Piece of Furniture

Dinah Birch: Jacqueline Rose’s take on Proust, 7 February 2002

by Jacqueline Rose.
Chatto, 205 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 0 7011 6976 1
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... of Proustian re-evaluations, including film adaptations from Raoul Ruiz and Chantal Ackerman, Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life, Malcolm Bowie’s Proust among the Stars and Harold Pinter’s stage version at the National Theatre. Rose has long been preoccupied with the power of fantasy – ‘perverse, recalcitrant, persistent’, as ...

J. xx Drancy. 13/8/42

Michael Wood: Patrick Modiano, 30 November 2000

The Search Warrant 
by Patrick Modiano, translated by Joanna Kilmartin.
Harvill, 137 pp., £7.99, September 2000, 1 86046 612 5
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... of parents, children, siblings, spouses. The effect here is similar, in a muted way, to that of Alain Resnais’s film Night and Fog, where we can’t put together the bland colour images of the present with the grisly black and white pictures of the past. What on earth can it mean to say this is the same place? At another moment the narrator recalls a film ...

Stalin is a joker

Michael Hofmann: Milan Kundera, 2 July 2015

The Festival of Insignificance 
by Milan Kundera, translated by Linda Asher.
Faber, 115 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 571 31646 5
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... age!’ someone exclaims. You think Kundera may be onto something here. But Ramon, Charles, Alain, the female navel, the ‘Pakistani’ waiter, Kalinin and his prostate problem, a very old bottle of Armagnac falling off a cupboard and smashing, a story of a hunting exploit of Stalin’s, someone’s mother falling ill? They all seem like seconds, and ...

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