Bonjour Tristesse

BT

Françoise Sagan

First Sentence:     This strange new feeling of mine, obsessing me by its sweet languor, is such that I am reluctant to dignify it with the fine, solemn name of ‘sadness’.

Back of the book:

Stylish, shimmering and amoral, Sagan’s tale of adolescence and betrayal on the French Riviera was her masterpiece, published when she was just eighteen. However, this frank and explicit novella was considered too daring for 1950s Britain, and sexual scenes were removed for the English publication. Now this fresh and accurate new translation presents the uncensored text in full for the first time.

Bonjour Tristesse tells the story of Cécile, who leads a carefree life with her widowed father and his young mistresses until, one hot summer on the Riviera, he decides to remarry – with devastating consequences. In A Certain Smile, which is also included in this volume, Dominique, a young woman bored with her lover, begins an encounter with an older man that unfolds in unexpected and troubling ways.

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A Meal In Winter

A Meal In Winter

Hubert Mingarelli

First Sentence:     They had rung the iron gong outside and it was still echoing, at first for real in the courtyard, and then, for a longer time, inside our heads.

Back of the book:

One morning, in the dead of winter, three German soldiers are dispatched into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders to track down and bring back for execution ‘one of them’ – a Jew. Having flushed out the young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose outspoken anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere. Before long, the group’s sympathies have splintered as they consider the moral implications of their murderous mission and confront their own consciences to ask themselves: should the Jew be offered food? And, having shared their meal, should he be taken back, or set free?

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The Investigation

The Investigation

Philippe Claudel

First Sentence:     As he stepped out of the station the Investigator was met by a fine rain mingled with wet, slushy snow.

Back of the book:

The Investigator is despatched to a provincial town to find out the truth behind a disturbing spate of suicides amongst employees of the Firm.

But from the moment he steps off the train, he finds himself in a world that is alien, unrecognisable, and diabolically complex. From the hostile weather and the fickle hospitality at Hotel Hope to the town’s bewildering inhabitants, everything seems to be against him to the point where he wonders whether he is trapped in a recurring nightmare, or has passed into the realm of death itself. Cold, hungry and humiliated, always one step behind, he nevertheless remains determined to find the only man he can hold to account – the Firm’s legendary but elusive founder.

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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes)

Alain-Fournier

First Sentence:     He came to our place one Sunday in November 189-.

Back of the book:

When Meaulnes first arrives at the local school in Sologne, everyone is captivated by his good looks, daring and charisma. But when Meaulnes disappears for several days, and returns with tales of a strange party at a mysterious house – and his love for the beautiful girl hidden within it, Yvonne de Galais – his life has been changed forever. In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier’s compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence.

Robin Buss’s translation of Le Grand Meaulnes sensitively and accurately renders Alain-Fournier’s poetically charged, expressive and deceptively simple style. In his introduction, New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik discusses the life of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in the First World War after writing this, his only novel.

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HHhH

Laurent Binet

First Sentence:     Gabčík – that’s his name – really did exist.

Back of the book:     Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services, ‘the hangman of Prague’, ‘the blond beast’, ‘the most dangerous man in the Third Reich’.

His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’, which in German spells HHhH.

All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up?

Quotes from the book:

I just hope that, however bright and blinding the veneer of fiction that covers this fabulous story, you will still be able to see through it to the historical reality that lies behind.

“And just so there’s no confusion, all the dialogues I invent (there won’t be many) will be written like scenes from a play. A stylistic drop in an ocean of reality.”

Through all the years that I carried this story around with me in my head, I never thought of giving it any other title than Operation Anthropoid (and if that’s not the title you see on the cover, you will know that I gave in to the demands of my publisher, who didn’t like it: too SF, too Robert Ludlum, apparently).

“Spring is late and the stubborn snow whispers under his boots.”

The Kindly Ones is simply “Houellebecq does Nazism.”

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