So far this year I’m doing well reading French books. I thought it would be one of the more difficult bookish resolutions I set for myself but it’s actually proven to be totally doable with my trusty dictionary on standby. It feels super empowering somehow (as silly as that may sound) and I’ve already started debating whether or not I should exclude French books from my book buying ban… (I’m just so excited about developing my French reading skills!) So here’s a look at some books I’ve been thinking about ordering from the Waterstones Marketplace. If you like the sound of them but don’t speak French, do not fret! They are all available in English.
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On top of just reading three French books, I also had a loose idea that I wanted to read a classic, a contemporary novel and a comic to get a variety of registers, vocabulary and language. Curiously, classics sometimes seem a little easier to get to grips with than contemporary novels. The language feels simpler and more direct, and the ‘odd’/old conventions are fewer than you’d think. This is true of English classics too: they’re far more approachable than you’d think. That said, Camus generally seems to explore weighty ideas and, having read The Myth of Sisyphus (in English!), I think this might actually turn out to be one of the more difficult classics that makes everyone think all classics are intimidating…
From what I understand, Camus is generally all about putting his average joe characters into absurd situations (a bit like Kafka but perhaps with less surrealism and more existentialism?). I don’t know the ins and outs of this story other than the main character becomes somehow embroiled in a murder which turns out to be less than straightforward.
English edition: The Stranger
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Aya de Yopougon (tome 1)
I really enjoy the look and feel of this comic (or “bande dessinée“) and I find the story and characters super fun! The series follows 19-year-old Aya and the shenanigans of the characters in her neighbourhood of Yopougon in the Ivory Coast. It’s super refreshing seeing African stories that are fun and interesting where the drama isn’t heart-wrenching and the stakes aren’t so dire as the kinds of socio-politically charged stories that usually come to mind when I think of African literature.
I actually read the second volume of this in English already because it wasn’t clear to me which volume was which… So I’ve decided I will pick up the first volume in French, but I’m not sure if afterwards I will skip the second and buy the third or buy the second in French and possibly sell my English version of the second book or what. I’m also interested in picking up Abouet’s other comic series, Akissi in french (of which I already own and enjoyed the first book in English).
English edition: Aya
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Métaphysique des tubes
Last month I finished reading Amélie Nothomb’s Une forme de vie which I picked up at random from the Waterstones foreign language section just because it was French and it was short. I had so much fun reading it that I decided to look into more of Nothomb’s novels (all or most of which have been translated into English I think). She has an off-kilter sense of humour that really works for me and the premise for her novels all seem to intriguing and her writing feels slightly autobiographical in some small way that makes it feel very genuine. She has written at least one novel per year since she started her career at the age of 26 (she is now 51) so I have a lot to choose from.
Apparently the Japanese believe that all children are gods until their third birthday when they become normal boring humans like the rest of us. Métaphyisiques des tubes is the inner narrative of one of those little gods (who is well aware she is a god) from the age of two and a half up to her third birthday. The transitions, it seems, is not easy.
English edition: The Character of Rain
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I’m trying not to break my book buying ban because I still feel like I have too many unread books that deserve some dedicated time! But these are really tempting, sitting pretty in my virtual shopping basket as soon as I’m ready to hit “checkout” 😉