I try to read German and French glaringly. Even though not fluent, the foreign modes of expression I find haltingly beautiful.
It has taken me ages and ages to read this book because it was a handbag book: I read it in coffee shops, in waiting rooms and on trains. I read it that way because I read the French edition, and I wanted to stop myself from consulting the dictionary every time I was stuck for a word. And even though this means I mainly read it at plot level and probably missed some of its nuances, I still loved reading it because it is a beautiful book.
En l’absence des hommes is a story of doomed love. Doomed because the story is set during WW1 when Vincent is 16, and his first love, Arthur, is destined for the carnage on the battlefront. And even though Vincent’s narrative is imbued with all the insouciance of youth, there is a melancholic tone which tells the reader that this is going to…
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