©2011 Éditions Gallimard (P)2012 Éditions Gallimard
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Prix Goncourt 2011.
This is the boldest French novel I have heard/read in a while. I can see why it earned the author - an unknown biology teacher from Lyon - not only a book deal with Gallimard, but also the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2011.
First and foremost, the novel holds no punches in examining crucial questions of French identity. This includes an exploration of the relationship between French citizens and the military, racism and de Gaulle.
More specifically, it tells the story of a soldier, Victorien Salagnon, who fights in wars for a twenty-year period (in WWII, Indochina and Algeria) between 1942 to 1962. At the same time, it follows the narrator of the story in modern France as he grapples with the effects of these years (and the lack of open discussion about them) on his own life and France in general.
Though the narrative can sometimes drag (or maybe that was just my French listening skills that made it seem so), the book really comes alive as the narrator presents his often brilliant and thought-provoking analyses of modern France in various asides throughout the novel.
The audiobook is abridged, but not significantly. For every 100 pages of text maybe 5 are skipped.
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