Anita Brookner, Mikhaïl Chevelev, Marie Cosnay, Erienne Jodelle… Brief reviews of the winter literary season

Anita Brookner, Mikhaïl Chevelev, Marie Cosnay, Erienne Jodelle… Brief reviews of the winter literary season

Eight novels, including two science fiction, two stories, two children’s books, poetry… These are brief descriptions of thirteen notable works in this first week of 2023.

NOVEL. “The loss of human warmth”, Bergsveinn Birgisson

An academic, well integrated into society and living in a stable relationship at home, wants to return to life at any cost “normally” his childhood friend, interned in a psychiatric hospital. “My Depressed Friend”, he calls her throughout the story, without mentioning her name or surname. During the journey through the country, a unique dialogue continues between these two people, each of whom wants to share with the other his vision of the world and his existential choices. However, gradually the boundaries disappear, the images that two people reflect on each other merge. Born in 1971, Bergsveinn Birgisson writes here a funny and disturbing novel about depression. His pair of protagonists resemble connected vessels, between which the contents circulate freely. But for the reader, the outcome of this circulation becomes increasingly uncertain as the text progresses. Yes, they are.

“The Loss of Human Warmth” (Kolbeinsey), Bergsveinn Birgisson, from Icelandic translated by Catherine Eyjolfsson, Gaïa, 283 pp., €22, digital €17.

NOVEL. “Lake Hotel” by Anita Brookner

A prudent initiative, Bartillat editions reissue a little gem of the British spirit, hotel on the lake. Published in 1984, this novel won the Booker Prize for its author, Anita Brookner (1928-2016)writer and art historian recently immortalized by Julian Barnes in Elizabeth Finch (Mercure de France, 2022) and which here, in the unpublished preface, classifies it among “the most brilliant and sensitive” his generation. Strike behind closed doors on Lake Geneva, hotel on the lake presents itself as a gallery of sharp portraits, inspired by the protagonist, the writer Edith Hope, by the residents of the institution. They “quality people” they hide their secret lives behind a curtain of opacity. But she, deceptively obedient Edith, what is she doing here? Why “terrible thing” is he trying to escape? Charm, twists and turns and cruelty in the deceptive immobility of alpine mists. Fl. N.

“Hôtel du lac”, Anita Brookner, translated from English by Solange Lecomte, foreword by Julian Barnes, Bartillat, 224 pp., €20.

YOUTH. “What the hell are we doing here”, Shaïne Cassim

“Actually, I don’t know if it’s possible to love each other like this. » Julian is in front of Patricia with trembling lips. They are in their twenties, vibrate intensely and avoid mediocrity. A young student lives her passion for cycling far beyond her years, feeding on literature as much as she needs to dance in the middle of parties where she doesn’t know anyone. It is populated by texts by Blaise Cendrars, often gets drunk and fights fiercely against “black wave” which regularly overwhelms him. what are we doing here is a novel about uncompromising and radiant love. However, it opens with a rupture. The elaborate construction allows you to gradually discover all the pieces of the puzzle, through the eyes of several characters. Patricia and Julian are invincible and fragile, and Shaïna Cassim’s writing draws the reader in, leaving them alternately elated and giddy. After several years of silence, Shaïne Cassim here gives new evidence of her talent for embracing children’s literature with authenticity and elegance. She carries her story high, sprinkles it with delicate references, confronts existential meanderings like the power of desire, and perfectly succeeds in turning her reader around. R. Bo.

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