Tag: Marcel Proust

Lullaby by Leïla Slimani

Posted August 17, 2018 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 2 Comments

Lullaby by Leïla SlimaniTitle: Lullaby (Goodreads)
Author: Leïla Slimani
Translator: Sam Taylor
Published: Faber & Faber, 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Paperback

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At the beginning of the year Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (The Perfect Nanny in North America) was getting a lot of attention. It tells the story of Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer who is anxious to get back to work after giving birth to her second child. Before doing so, they must find the perfect nanny to take care of their children. Louise is a polite and quiet woman who goes above and beyond looking after the two children but is she really the perfect nanny?

Leïla Slimani is a French-Moroccan journalist who lives in Paris with her two young children. My interpretation of this novel is that Leïla Slimani let all her insecurities about leaving her children with a nanny play out on the page. There is a constant feeling of fear and jealousy that it explored inside Myriam’s mind. It is this realism that makes Lullaby a novel worth reading.

Lullaby won the Prix Goncourt in 2016 which is one of France’s most prestigious literary awards. Winners of this prize include Marcel Proust for In Search of Lost Time, Simone de Beauvoir (The Mandarins), and Marguerite Duras with her amazing novel The Lover. With this type of prestige behind the prize, it is not surprising that Leïla Slimani’s Chanson douce was translated so quickly.

The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.

This is a dark glimpse into the mind of motherhood, something I would pair with Die, My Love. It must have been very therapeutic for Leïla Slimani to write out this novel and explore the feeling of returning to the work force. I do not know if this is autobiographical in any way, I just base my assumption on the similarities of Myriam and Leïla. I understand why North America called this novel The Perfect Nanny but honestly the French title Chanson douce translates to soft song. Sam Taylor is the translator for both, I am just a little wary about the accuracy of the text when the title is vastly different from the original. Lullaby is a quick and thrilling read that will make you feel uncomfortable. This is not for everyone but for fans of dark fiction, it is worth checking out.


Bonjour Tristesse and A Certain Smile by Françoise Sagan

Posted November 28, 2015 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Classic / 2 Comments

Bonjour Tristesse and A Certain Smile by Françoise SaganTitle: Bonjour Tristesse (Goodreads)
Author: Françoise Sagan
Translator: Heather Lloyd
Published: Penguin, 2013
Pages: 217
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Paperback

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Françoise Sagan become an overnight sensation in 1954 which the publication of her first novel Bonjour Tristesse. At the age of 18, she published the novel she will be remembered for; the story of Cécile, a seventeen year old living with her widowed father and his mistress on the French Riviera. During an uneventful summer, an old friend of her late mother comes and stirs the peaceful balance of their summer villa.

Not knowing much about Françoise Sagan, I could not determine just how autobiographical Bonjour Tristesse might have been. I do know that Sagan, much like Cécile was kicked out of school and both enjoyed the bourgeois lifestyle. Sagan is a pseudonym (real name Françoise Quoirez) that was taken from the character Princesse de Sagan from Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perd (In Search of Lost Time). I expect that much of this novel is semi-autobiographical because she managed to perfectly capture the narcissism, emotions and angst of teenage life.

In 1955, a censored translation of Bonjour Tristesse hit the shelves for English speaking readers. It was only recently with Heather Lloyd’s translation that we able to enjoy an uncensored edition. Not that there was much of a reference to sex in the novel anyway. This new translation also packaged Françoise Sagan’s second novel, A Certain Smile into the one book. A novel about Dominique, who bored with her lover, starts an affair with a much older married man.

I found that Françoise Sagan likes to play with ideas of morality and pleasure, while also exploring just how problematic a wealthy and carefree life can be. She likes to look at the disillusionment of the bourgeois characters and explore the emotions that she must have been facing herself. In a lot of ways, I tend to associate the angsty style of Sagan with The Sorrows of Young Werther. Françoise Sagan and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe both managed to capture the intensity of emotions in their novels that I have not experienced in more recent books.

 Bonjour Tristesse is a stronger novel than A Certain Smile, but I think both books are worth experiencing. I feel like Bonjour Tristesse had a depth that was not found in A Certain Smile. Both come in at about 120 pages each and A Certain Smile might have benefited with more pages, to fill in the plot and characters a lot more. I enjoy the style of Françoise Sagan and I hope to get a chance to read a few more of her other novels. I wonder what age and life experience does to her writing style.


A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgård

Posted October 9, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Contemporary / 0 Comments

A Death in the Family by Karl Ove KnausgårdTitle: A Death in the Family (Goodreads)
Author: Karl Ove Knausgård
Translator: Don Bartlett
Series: Min Kamp #1
Published: Harvill Secker, 2009
Pages: 400
Genres: Contemporary
My Copy: Library Book

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A Death in the Family is the first book in the controversial six volume series by Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård. The controversy started with the title of the book Min Kamp, which is the same title as Hitler’s Mein Kampf as both translate to My Struggle. Secondly, while these are marketed as autobiographical novels, Knausgård has come under fire from friends and families for exposing their private lives. Karl Ove Knausgård has been often been called a Proustian and Min Kamp often compared to In Search of Lost Time. That is just enough pretention to make me want to pick up these novels and read them.

A Death in the Family (or My Struggle Book 1 in America) tells the story of Karl Ove Knausgård, a family man living in Sweden, trying to find the balance between his writing and his family. He reflects on his childhood and teenage years, as well as the loss of his father in what feels like a brutally honest portrayal of his life. What is interesting is the idea of this being an autobiographical novel rather than a memoir; as a reader I had to continuously remind myself of this fact. I had to question what is real and were liberties were taken. Honestly, I don’t think I could write about my childhood with such clarity and I suspect that the fiction was used to fill in the gaps and tell a better story.

Karl Ove Knausgård is approaching middle age, and with a young family I suspect that this six volume series is just a way for him to make sense of his life. Allowing him to work through issues and mistakes and explore different ideas he might have towards life. This is both an effective and fascinating insight of the life of a writer and I suspect it would have been very therapeutic for Knausgård, even if it caused friends or family members to hate him. As a novel, it is a roller coaster of emotions; sometimes it might come across as slow or even dull but that is life.

This first volume is even divided into two parts, one exploring the childhood/teenage years of Karl Ove and the other the death of his father. To understand the death of his father, obviously his childhood played a big part; his mother was almost invisible, always at work or somewhere and his father was distant and unpredictable. We often have a rose-coloured memory of our childhood but as Knausgård reflects on his past, you can recognise a similar distorted view in your own life. Karl Ove has a dark view on the world and death; it is interesting read this book in the context as he tries to understand his father and his death at such a young age.

While I can’t compare Karl Ove Knausgård to Marcel Proust (I really need to read him) or Min Kamp with In Search of Lost Time, I’m glad to have read this novel. I have reserved A Man in Love (Book 2) and I plan to read all six books. I like Knausgård’s view on the world and find it fascinating to read his books as he works through his own issues. His writing style obviously helps, I found great beauty in the dark and macabre views and credit has to go to Don Bartlett for the translation.

My only problem is going to be the fact that only the first three books of My Struggle have been translated and published. I suspect I will be caught up on this series very soon and I will have begin the year long waits between volumes. Book Four is expected in April 2015 and I am never going to learn Norwegian to avoid the wait. I have always shyed away from a series that is incomplete because of the wait but this sounded right up my alley and thought I had to try at least the first book; that was a mistake.

This was a pleasant balance between literary fiction and self-reflection. Karl Ove Knausgård even threw in some of his philosophical views; I remember some references to Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in the text. This was so much more than an autobiographical novel of bewilderment, grief, relationship, love, loss and rock music; hard to explain but I recommend you experience it. Even if you just wish to increase your book snobbery levels, Karl Ove Knausgård’s My Struggle series is going to be something to watch. I suspect this will become a literary sensation, if it has not become one yet.


How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Bottom

Posted December 4, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Non-Fiction / 6 Comments

How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de BottomTitle: How Proust Can Change Your Life (Goodreads)
Author: Alain de Bottom
Published: Picador, 1997
Pages: 215
Genres: Non-Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

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À la recherche du temps perdu or In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust is probably the one book all bookish people are afraid to tackle. It is only a few pretentious people that have actually read it, and I plan to be one of them. Alain de Bottom has put together a collection of essays on what Proust can offer to today’s readers.

In my reading slump, which I’m debating whether it was real or not, I only felt like reading non-fiction. I picked this book because I felt like this would be a quick read and I was interested to know more about Proust and the book In Search of Lost Time. This book doesn’t really offer any good insights  to   these two topics. I think this is a book designed to try and convince people into reading In Search of Lost Time but I feel that anyone reading this one would have or are planning to read it anyway.

There is a little about the life of Marcel Proust, but only enough to give you a small taste. This left me more intrigued by the man and wanting to read a biography. De Bottom left me confused about the life of Proust and I had too many questions left unanswered. This really didn’t help this book at all, especially since Proust is an enigma (to me) and the tiny parts he shared about his life didn’t explain anything.

When it came to talking about À la recherche du temps perdu I was left thinking about the Monty Python skit about the “Summarise Proust Competition” where each contestant is given 15 seconds to try and summarise In Search of Lost Time (all seven volumes). In fact this skit was mentioned in this book as well, but trying to condense 4,000+ pages in 200 pages is not effective. My understanding of In Search for Lost Time, is that it is incredibly complex, intricate and descriptive, not a book you can summarise.

I feel like this was almost pointless, it left me with too many unanswered thoughts and no real answers. I’m none the wiser about Proust or In Search of Lost Time. There were some antidotes that were interesting but all in all, I feel like I wasted my time. I want to work my way through the seven volumes of In Search of Lost Time but I’m not sure if I can manage it. I wonder if anyone has any tips; reading this book wasn’t the answer.


Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

Posted July 2, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Top Ten Tuesday / 0 Comments

I don’t normally participate in Top Ten Tuesday, which is a book blogger meme that is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. But due to not having a post planned today and the fact I couldn’t resist the topic today, I thought ‘why not’. I suspect most people are going to go for the big classics that people expect you to read, so I thought I might add some other books too. So in no particular order;

10. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Have you seen Liberal Arts? There is a scene where Jesse (Josh Radnor’s character) decided to read an unnamed popular vampire novel (Twilight) just so he can properly see what is wrong with it. I feel like I might have to do the same.

9. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I don’t really enjoy reading Fantasy, so I’m not looking forward to these high fantasy novels.

8. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
I watched the miniseries and was so bored, but that could be because Eddie Redmayne has no facial expressions.

7. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
I’m expecting that my experience to this book will be similar to that of The Book Thief. Everyone loves it and I’ll think it was overrated.

6. Anything by D.H. Lawrence
After my hatred for Lady Chatterley’s Love I’m too afraid to try this author again.

5. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
Have you tried to read this one?

4. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
I was satisfied with the ending of The Hunger Games, I don’t feel the need to continue except there is a movie coming out.

3. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Heavy stuff, but someone’s got to read it.

2. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
My wife loves this book and I don’t want to end up hating books she loves (see Outlander)

1. In Search of Lost Time (Remembrance of Things Past) by Marcel Proust
Long and unfinished, I’m not sure what to expect from this one.