Sunday, September 4, 2011

Recent Reads

An Englishman in Paris was an easy read for me while I was travelling in France. It's funny - largely because I can see myself in it, and it also provokes some self examination. He pokes fun of the french to some extent, however he dmonstrates how it all begins to make sense - the way the french see things, the way they do things - kind of becomes 'normal'. As a foriegner in France recently, I enjoyed Sadlers stories as I tooo experienced them, and I noted just how much it become 'normal' after onyl 7 weeks in France.

This is the story of one mans journey of discovery as he spends a year in Paris..to educate himself in the mysterious ways of the continent...Abraisive and tender, naive and in the know, An Englishman in Paris is a sharp, hilarious and afectionate loook at our [UK's] nearest neighbours and the nature of foreignness.

I particularly enjoyed his retelling of the story of how he became accepted by the local blokes at the local cafe. The bar at the cafe made out of metal becomes known as 'la zinc' becomes the centre of his afterhours discoveries. In chapter six, Sadler reflects 'most evenings round about a quartier to eight a group of local commercants - butcher, fishmonger, wine merchant - meet at the bar for an aperitif. I envied their particular French kind of comaraderie. They'd kiss each other several times, tweek cheeks, pummel shoulders, and thimp backs as if they were trying to dilodge a trout fishbone. I'd love to be bruised by mes copains.... Well, there comes a time when the local blokes accept l'etranger. Later in the book he retells 'the club looked at each other and nodded in agreement. I had passed the test........ and they winked at me'.

I think many foreigners long to be accepted by the French, and Sadlers story captures the fragility of that possibility. One needs time, committment and passion to persue the friendship of the French. All of which I too have found true and I believe I have (on occassions) passed that test.


My first book for this years Japanese Literature Challenge - Hard-boiled Wonderland and The End of the World. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed Mrakami's work, although I think this work (one of his earlier ones) was quite different to many others I have also enjoyed. I've previously blogged about how I have enjoyed the surealism and fantasy of Murakami novels. While I think those elements were present in this one, I dont think they were quite as bizzare.

The book cover reads 'Science fiction, detective story and post modern anifesto all rolled into one rip roaring novel.... tracking one mans descent into the kafkaesque underworld of contemporary Tokyo, Murakami unites East and West, tragedy and frace, compassion and detachment, slang and philosophy. The result is a wildly inventive fantasy and a meditation on the many uses of the mind.

I just dont think it was as full of those contrasts as the cover suggests. It was easy to read once you had the pictures in mind, and it was interesting enough to want to know what all this has to do with each other. But it wasn't as 'out of this world' as some of his other novels.

Still, enjoyable and creative, allowing an escapism one sometime needs in a novel, and infused with the Japanese character.

2 comments:

Jeanie said...

I must read An Englishman in France before I visit again! Just finished reading a book you might enjoy called "We Might as Well Win" by Johan Bruyneel -- which covers many of his tours with Lance A. and Contador, his own cycling career. There are even mentions of a tough Australian competitor named Cadel!

Parrish Lantern said...

I enjoyed Murakami's book and found it maybe not as surreal as some it still left you pondering the authors intent. Which is one of the reasons I like this writer, the stories stay longer than the finished page.