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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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On Leave

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A long-lost French novel in which three soldiers return home from an unpopular, unspeakable war

When On Leave was published in Paris in 1957, as Frances engagement in Algeria became ever more bloody, it told people things they did not want to hear. It vividly described what it was like for soldiers to return home from an unpopular war in a faraway place. The book received a handful of reviews, it was never reprinted, it disappeared from view. With no outcome to the war in sight, its power to disturb was too much to bear.

     Through David Belloss translation, this lost classic has been rediscovered. Spare, forceful, and moving, it describes a week in the lives of a sergeant, a corporal, and an infantryman, each home on leave in Paris. What these soldiers have to say cant be heard, cant even be spoken; they find themselves strangers in their own city, unmoored from their lives. Full of sympathy and feeling, informed by the many hours Daniel Anselme spent talking to conscripts in Paris, On Leave is a timeless evocation of what the history books can never record: the shame and the terror felt by men returning home from war.

Review:

"This new translation of author and journalist Anselme's first novel (his second and last was 1964's Relations) not only introduces the English-speaking world to a forgotten classic, little-read since its 1957 debut, it fills the surprising silence in French literature regarding the Algerian War. The story concerns a brief soldiers' leave to Paris, as experienced by one Sergeant Lachaume. Together with his friends, the infantryman Lasteyrie and the corporal Valette, Lachaume represents all of the reluctant conscripts who, from 1954 to 1962, fought an unpopular war on behalf of France's settlers in Algeria, only to return to an ungrateful populace. Suffice to say, no hero's welcome awaits Lachaume, whose wife has left him and whose dearest friends keep their distance, sending him on a long and drunken bender from deserted train stations to dive bars, punctuated by encounters with lecturing Marxists, tragic soubrettes, and homeless ex-Legionnaires. Amidst all this, Anselme finds time for extended inquiries into French identity (including, cheekily, a discussion of the pleasures of eating frogs) and magnificent renderings of Parisian cityscape, often through the eyes of its less fortunate citizens. Strikingly, there are few recollections of the Algerian conflict itself — Anselme never served — but this is nevertheless the brief, elegiac, searching novel that one of France's most unpopular wars deserves." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Daniel Anselme was born Daniel Rabinovitch in 1927, and adopted the name Anselme while serving in the French Resistance with his father. Anselme traveled widely as a journalist, and was known as a raconteur and a habitué of Left Bank cafés. A vocal protester of Frances war with Algeria, he addressed the war in On Leave (1957), his first novel. Anselme published a second novel, Relations, in 1964; ran the journal Les Cahiers de Mai from 1968 to 1974; and was one of the leaders of Solidarity Radio in Paris in 1981-82. He published a semiautobiographical account of his wartime experiences called The Secret Companion in 1984, and died five years later in Paris. David Bellos is the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also a professor of French and comparative literature. He is the author of Is That a Fish in Your Ear? (Faber, 2011). Bellos has won many awards for his translations, including the Man Booker International Prize for translation. He received the Prix Goncourt for his biography of Georges Perec and has also written biographies of Jacques Tati and Romain Gary.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780865478954
Author:
Anselme, Daniel
Publisher:
Faber & Faber
Author:
Bellos, David
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
War & Military
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20140331
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Appendix/List of Works
Pages:
224
Dimensions:
7.5 x 5 in 1 lb

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On Leave New Hardcover
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Product details 224 pages Faber & Faber - English 9780865478954 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This new translation of author and journalist Anselme's first novel (his second and last was 1964's Relations) not only introduces the English-speaking world to a forgotten classic, little-read since its 1957 debut, it fills the surprising silence in French literature regarding the Algerian War. The story concerns a brief soldiers' leave to Paris, as experienced by one Sergeant Lachaume. Together with his friends, the infantryman Lasteyrie and the corporal Valette, Lachaume represents all of the reluctant conscripts who, from 1954 to 1962, fought an unpopular war on behalf of France's settlers in Algeria, only to return to an ungrateful populace. Suffice to say, no hero's welcome awaits Lachaume, whose wife has left him and whose dearest friends keep their distance, sending him on a long and drunken bender from deserted train stations to dive bars, punctuated by encounters with lecturing Marxists, tragic soubrettes, and homeless ex-Legionnaires. Amidst all this, Anselme finds time for extended inquiries into French identity (including, cheekily, a discussion of the pleasures of eating frogs) and magnificent renderings of Parisian cityscape, often through the eyes of its less fortunate citizens. Strikingly, there are few recollections of the Algerian conflict itself — Anselme never served — but this is nevertheless the brief, elegiac, searching novel that one of France's most unpopular wars deserves." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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