Book club: 6th session

Issue 15: 13/1/2023 Blue Pool Road News (Reflections and Achievements) 1ère

Alienor Pabiot presents Pour vous servir, by Véronique Mougin, following her reading of Chanson douce, from Leïla Slimani. The main character is a housekeeper, who needs to implement a growing number of various instructions and prohibitions. But she quickly understands that her man task is to remain invisible.

Alienor’s second presentation reflects on Josef Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, in the original English text and in the French translation. Marlowe is sent in Central Africa, and meets with Kurtz, who behaves like a local god, while pursuing his more trivial trafficking. Heart of Darkness, thus, also refers to the darkest aspects of the human condition.

Elise Bernard presents Dictature 2.0, from Olivier Mannoni. The authors reflects on the mass surveillance phenomenon, and on the use of camera monitoring in the streets. Worrying consequences such as the loss of individual freedom and the reinforcement of authoritarian states are studied.

Elise also finished her reading of L’Autre à distance, by Anne Muxel, which studies the long-term consequences of covid in society. Torn apart families, distrustful individuals in their relationship with Others, such effects might change our mode of living in a community.

Mrs Guidevay presents Regardez-nous danser, the second novel in Leila Slimani’s trilogy. The reader follows the Belhaj family in post-Protectorate Morrocco. The country lives under the rule of Hassan II, and the police represses any form of political opposition. The story tells how groups such as the emerging bourgeoise or the hippie movements try to oppose the repression that hits the country after the failed coup in July 1971.

Mr Loggia presents the novel Soleil au ventre, by Jean Hougron, published in 1952. It forms the third part of a series of 7 novels entitled “The Indochinese night”.

In his novel, as in the rest of his cycle, Hougron tells the story of the last years of French Indochina, through the eyes of the colonists. Unwilling to leave South-East Asia, where they settled, they witness with great pain the evolution towards a war of independence.

Unlike authors from the 1880s or the 1910s, Hougron does not rely on the literary devices of exoticism, and he does not celebrate the conquest of Indochina by France. He is more concerned by the representation of mourning and of nostalgia, for a world whose disappearance seems inevitable.

In the 1950s, Hougron was read and translated, until he somehow fell into oblivion in the following decades. But he is, with Boissière, Pouvourville, Loti, Malraux, or Duras, who all wrote about Indochina, one of the most brilliant and authentic writers of his time.

Mr Loggia presents Paradise, by Abdulrazak Gurnah, a Tanzanian writer born in Zanzibar, Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021.

The reader follows the journey of Yusuf, a young boy, whose life changes dramatically when his parents sell him to “Uncle Aziz”. The novel shows how, in this beginning of the 20th century, Africa is on the verge of losing its soul and its mysteries, under the threat of more European conquests.

Yanis Loggia
Professor of Literature