Monday, 4 July 2011

Stephen Clarke - A Year in the Merde

Title: A Year in the Merde (Paul West, book 1)
Author: Stephen Clarke
Pub. year: 2005
Pages: 383
Editor: Black Swan

Summary : They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings.
They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after pétanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories. In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a laugh-out-loud account of the pleasures and perils of being a Brit in France. A Year in the Merde tells you how to get served by the grumpiest Parisian waiter; how to make amour -not war; and how to buy a house in the French countryside.

This book is a window to France for English speakers, especially English people. I found it interesting to discover this point of view on my country, and even more to share it with you as a French person. The author is quite realistic about France even if he draws a negative portrait of it. Luckily, he sees positive stuff in it as well.

The narrator is a sarcastic English man who discovers the hexagone and tries not to complain too much about the local English accent. He gets used to the numerous strikes and explains the differences there are between the two countries.

I have to say that all of it is not exactly true, and that some of it isn't true at all for me, but maybe that depends on where you live in France. Paris doesn't really reflect the life anywhere else in France on a lot of aspects. And obviously, he chose extreme characters to serve his purpose-most of them not really representative of our population. But I guess it would have been a little bit boring to pick "normal" people.

Even though I liked discovering this vision of France, I regretted that Paul West was so obsessed with dog shit, strikes and sex. I mean, it's funny at first, but after a while it becomes a bit boring and at some point, the reader stops enjoying the book for a moment. Apart from that, it was fun to read.

I read the second book, Merde Actually, but it's not worth mentionning. The narrator goes to the countryside but nothing really happens for the first half of the book, and the second half is still less entertaining than the first book. I also have Merde Happens in my TBR Pile but since I didn't really enjoy the 2nd, I don't really feel like reading it anymore... not before a long time, anyway.

Quotes :

"It's a sort of dyslexia. You know dyslexia?"
"Yes," Alexa nodded, peeling a ripe purple fig with painful symbolism.
"I'm in some way dyslexic. Or colour-blind. Some people can't make out the meaning in words or the differences between colours - I can't make out dog turds. I'm shitlexic."

"The Unions were furious that the government had been rumoured to be thinking about considering the possibility of maybe looking into the purely theoretical concept that it might one day (not now but in, say, 80 years' time) be less able to pay for transport workers to retire at 50"

"And in a similar vain, the rural party promised to change the law on endangered species so that hunters could now shoot dodos, unicorns, mermaids and American tourists."

2 commentaires:

I used to read this one and thought quite the same as you: Funny, but not exceptional.

Didn't try the others, though "1000 Years of Annoying the French" is quite tempting me =)

It tempted me too but it's quite big and seeing my last desappointement with the author works I'm not sure I want to start such a big book by him.

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