Monday, 30 January 2012

Daniel Pennac - The Scapegoat

Title: The Scapegoat (Malaussène serie, book 1)
Original title: Au bonheur des ogres (La Saga Malaussène, tome 1)
Author: Daniel Pennac
Pub. year: 1985
Pages: 256
Editor: Harvill Press

Summary: His title is Quality Controller, but Benjamin's function at The Store is scapegoat for the rage of the customers. So sweet is his nature, so pathetic and eloquent his contrition, that most indignant victims withdraw their complaints. But there is also the matter of the bombs that keep exploding not far from where Benjamin is standing. Naturally, he becomes the prime suspect, even as he and his journalist girlfriend, Julie, have begun to unearth an even deeper mystery, a sinister and sordid conspiracy whose unraveling wilt expose yet one more seam in the dark heart behind the beguiling veneer of contemporary Paris.

So, now that the John Green's special is over, let's talk about a French book!

I present to you the first book of the Malaussène serie. Definitely my favorite saga outside genres like fantasy, science fiction, ... The French title is clearly inspired by another French book from Emile Zola: Au bonheur des dames (which you could translate by The Ladies' Paradise), probably because both of them are mostly located in department stores. For the rest, it's pretty different, and much funnier.

Both complex and endearing, each character has his own personnality, and that is one of the most appealing things of this series. They're funny, eccentric, surprising and make you spend a really good moment with them. Especially, Benjamin Malaussene, whose bad luck led him to endorse his scapegoat role. Unfortunately for him, it's partly what makes this book so funny.
Moreover, he isn't the scapegoat only at work. He his one in his whole life. And his mother has the habit of falling in love, having a kid and letting him to Benjamin while she goes away with another man. Again and again. So he has to take care of his five half-siblings.

Daniel Pennac has this gift that makes me enjoy almost everything he writes. He has the ability to write about things that seem pretty incredible without being too caricatural and ruining the whole story.

Anyway, if THE Quentin Blake—who illustrates Roald Dahl stories—agreed to draw Pennac's Rights of the Readers, from his eponymous book, it surely shows the incredible talent of this writer, doesn't it?

EDIT 18/10/2013: A movie is now available in French theatres, based on this book!

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