World Book Café travels to Paris to meet some of the French capital’s newest writers. Authors Mahir Guven, Blandine Rinkel, Laurent Petitmangin and Capucine Delattre discuss taking on the literary establishment and finding new ways to express themselves. Like many places in the world, questions of equality, diversity and freedom of expression are top of the agenda in France. But it is complicated; the ideal of universalism - meaning every citizen is considered to be the same regardless of class or ethnicity - is at the heart of the French republic. Does this 'universalism' leave space for the 21st Century desire to celebrate difference, and how can writing help reconcile these complex ideas?
Image: The skyline of Paris, 9 December 2022 (Credit: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters)
Marie Darrieussecq: Pig Tales
This month World Book Club visits Paris, France to be guests of the iconic bookshop on the Left Bank of the River Seine, Shakespeare & Co. There Harriett Gilbert and a bookshop audience talk to acclaimed French writer Marie Darrieussecq about her extraordinary novel Pig Tales.
Pig Tales is the story of a young woman who works at a shady Parisian massage parlour, becoming a favourite with her lustful clients until, that is, she slowly and alarmingly metamorphoses into a pig.
A dark feminist fable of political and sexual corruption, and a grim warning of what can happen in a society without a soul, Pig Tales scandalised its readers when it first came out and became the most popular first novel published in decades.
(Picture: Marie Darrieussecq. Photo credit: Charles Freger.)
Ayelet Gundar-Goshen: Waking Lions
Driving too fast through Israel’s Negev desert in his SUV after a long day in the hospital, Dr Eitan Green accidentally hits a lone Eritrean man on the empty moonlit road, killing him instantly.
Panic stricken he drives off instead of calling for help and confessing what he’s done. A decision that will change the course of his life irrevocably because the dead man’s wife, the elegant, enigmatic Sikrit, knows what happened. In atonement for his crime Sikrit insists the doctor start treating Eritrean refugees after his hospital dayshifts at clandestine makeshift hospitals in the desert.
A nail-biting and morally devastating drama of guilt, racism, shame and desire which stares unflinchingly at the darkness inside us all, and asks the reader: what would you have done?
(Picture: Ayelet Gundar-Goshen. Photo credit: Alon Siga.)
Anuk Arudpragasam: A Passage North
A Passage North explores the impact of the vicious Sri Lankan civil war between Tamil and Sinhalese which tore Sri Lanka apart for two and a half decades before a fragile ceasefire was finally reached in 2009. When Krishan learns that his grandmother’s former carer Rani has died he makes the long journey north to attend the funeral across a country still traumatised and scarred by its recent past.
Written with precision and grace, A Passage North is a poignant memorial for the missing and the dead, and an unsettling meditation on what it means to have observed the war from afar rather than to have been personally caught up in its horrors.
(Picture: Anuk Arudpragasam. Photo credit: Ruvin De Silva.)
Sunjeev Sahota - The Year of the Runaways
World Book Club travels to The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield in England, as guests of The Off the Shelf Festival and talks to local prize-winning Sheffield writer Sunjeev Sahota about his compelling novel, The Year of the Runaways.
Voyaging from India to England, from childhood to the present day, Sunjeev Sahota's heart-rending novel follows a group of young men each in flight from India and desperately searching for a new and fulfilling life in the northern British town of Sheffield. Tarlochan is silent about his past in Bihar, and Avtar has a secret that binds him to protect the traumatized Randeep. Randeep has a visa wife living separately in a flat nearby, who constantly dreads a surprise call from the immigration authorities.
An unforgettable story of dignity in the face of adversity and of the enduring power of the human spirit.
(Picture: Sunjeev Sahota. Photo credit: Simon Revill.)