my aim this month — more or less because i can — has been to post every 2-3 days. so far, i haven’t quite hit that. but i have found time — mostly on the t — to read some really good books i can tell you about! more five-minute book reviews: everyone’s favorite, right?
so today we have philippe claudel’s brodeck.
i read this in one sitting; it took about 3-4 hours; and it was entirely motivated by shame. i picked the book up at the brookline public library about — a month and a half ago, renewed it something like four times and was finally faced with having to return it the next day without ever having read it. like the man said, “not good! not good!”
so i read it and i returned it and so i don’t have a copy on hand from which i can quote excerpts that might convince you without me having to go on about it that reading this book is a really good idea.
be warned, though: it isn’t fun, but it is deceptively easy. i don’t know what claudel is like to read in french — i could do it, but it would take me way the hell longer than 4 hours! — but in english he reads something like a cross between primo levi and aleksander solzhenitsyn, and…something i can’t quite put my finger on. if i track it down, i’ll get back to you.
without spoilering anything too badly for you — and you really don’t want me to do that because claudel has spent a lot of time putting together some really delicate rakes in some really long grass and it would be a disservice to his effort for me to point them out — the story centers around and is told by brodeck, a returned prisoner from ‘the camps’ which were set up during ‘the war’ who has come back to his home village somewhere in what is probably eastern europe and is now faced with a demand from his fellow villagers: tell the story of their interaction with a stranger who came to town and is no now longer in town and do it right. what ‘right’ might be, brodeck isn’t exactly sure, but he’s pretty sure he knows and he’s even more sure he doesn’t like it, but he’s not sure what to do about it.
brodeck isn’t always a sympathetic narrator; sometimes he’s quite frustrating, doubling back on his own story, revising it, continually apologising to us for not being a real writer, for doubting himself, for repeating himself, for not being a stronger, cleverer, better writer or man. but despite his evasions and his own stated desire not to return to his own past, he ends up telling his story and the stranger’s inasmuch as he knows them. he’s not entirely sure of large sections of either one, having to make them up out of what other people have told him — voluntarily or inadvertently or through omission — or what he can guess for himself.
the thing this felt most like to me — apart from levi and maus
— was deadwood
. there’s a scene with pigs at the end of the second or third chapter that just shrieked al swearengen
to me. not that brodeck himself is in anyway like everyone’s favorite saloonkeeper; if he was going to be compared to anyone in the town, it would have to be doc, still continually caught in the aftermath of civil war battles.
and then for no particularly good reason except that it’s friday and i can, here’s another mst3k short i found resurrected on google videos: