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Monsieur Linh and His Child Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: MacLehose Press (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857050990
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857050991
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 12.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Like all good fables, it conveys the sense of a greater significance beyond itself' Daniel Hahn, Independent.

'There is nothing sentimental about the prose, which is as restrained and delicate as a piece of Indochinese artwork' Ophelia Field, Guardian.

'This is an extraordinary, powerful and moving novel of the refugee experience ... Highly recommended' Sarah Bower, Historical Novels Society.

'A delicately sympathetic portrayal of trauma, as well as a poignant evocation of guilt' Maya Jaggi, Guardian.

'An exquisitely crafted little gem of a book' Rebecca Isherwood, Skinny.

'Exquisite' Allan Massie, Scotsman.

'an impossibly elegant novel, one that makes you sort of wistful at the beauty of the words and their meaning' Black Sheep Dances.

'Claudel maintains a simplicity and sensitivity throughout the book, mirroring the compassion and sympathy that the men share for each other' The Irish Times.

From the Inside Flap

Traumatized by memories of his war-ravaged country, and with his son and daughter-in-law dead, Monsieur Linh travels to a foreign land to bring the child in his arms to safety. The other refugees in the detention centre are unsure how to help the old man; his case-workers are compassionate, but overworked. Struggling beneath the weight of his sorrow, Monsieur Linh becomes increasingly bewildered in this unfamiliar, fast-moving town, and then he encounters Monsieur Bark. They do not speak each other's language, but Monsieur Bark is sympathetic to the foreigner's need to care for the child. Recently widowed and equally alone, he is eager to talk, and Monsieur Linh knows how to listen. The two men share their solitude, and find friendship in an unlikely dialogue between two very different cultures. Monsieur Linh and His Child, limpid, immensely moving, is a novel of perfect simplicity with an extraordinary twist.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Niall Alexander on 29 Mar. 2011
Format: Hardcover
"An old man is standing on the after-deck of a ship. In his arms he clasps a flimsy suitcase and a newborn baby, even lighter than the suitcase. The old man's name is Monseiur Linh. He is the only person who knows this is his name because all those who once knew it are dead." (p.1)

So begins Monsieur Linh and His Child: bitter and sweet and wistful - the very notes on which the curtain closes, come the occasion - it is a Kafka-esque elegy of friendship which handily sustains the sense of uncomplicated beauty evidenced above over its abbreviated course. A 2005 novella, lately translated from the French by Euan Cameron, from Philippe Claudel, author of Brodeck's Report and erstwhile director of the sublime foreign-language film I've Loved You So Long, at 100 small-format pages of oversized font, Monseiur Linh and His Child is in stature hardly more than a short story, but it has all the emotional impact of a gut-punch to the soul.

There is an old man, and a fat man. A doddering refugee from a war-torn state whose only reason for living is the infant girl he clutches tight against his chest, rescued miraculously from the battlefield on which her entire family lay dead, and a cheery chain-smoker with a penchant for hot toddies who hasn't connected with anyone since his wife passed away. One day, they sit on the same bench. So begins a friendship that will come to mean much to Monsieur Linh and his bench-fellow, Bark.

"He recalls the touch of the old man's hand when he placed it on his shoulder. He then remembers that he is alone in the world, with his little girl. Alone together. That his country is far away. That his country is no longer there, so to speak. That it is nothing but fragments of memories and dreams that survive on in his weary old man's head." (p.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amy Henry on 26 Mar. 2012
Format: Hardcover
Translated from the French by Euan Cameron

"Sitting on this bench which, within the space of just two days, has become a familiar little spot, a chunk of floating wood he could cling to in the midst of a strange, broad, swirling torrent. And nestling cosily against him he clasps the last twig of the branch, sleeping its fearless sleep for the time being, without melancholy or sadness; that sleep of a satisfied infant, happy to have found the warmth of the skin it loves, its pleasant smoothness and the caress of a loving voice."

Monsieur Linh has lost almost everything: his wife, his son, and even his city, as war has displaced him and made him a refugee in a French city. To his joy, he has one remaining connection to the past and a hope for the future: his infant granddaughter. Brought with him on the rough journey to France, his only concern is her safety and welfare. In the crowded refugee center, he quietly launders her baby clothes, holds her as she sleeps, and in his traditional garb, becomes an eccentric sight to the other visitors. During the day, he takes her out walking for fresh air.

"'I am your grandfather,' Monsieur Linh tells her, `and we are together, there are two of us, the only two, the last two. But don't be afraid, I am here, nothing can happen to you. I am old, but I'll still have enough strength, as long as it is needed, as long as you are a little green mango in need of an old mango tree.'"

It's on these walks that he finds the wood park bench described above, where he watches the city go by and tries to make sense of its foreign tongue. Soon he meets Monsieur Bark, another man beset by losses, and both find the bench to be their place to come to grips with their pasts and the uncertain future.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kiwiflora on 23 Sept. 2013
Format: Paperback
Translated from the French, this is 130 pages of the most exquisite and perfect writing. This little book will touch your soul and leave both a lingering sadness and joy at what the human soul can desire and find.

Monsieur Linh is an elderly Vietnamese refugee who has endured a long journey by boat with his baby grand daughter and one old suitcase. He has seen his homeland destroyed by foreign soldiers, his village, fields, buildings and population burnt and killed, including his son and daughter-in-law. All that is left is the baby, Sang diu. Monsieur Linh arrives in a city in France, and is moved to a refugee centre where he lives in a dormitory like place with other refugees. He is lonely, homesick, deeply traumatised, only living to devote his whole self to his care of the child.

One day, having gone out for a walk to give Sang diu some air, he meets Monsieur Bark, an elderly gentleman whose wife has recently died. The two of them strike up a most unusual but strangely beautiful friendship, as of course neither can understand the other. But both feel the pain and loss in the other, and both are soothed by voice of the other, the body language, the smiles, and genuine attempts at understanding. Things go terribly awry when Monsieur Linh is suddenly moved out of the refugee centre to an old people's home some distance away. But he never gives up hope or the determination that he and the baby will be ok, and that he will see Monsieur Bark again.

This could be a book set in any time or in any city. It has the universal themes of war, displacement, hope, humanity and love. We live in times where millions of people have been forced to leave their entire lives behind, often having witnessed the murders and deaths of their loved ones.
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