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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Sold the World?
There is a question mark at the end of that title for my review. I'm not sure. Beautifully written in a soft spoken voice without a real hint of bitterness or anger - after being dealt a life-hand that would leave most of us cringeing in a corner or railing against the injustice of it all. A story that unfolds with some subtelty towards its enevitable beginning. You...
Published on 5 Nov. 2010 by Moz

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Almost a masterpiece but ... clumsy ending.
Up until the last chapter I would have given this book 5 stars. It is an easy read, beautiful and profound.

However, for me, it all goes wrong in the last chapter where the author seems to have self-consciously attempted a modern/fashionable ending with explicitly confounding and ambiguous language. Had the character simply left the village with his family the...
Published on 4 Feb. 2012 by R. T.


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Sold the World?, 5 Nov. 2010
By 
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
There is a question mark at the end of that title for my review. I'm not sure. Beautifully written in a soft spoken voice without a real hint of bitterness or anger - after being dealt a life-hand that would leave most of us cringeing in a corner or railing against the injustice of it all. A story that unfolds with some subtelty towards its enevitable beginning. You always sorta know what's about to be revealed just before it is.
I loved this book, although the ending was a little anticlimatic. I had built my expectations too high. It is the story of a man and his village, the war and its aftermath, a stranger and the consequences of his arrival. It is the telling of the story and the journey of the man (Brodeck) that holds me spellbound. Very readable, full of horrific images that succeed in being thought provoking rather than gratuitous. It is one man's experience and the consequences of a Stranger's arrival, his impact on post war village life. It may not sound that great but, believe me, it is. Haunting
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting masterpiece, 12 Feb. 2010
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
It is after the Second World War, but Claudel's descriptions often call to mind a more ancient world of monumental, gnarled villagers; and the way he writes about scenery evokes now some illuminated manuscript, now paintings by Brueghel. The village is not named, but we are obviously in Alsace: the villagers have German names, and they use words in a twisted (invented?) German dialect.

Brodeck is one of them, but, unlike the others, he is far from monumental. He is timid and quivers with anxiety after his appalling experiences in a concentration camp from which he had recently returned. (There are hints, never made explicit, that he was of Jewish origin.) He has an insignificant job reporting to the local administration on the state of the local paths and streams, fauna and flora.

The villagers have murdered a man who had come to the village from Outside and whom from the beginning they had called the `Anderer' [sic - the Other], and later, more ominously, the `Fremder' [Foreigner]. Brodeck had not been present at the murder, but because he is a reporter, the villagers force him to write a report for the mayor of the village to pass on to the authorities. He had not been present because he was himself something of an Outsider, having been brought to the village as an orphan child soon after the First World War, and then having returned to it from the camp when those who had denounced him to the Germans had presumed him dead. (Just how much of an Outsider or `Fremder' he has always been considered emerges later.) It is clear from the start that the task he has been given is dangerous: for before he can carry it out, he has to question himself and others about the circumstances which had led to the murder.

He zigzags back and forth between shards of memory. Many of course concern the enigmatic Anderer who had been seen sketching or writing things into his notebooks, but who hardly ever spoke. The tension that builds up around him grips not only the villagers, but the reader also.

Other memories recall Brodeck's horrifying past experiences: the inhumanity of men in the mass, a murderous city riot, life and death in the camps. We learn how the villagers had behaved under the occupation of the Germans, who are referred to throughout as `Fratergekeime' [brother brood? because they spoke the same language?]: the betrayals of frightened collaborators, willing collaborators, penitent collaborators. None of them can now bear to see the truths about themselves.

Brodeck recalls oppressive heat and freezing cold (the weather often plays the part of a chorus), smells of cooking, of smoke, of farm animals, of ordure, of decaying corpses and of perfumes. There is his love - its pathos becomes clearer as the story progresses - for his wife, his young daughter, and for the wise old woman who has looked after him as nurse and housekeeper ever since she had brought him as an orphan to the village.

There are some near-surrealistic incidents, and passages rich in similes and symbolism. A haunting work of art.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing novel on every level...., 25 May 2009
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Hardcover)
I read Claudel's Grey Souls when it came out here a few years ago and when I saw he'd written another book, I bought it at once. I was not disappointed. This is an astonishing book. It's a fable about the Holocaust, or aspects of the Holocaust but is not like any other novel you've read on the subject. Because the village in which it takes place is never located precisely on a map. because the language might be German but might also not be; because the characters could all have come out of some hideous fairytale; because the language is plain and clear and uncluttered the power of the story is extraordinary. It's also unputdownable. I can't emphasise enough how good it is and I can't think why this author isn't more talked about and better known as a writer. He's very well-known as a movie director but it's his novels that are his greatest achievements in my opinion. Don't miss this one.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Novel of a Chilling Crime in a Small Village, 22 Sept. 2009
By 
Feanor (London, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Hardcover)
This is absolutely superb. It is the tale of outsiders in an isolated village, and how no matter how many decades an outsider spends in such a village, he will always be an outsider, and when push comes to shove, the outsider is the first to go. So what do we have here? Brodeck is the one educated man in this village somewhere in the Alsace region of France, in the period between the world wars. He had arrived there as a child and the villagers, recognising his academic potential, paid for his post-school education. When the German army marched into the village in 1940, the villagers denounced him as an outsider and he was dispatched into the concentration camps, where by means of sheer will and self-abnegation he survives and returns to the village, to find that his family has been raped and ruined. For some reason he continues to live in the village, and all the guilt and sins of the villagers are somehow buried into their subconscious. But of course this doesn't last long - when a colourful visitor appears in their midst and settles down amongst them and reflects the poisons in their natures back to them in a series of innocent paintings, the villagers kill him. As an educated man, it's Brodeck (who had nothing to do with it) tasked with writing up an account of events to the judicial authorities to exonerate the villagers' action. Brodeck complies but also writes up a separate account for his own sanity, and that is what the readers see. All manner of sickness dwells in the hearts of men, and no amount of goodness can keep it at bay. Eventually, the wicked and the strong tend to win. This is a powerful work.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brodeck's Report, 8 May 2011
By 
N. A. Spencer - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
I decided to read Brodeck's Report on the strength of a novel I had read called Grey Souls which was also written by Philippe Claudel. The novel is narrated by Brodeck and is set in France around the end of the Second World War. One day a stranger arrives at the remote village where Brodeck lives, however, his presence seems to cause suspicion and unrest amongst his fellow villagers. Following a period of time some of the villagers decide to take matters into their own hands to rid the village of this stranger. The stranger is murdered, and as Brodeck is seen as 'being the only educated one in the village', purely because he had once lived away from the village, the culprits join force to persuade him to write a report on the incident.
The book is much more than a prosaic report on the events that led to the murder, and even though the narrative does move back and forth in time as Brodeck recollects thoughts from his past I did not feel this affected the overall enjoyment of the novel. There are some really thought provoking sections in the book as Brodeck reminisces on his time in a concentration camp and the cruelty his captors were willing to inflict on their fellow human beings. However, there were also more cheerful sections as Brodeck described the joy of meeting his wife and the development of their love.
There are far more questions raised and situations explored within this novel than the two examples mentioned above, with the author exploring such human traits as trust, alienation, envy and betrayal.
I really enjoyed Brodeck's Report and find Claudel's descriptive and contemplative style a joy to read and would recommend him wholeheartedly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful and moving, 16 Jun. 2012
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
Brodeck's Report is one of those books seemingly written just to make you think. Set in a mysterious village located in German speaking France during and after the Second World War, it tells the story of how the closed village community deals with a surprising newcomer.

The introverted nature and subject matter of the book forces the reader to consider his/her own ideas about change and newness. There are episodes within the text that are challenging and particularly emotional, and they force one to question what lengths one is willing to go to to survive. There is enough sensitive material here to make one weep in some instances, sometimes from the tenderness of the writing, sometimes from the sheer frustration at how wrong and miserable humans can be.

The book is so affecting because most of its content rings home. This is why I liked it. And this is why, when I'm ready, I will read it again.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Report Worth Reading, 15 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
Brodeck's Report is pretty much two stories within one narrative. Brodeck lives in a French village, possibly not too far away from German borders, where he collects data about the natural environment and writes reports for the government. However soon he is asked by the men of the town to write a very different report. One day the Anderer or `The Other', a stranger, arrives into the town tensions rise and the locals decided he should never leave the town again and so Brodeck is given the task of and chronicling the change in the village since the Anderer arrived leading up to his murder by the locals, something they believe they had to do, but Brodeck isn't so sure.

As Brodeck types his reports a second narrative of his life starts to tumble in between the tale of the stranger's arrival in the village. It is the tale of Brodeck himself, of how he came to the village, of his time in a camp during an unnamed war and of people coming to terms with the affect effects of war and the legacy it leaves behind. In fact the more that Brodeck types the more he comes to almost empathise with the Anderer and question the locals, something which it would be very unwise to do.

I think many people once they see `murder' in a blurb think that the book is instantly a crime novel it's not the case with this book. I found it more of a dark and slightly sinister fairytale/fable if it had to be categorised. I thought Claudel' writing was wonderful; it's very, very atmospheric and at times can be most chilling. I did have a small issue with the typeface but that's nothing to do with the author.

I found the fact Claudel never gives you a time when this book is set is clever though initially I was a little wary of it, ok so with a typewriter you can guess somewhat, but which war could it be? This is in a way a masterstroke because it shows the effects of war and that suspicion and the human condition are timeless. Claudel also makes the reader jump from the present to the distant past or recent past in a skip and a hop sometimes from paragraph to paragraph, I liked this it kept me on my toes. It's by no means an easy read and you the reader are asked to do quite a lot of work, but sometimes with a book like this it's definitely worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, gripping, disturbing, 27 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
A beautiful book touching upon fragility of humanity, its supple limits and its many shades of grey, which so quickly, all too quickly, can turn to black in the hour of trial. One Polish poet (my native language) had once put very well: 'We only know ourselves as much we've been tried'. And this very book says the same, just with many more words of which every single one is well worth the read.

Philippe Claudel sets his story in a post-war community of closed –off villagers, in the regions of Alsace-Lorraine (as we are left to divine ourselves from the descriptions as the places are not named), which swapped hands over the centuries. The village's remote location and history left it with a legacy that echos to this day but before all, the villagers are of their own. Their loyalties lay within they own, sickish, hermetic community, impossible, as it turns out, to penetrate or to integrate with. They have created a collective, mobbish, personality, consciousness and conscience, where responsibility is everyone's and no-one's. This community commits an atrocious crime of murdering The Anderer, The Other, who wandered into the village and disturbed the conscience and memory of its people. Brodeck, one of the villagers who did not take part in the crime, is left in charge of writing a report of what happened and all that led to it.

And as he does it, telling the story right from the moment of The Anderer's arrival to the village, peppered with flashbacks from the recent past, he unfolds before us another report, his own report, the report of another crime against humanity, the atrocities of the WWII, ethnic cleansing, concentration camps... There is no pathos it this report, only a painful testimony to the fall of mankind and humanity in the global meaning, and the fall of a man and his de-humanisation when reduced to the mere atavist survival instincts. Combined, the two reports tell a compelling story of the frailty of human integrity in the hour of fear, threat, guilt, mistrust, deprivation, humiliation. And power. All of which turn people into creatures capable of the unspeakable crimes to the their fellow humankind.

The evil prevails in the book but it is also contrasted, albeit to a less exploited extent, with the good. The great, good heart of old Fedorine who took care of a little orphaned boy, the unconditional love of Brodeck to his small daughter Poupchette or the beautiful union between Brodeck and his wife Emelia. Even the villagers are not malign and in some of the little stories told one can see (or maybe just imagine) the simple goodness in them, if suppressed. The Anderer is the most mysterious character of all, almost surreal, a devil? a saint? And in all this, Brodeck, trying to live the best life possible without losing himself. Again.

The author very skilfully inter-twines the two reports while never letting off your hand and guiding you patiently through the slow and quiet dramas of the lives of Brodeck, his family, his fellow villagers and his friends. Claudel's prose is beautiful, the words craftily chosen and conveying very well the weight of the messages. It is also very cinematic, so easy to submerge into, imagine the beautifully described natural surroundings, idyllic, unmoved, serene; feel the cold of the harsh winter and the scorching sun; smell the local food; step into the local auberge... Claudel has mastered this very, very well. Don't miss on that book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A dark fable of survival and compassion, 23 Oct. 2012
This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Paperback)
A soon as I finished reading Claudel's post World War II fable I found myself in a disquieted daze of wonder and admiration. Other reviewers, and indeed the book's own blurb, outline the story. Here, I'd rather dwell on Claudel's formidable skill as a story-teller and his potent ability to cast a literary spell. It's for this quality alone that I'd urge any lover of serious fiction to read this book.

True, Claudel deliberately plays his cards somewhat close to his chest. He does not openly state that he's writing about his native Alsace (that oft fought-over hinterland between France and Germany, with a rich and defiant culture all its own) but from the descriptions of landscape, and the twisted German dialect the locals speak, we're led to believe that we're in that neck of Old Europe.

By keeping a fable-like vagueness to his location Claudel's able to pull off a number of literary tricks. The first of these is a fluid move between a timeless Brothers Grimm-like landscape of rural fantasy, and the sickeningly barbaric realities of a country riven by war. Another effect this vagueness achieves, is the ability to talk about the Holocaust without consigning it to the historical past. Atrocities of human evil, Claudel clearly avers, can occur at any time or place.

The book contains plenty of what you might call 'meta-narrative' - comment on the way the story's being told - which is entirely fitting for a novel like a set of chinese boxes. A short tally of all the 'texts' in the book makes for interesting contemplation; the report of the story's title being only one (and far from the most important) of these stories-within-stories. Because Claudel is writing about history, memory and guilt, he is also acutely aware of the gaps between events in his narrative - its digressions, evasions and elipses. As the protagonist writes his story, he becomes increasingly aware of it's complexity and subjectivity.

This could be a frustrating reading experience but isn't. Claudel might be a self-conscious story-teller, but he's no wilfully confusing post-modernist. There is a definite figure in the carpet of his text, which is the protagonist's ability to endure situations of extreme human desperation out of his love for his wife, his child and his home.

If this sounds impossibly simplistic or sentimental, the author never shirks the dilemmas a survival instinct entails. Late on in the book we learn that Brodeck made it through the harrowing experience of being stuck on a transport to a concentration camp through a shameful act of self-interest. There are other instances of Brodeck's callousness, or passivity as he stands by as others are killed or abused in front of his eyes. Is this forgivable? Claudel seems to ask. Would we act any differently if out own lives were on the line? In this respect, Claudel is contributing to a philosophical vein of survivor literature on a par with Primo Levi.

Phillipe Claudel is one of small number of truly brilliant post-war European novelists. Grey Souls and Mr Linh and His Child are must-reads which also, in their different ways, trace the contours of the beast and the angel within each human breast. He deserves to be better known and celebrated outside of his native France because he is a writer without borders, and one with universal compassion and profound literary talent.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A second magnificent book, 25 Aug. 2009
By 
Ioannis Loulis "jcl" (athens greece) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Brodeck's Report (Hardcover)
"Grey souls",the first Claudel book which appeared in english, was a revelation. It had something of Simenon's hard novels, but was clearly more lyrical, melancholy, and with "a soul" that envelops the plot. "Broderick's report",Claudel's second book,is possessed by the same beauty, power,and lyricism. Plus strong storytelling. In a way-and despite the fact that the two novels cannot be easily compared- this is a more ambitious book,which combines realism and allegory to great effect

Evil,biggotry,human weakness,brutality,the lure of compromise, fear, are all present in the microcosm of the village, which together with its inhabitants, is essentially the malevolent protagonist of the book. It is in fact in this village that a stranger is lynched. merely because he represents the threat of the unknown-"the other".

Broderick, who is called upon by "the village" to whitewash the crime, dares (despite his terror) to mirror both the crime and the"whole" which is the community itself, bringing out into the open the pettyness and the ruthlessness of those arround him, thus becoming himself a "stranger". Plot, images, atmosphere, characters vivdly drawn, captivating language, make this a magnificent book which both races to an inevitable finalle, but also demands our thoughtfull attention.
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