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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter, Sweet and Wistful
"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...
Published on 29 Mar 2011 by Niall Alexander

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you guessing
This books provides a quiet gentle read so it's easy to try and second guess the outcome. You would be wrong!
Published 12 months ago by Salli


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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter, Sweet and Wistful, 29 Mar 2011
"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.42)

Both men have been certain of their identities, in their lives, only to have tragedy steal everything away. Bark and Linh have lost their selves, in a sense, and though they share neither a language common between them nor even their names - a miscommunication leaves each calling the other "good day" - what each of the men have lost, the simple truth and goodness of sharing a moment with another living soul helps them begin to come to terms with.

But as Monsieur Linh reflects, staring out at the "thousands of lights in the city that sparkle and seem to move about [...] as if they were stars that had fallen to earth and were trying to fly back into the sky once more," "you can never fly back to what you have lost." (p.87) There is thus an ineffable impression of sadness about Monsieur Linh and His Child, building and swelling like a lump in the throat even as the old man and the fat man find some measure of solace in unexpected company.

Canny readers will likely see a rug-from-under twist I hardly dare discuss coming, and while such premonition perhaps robs Monsieur Linh and His Child of some of the sense of revelation Claudel seems to be shooting for in the final scene, this isn't The Sixth Sense; there's more, much more, to Monsieur Linh and His Child than a tidy trick. It is a timeless testament to the enduring beauty of friendship, and in its powerful last moments, an ode to - of all things - better tomorrows for us all. For "miracles can sometimes happen, and there can be riches, and laughter, and hope once more just when you think that everything around you is nothing but destruction and silence." (p.119)
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars achingly perfect, 26 Mar 2012
By 
Amy Henry (United States) - See all my reviews
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. They become virtually inseparable, despite the fact that neither of them can speak each other's language. Theirs becomes a friendship made up of the language of nods, shared sighs, and companionship. And when difficult changes occur, this unique bond becomes unbreakable.

This is an impossibly elegant novel, one that makes you sort of wistful at the beauty of the words and their meaning. It's only appropriate that this be an example of translated literature, because the translation of feelings, gestures and moods is at the heart of it, far beyond the translation of mere words. I actually (this is super corny) put it down and sighed a few times...it's that gorgeous.

The author, Philippe Claudel, has crafted something that manages to combine melancholy and sentimentality without becoming mawkish. The writing is lean and powerful and each character retains a mystery. The mystery is what pushes you on to understand how each man will survive their loss, and how mysterious the nature of friendship can be. The novel asks the reader to examine what makes two people feel connected. Does loss leave a mark that only another kindred spirit can discern? Do the words we speak mean less than who we are? I couldn't help but think that the story would be entirely different if the two men did share a language, and that Claudel may be commenting on how, very often, words can get in the way.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Exquisite, 23 Sep 2013
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. They cross borders to new places with virtually nothing and are simply expected to get on. Books like this one are very important for us to read, to help us have even a modicum of understanding as to the plight of such people. Very very worthwhile, and for maximum effect read in one sitting.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small but perfectly formed..., 3 April 2011
By 
Raven (England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Having rushed around like a loon this morning catching up on my day off tasks I sat down a couple of hours ago with a well-deserved cup of coffee and idly picked up 'Monsieur Linh and His Child'. I read it in one sitting, my coffee forgotten and felt genuinely moved by this perfect little novel. I loved this tale of Linh's separation from his homeland finding himself adrift in a strange country, alienated at first by his lack of knowledge of this new environment and culture and his further alienation by language until his meeting with Bark. The descriptive passages of his homeland and the murders of his family were evocative and heartwrenching and the playing out of his new friendship with Bark (himself affected by personal loss and his experiences in Linh's homeland) were perfectly weighted and affecting. The unveiling of the true nature of his 'granddaughter' was so carefully placed within the narrative and added even further to the poignancy of the story. A book that achieved more in 130 pages than many books I've read three times the length. A wonderful study of the human essence and how we can all connect at some point with others despite our differences...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: Monsieur Linh and his Child (Kindle Edition)
Good read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Monsieur link, 3 May 2014
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This review is from: Monsieur Linh and his Child (Kindle Edition)
A book that should be on a' must read list'. Enjoyed reading the story ion French as we'll. a book for every age
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5.0 out of 5 stars what a beautiful little book, 21 Feb 2014
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it's like a Mozart chocolate ball.
you enjoy the beautiful rapper, you peel it slowly, you take tiny bites and you keep them in your mouth for as long as you can… and then it disappears, leaving a sweet beautiful memory behind. I loved Claudel's first book, was touched by this one, and can’t wait for the next one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read, 3 Nov 2013
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My sister recommended this book, I found it very moving. I will be suggesting it for my book club.
Excellent
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5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary book, 27 Aug 2013
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This is a book that tells a story on different levels. It is hauntingly beautiful and original. It goes straight to the heart of what it must be like to be a displaced person who has lost everything that is important in his life, and ends up in a country that is so alien to what he has been used to, and amongst a culture that he struggles to understand. Mr Linh has no understanding of the language he now finds himself immersed in but he communicates to his new friend all the values of an indomitable spirit. I have enjoyed this book more than anything I have read (and I read a great deal) for a long time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Monsieur Linh and his child, 16 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Monsieur Linh and his Child (Kindle Edition)
An unusual book which calls for a sympathetic ear. The simplicity of the old mans faith that he is doing the right thing in taking

the child away from the horror and sadness of his own village is the whole crux of the on going meandering tale..
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Monsieur Linh and his Child by Philippe Claudel
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