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The French Art of War Paperback – 2 Nov 2017
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Bold, brave, magnificent. * Irish Times * Shock-and-awe virtuosity * Financial Times * A masterpiece. -- Frederic Beigbeder * Le Figaro * Difficult to put down and impossible to forget * Irish Times *
About the Author
Alexis Jenni is a French novelist and biology teacher. His debut novel, The French Art of War, won the 2011 Prix Goncourt. He lives in Lyon. Frank Wynne is an Irish literary translator and writer.
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Wynne's novel , a prizewinning one, is a historical novel that wants to use today to confront the past, a past that still poisons the present. It is an opportune account given that France is undergoing serious political turmoil.
In the novel, Jenni focuses on the twenty year war from 1940 to the 1960s. The story features events such as the German occupation and the war in Algeria. Massacre and torture are commonplace. The period affected the whole of society, even the language.
The narrator regards colonialism as the cause of today's race problem in France. Wynne confronts huge issues in his book. It dwells on a relationship between two characters. One is a youngish , feckless male . The other is a French stereotype, an elderly ex warrior from the past. He is called Victorian Salagnon. He has fought in Indo-China and Algeria. He was a ruthless officer. There are disturbing pages of combat and extreme violence.
The author uses this to reflect on the state of France today. Art, love, language, race and Islam are examined. Much of this is still taboo in France. Wynne argues here that violence is useless. Colonialism is a crime. He denounces that which divides society. Multculture is lauded.
This is a big book, translated from the French, that could have been shortened without affecting the book's aim. It is at times pretentious and indulgent. Nevertheless. Wynne tells a great story. The description of combat is very accurate. The reader is left with a stunning portrait of the French art of war. One of the characters says we will only find peace when the past is forgotten. I fear this will take a very long time.
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