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Monsieur Linh and His Child Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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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: 13 x 1 x 18.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 267,166 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

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

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

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

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

'Exquisite' Allan Massie, Scotsman. (Scotsman)

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

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

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

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

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautiful and moving, read it in one sitting as I could not put it down. Bought a copy for my ever cynical brother and he agreed!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love this man's books. Have read two and will be getting the others.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An easy to read and charming story about friendship, loss, survival and the best of what it means to be human. A bit romanticised so won't suit everyone but perfect for many.
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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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Format: Paperback
Faced with a translated French book of only 130 pages, one might anticipate a text of psychological complexity and not a little Gallic pretentiousness. Nothing could be further from the truth in Philippe Claudel’s third book in English, translated by Euan Cameron.

Mr Linh is a refugee [most probably from Vietnam although this is left deliberately vague] first met on a boat approaching France. He alone knows his name ‘because all those who once knew it are dead.’ He is accompanied by his young grand-daughter, Sang diû, and a battered suitcase containing a daded photograph of him and his wife. She died when their son was a small child and his son and daughter-in-law, and many villages, were killed when a bomb struck their village.

Lindh finds everything about his new surroundings confusing but keeps going because of his need to look after the small girl. He first finds refuge with other boat people who are mainly concerned with their own families so Linh and Sang diû spend days walking around the impersonal city, wrapped up against the cold. Only in the child’s face can he see the landscape of paddy fields, banyan trees and blue mountain mists.

He meets a local man, Mr Bark, on a bench next to an amusement park. Unable to understand one another Bark takes Linh’s greeting, Tao-laï, meaning good day, to be his name. Bark’s wife, who had died just two months earlier, was the owner of a merry-go-round in the amusement park and they were planning their retirement. Each senses the deep sadness in the other. To Bark, the girl’s name sounds like ‘sans Dieu’ and reflects the friends’ mutual feeling of emptiness and without God.

They meet regularly and each finds ways of demonstrating his friendship – Linh with cigarettes whilst Bark brings Sang diû a dress.
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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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