Anita Brookner, Mikhaïl Chevelev, Marie Cosnay, Erienne Jodelle… Brief reviews of the winter literary season

Eight novels including two science fiction, two stories, two children’s books, poetry… Here are the brief reviews of thirteen notable works in this first week of the year 2023.

NOVEL. “Loss of human warmth”, by Bergsveinn Birgisson

An academic, well integrated into society and living in a stable relationship at home, wants at all costs to bring back to life “normal” his childhood friend, interned in a psychiatric hospital. “My Depressive Friend”, he calls her throughout the story, without ever mentioning her name or first name. During a journey across the country, a singular dialogue continues between these two individuals, each of whom wants to share with the other his vision of the world and his existential choices. Gradually, however, the borders dissolve, the images that the two men reflect on each other merge. Born in 1971, Bergsveinn Birgisson signs here a funny and disturbing novel on depression. Its couple of protagonists is reminiscent of communicating vessels, between which the content circulates freely. But, for the reader, the outcome of this circulation becomes more and more uncertain as the text progresses. E.Ba.

“Loss of human warmth” (Kolbeinsey), by Bergsveinn Birgisson, translated from Icelandic by Catherine Eyjolfsson, Gaïa, 283 p., €22, digital €17.

NOVEL. “Lake Hotel” by Anita Brookner

Judicious initiative, the Bartillat editions reissue a little jewel of British spirit, lake hotel. Published in 1984, this novel won the Booker Prize for its author, Anita Brookner (1928-2016)writer and art historian recently immortalized by Julian Barnes in Elizabeth Finch (Mercure de France, 2022), and which ranks it here, in an unpublished preface, among “the most brilliant and sensitive” of his generation. Striking behind closed doors on Lake Geneva, lake hotel presents itself as a gallery of sharp portraits, inspired in the protagonist, the writer Edith Hope, by the residents of the establishment. Those “quality people” hide secret lives behind curtains of opacity. But she, the deceptively docile Edith, what is she doing here? To what “frightening thing” is she trying to escape? Charm, twists and cruelty in the deceptive immobility of the alpine mists. Fl.N.

“Hôtel du lac”, by Anita Brookner, translated from English by Solange Lecomte, preface by Julian Barnes, Bartillat, 224 p., €20.

YOUTH. “What the hell are we doing here”, by Shaïne Cassim

“I don’t really know if it’s possible to love each other like this. » Julian is in front of a Patricia with trembling lips. They are in their twenties, vibrate with intensity and shun mediocrity. The young student lives her passion for cycling far from those of her age, feeds on literature as much as she needs to dance in the middle of parties where she knows no one. He is inhabited by the texts of Blaise Cendrars, often gets drunk and fights with panache against a “black wave” which engulfs it regularly. what are we doing here is the novel of an uncompromising and flamboyant love. However, it opens with a rupture. An elaborate construction allows you to gradually discover all the pieces of the puzzle, through the eyes of several characters. Patricia and Julian are invincible and fragile, and Shaïne Cassim’s writing draws the reader in their wake, leaving him alternately elated and giddy. After several years of silence, Shaïne Cassim gives here new proof of her talent for embracing children’s literature with authenticity and elegance. She carries her story high, sprinkles it with delicate references, confronts existential meanders like the power of desire and succeeds perfectly in capsizing her reader. R. Bo.

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Anita Brookner, Mikhaïl Chevelev, Marie Cosnay, Erienne Jodelle… Brief reviews of the winter literary season