Beloved by Toni Morrison
Maternal love until death. Toni Morrison, American writer and Nobel Prize winner in literature, delivers a breathtaking family drama with this novel. An international bestseller, Beloved was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988, the year after its publication. The work – beaded with lyricism – takes us back to the dark years of slavery in the United States and the Civil War. A dive into the heart of a tragic infanticide. Between reality and horror. In the town of Bluestone Road, Ohio, Sethe, a former slave, is haunted by the ghost of her daughter. His “beloved” ( beloved in VO). The reason ? She murdered her to spare her a dark fate of servitude. Eighteen years later, this act – paradoxical – filled with love and violence, still paralyzes her daily life.
Sweet song by Leïla Slimani
Prix Goncourt in 2016 with Chanson douce , Leïla Slimani is the twelfth woman to receive this prestigious literary distinction. The work, a bit singular, is one of the French classics to know absolutely. It retraces, with panache and suspense, the story of an ordinary nanny, who gradually invests all aspects of the life of a Parisian family. The perfect nanny in every way, she makes herself more and more indispensable to children and parents alike, to the point of becoming invasive in the extreme… With brilliant narrative talent and a breathtaking plot, the young French author returns to the anguish of modern mothers to call on a third person to take care of their dear little ones.
The Swallows of Kabul by Yasmina Khadra
This is the story of a double heartbreak. Personal first of all for Zunaira, a young woman lawyer who, banned from practicing, must also cover her face with a chador. Social then, because in Kabul all the Afghan women must from now on live recluse, vis-a-vis the tyranny of the Taliban multiplying the executions for the example. The Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra lucidly draws the portrait of a Muslim society torn between feudalism and modernity. The Swallows of Kabul, a true hymn to women, delivers a sharp criticism of blindness and obscurantism. Sadly, this novel published in 2002 is still relevant. At issue: the restrictions imposed on Afghan women by the fundamentalist regime, back in power since August 2021. The book, translated into 42 languages, has also been adapted into an animated film by Zabou Breitman.
The Great Gatsby by Francis Scott Fitzgerald
New York, spring 1922. Here, the champagne flows freely, the jazz makes your head spin. Ambition, hubris, passion, drunkenness, decadence… Gatsby, a very charming young millionaire – with a slightly dodgy past – embodies all of this, of course. Some have discovered this classic of American literature on the big screen, where Leonardo di Caprio is sublime in the role of this melancholic partygoer, host of sumptuous evenings in his villa. Others know the Great Gatsbyby the baccalaureate exams. The historical framework of the novel (describing the smuggling of alcohol during Prohibition) fits perfectly with the plot around Daisy, great love – impossible – of Gatsby. Between the lines, Francis Scott Fitzgerald draws up a critique of the bourgeoisie and the new rich who are ready for anything. A true summary of the Roaring Twenties.
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, takes us to Colombia, to the fictional village of Macondo. A microcosm isolated from the rest of the world, but with a universal history. In a hundred years of solitudehe novelist and journalist paints the portrait of the Buendía family, between first opulence and then final decadence, faced with the wars and massacres suffered by South America. The novel (sort of third volume of the “Macondo cycle” for the writer) traces the genesis of this village, built and then devastated by the madness of men. The latter, shaken by the tiny dramas and small joys of everyday life, are faced with a terrible curse: a hundred years of loneliness. An infernal cycle which is one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. Written in Spanish, it was honored in France with the Prize for Best Foreign Book.
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Thriller lovers, here is THE bible. Agatha Christie, the “Queen of Crime”, a very prolific author – there are more than 66 novels and 154 short stories written by her – revolutionized the detective genre with sophistication. English bourgeois and globetrotter, she distills her many travels in her works. In Murder on the Orient Expresswe find the famous detective-gentleman Hercule Poirot and his famous mustaches. The whole plot boils down to a luxury train that crosses Europe, but is snowed in the Yugoslav mountains. Mr. Ratchett, a wealthy American, is killed in the middle of the night, stabbed several times. The other passengers? They are 12 in number, and all are suspects. This very difficult investigation takes place behind closed doors, the real climax of the dramatic tension.
Human Things by Karine Tuil
This incident went around the world. In 2015, student Chanel Miller was sexually assaulted on the campus of Stanford University in the United States. French novelist Karine Tuil was inspired by this resounding rape case for Les Choses Humaines. In her eleventh novel, awarded the Prix Goncourt des lycéens in 2019, she criticizes the complacency of the court for the culprit of the rape, a boy from a “good family”. The hypocrisy of contemporary society – yet celebrating the freedom of speech for victims with the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc movements – is violently denounced. The case, like the rape, is dealt with from the point of view of the accused. Without miserabilism or Manichaeism. And the story was adapted for the big screen, by director Yvan Attal, in early December 2021.
The Plague by Albert Camus
In September 1924, Albert Camus, then still unknown in France, began writing a novel on Nazism, which he likened to a destructive plague. His so-called book addresses the pain of exile, separation and loneliness. The story of this parallel epidemic takes place in the 1940s in Oran, Algeria. “I want to express by means of the plague, the suffocation from which we all suffered and the atmosphere of threat and exile in which we lived”, underlined in his time the philosopher and essayist. Re-reading this 20th century masterpiece is almost an act of intellectual resistance and a real duty to remember.
Dare to (re)read Proust by Alice Jacquelin
If the 4,000 pages of In Search of Lost Time discourage us, here is an anthology which brilliantly condenses the pen and the themes dear to Marcel Proust. The Normalienne Alice Jacquelin brilliantly dissects the monumental work of this writer – very prolific – of the 19th century. If “Life is too short. Proust is too long”, as Anatole France liked to repeat, these 25 excerpts (from the major passages of the novel) make us want to reread this classic of French literature.
Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
Published in millions of copies and translated worldwide, Haruki Murakami is the most read contemporary Japanese author in the world. The reasons for its success? An incredible imagination and a pen of genius where all the depth and richness of words come to life. Kafka on the Shore , a venerable icon of initiation novels, depicts the runaway of a 15-year-old teenager, Kafka Tamura. The latter, to escape the dark prophecy of his father, leaves Tokyo and embarks on a real odyssey, accompanied by Nakata, a sixty-year-old with amnesia. This modern-day Ulysses encounters during his wanderings prostitutes in love with the philosopher Hegel and a very curious rain – 2,000 mackerels and sardines falling from the sky. In this Japanese masterpiece the limit between dream and reality is abolished.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
A classic of British literature. Between extreme passions and vengeful desires. The only novel by Emily Brontë, first published under a pseudonym in the 19th century, the work chronicles a thwarted love between Heathcliff and Catherine. The first, an orphan, is welcomed by the Earnshaws – a family of noble landowners – to their domain in Wuthering Heights. Very quickly, he saw a fusional love with the girl, Catherine. But she marries Edgar. Atrociously bruised and abandoned again, Heathcliff swears to return to Yorkshire for revenge. His purpose? Destroy all those who made him suffer… and who prevented his love. An English masterpiece, Wuthering Heights is even “the most beautiful love novel of all time” according to the writer Georges Bataille.
The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir
This philosophical essay – very consistent with its two volumes – is one of the foundations of French and even global feminism. In The Second Sex , published in 1949, Simone de Beauvoir meticulously analyzes the place of women in society under the biological, historical and literary prism… and thus dissects the foundations of male domination. On the menu: economic independence, freedom of contraception, the right to abort, to dispose of one’s body… the author questions the points of view, the prejudices and the difficulties of emancipation that women can encounter. Book II begins with the famous phrase: “We are not born a woman, we become one”. An essential existentialist work, to discover at any age.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
It is one of the classics of American literature. Studied in almost all programs in the United States, Harper Lee’s work has marked entire generations of students. Pulitzer Prize in 1961, it is a fiction at the crossroads between autobiography and learning novel. Took no mockingbirddepicts a small town in the southeastern United States in the 1930s. In the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, widower Atticus Flinch is raising his two children when their daily lives are turned upside down. The father and lawyer decides to take up the defense of a young black man, accused of raping a young white girl from the village. Through the naive eyes of Jean-Louise, “Scout”, Atticus’ daughter, we discover the prevailing racism, and the existing discriminations, in this typical city of the United States of the time. A poignant novel which, despite the years, continues to echo our contemporary society.
Paris is a Party by Ernest Hemingway
Autobiographical story of the American author, this book is a true declaration of love to the French capital. Ernest Hemingway describes his Parisian adventures in the late 1950s. Arrived penniless in Paris with his companion at the time Hadley Richardson, the writer recounts a life made up of love and fresh water, in the magical setting of the City of Light. Throughout the pages appear famous characters, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, with whom Ernest Hemingway shares surprising adventures. This moving book has been cited many times, following the attacks of November 13, 2015 in particular. Danielle Mérian, a former lawyer, said following the tragedy: “It is very important to bring flowers to our dead.
Pride and Prejudice , by Jane Austen
Published in 1813, it is one of Jane Austen’s masterpieces. The British novelist tells the story of the Bennet family, and more specifically that of Elizabeth, during the Regency in the United Kingdom. The second of the siblings knows his first love emotions. Between crush and disappointment, Jane Austen paints the portrait of an intrepid and rebellious young woman who tries to live her life, both socially and in love, in a society where the only goal of women is to get married. This novel crosses the centuries thanks to the sharp and accurate pen of its author. It is considered one of the first feminist books. If Pride and Prejudice has been brought to the screen several times, the 2005 adaptation by Joe Wright, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, is certainly the most popular.
The Heart Catcher, by JD Salinger
A monument of American literature, it is one of the most famous books of the 20th century. In this first-person book, JD Salinger chronicles the life of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who decides to wander around New York after being expelled from high school. For three days, the young boy, disillusioned and lonely, discovers the Big Apple. The reader follows Holden’s encounters and sightings during his wanderings. A real questioning of the anxieties of young people facing the future, and the nostalgia of leaving the world of childhood, this book, published in 1951, is still studied in North America.
The Alchemist , by Paulo Coelho
This philosophical novel by the Brazilian writer has sold more than 150 million copies worldwide, and has been translated into more than 80 languages. In The Alchemist , Paulo Coelho narrates the adventures of Santiago, a young Spanish shepherd who decides to go in search of a hidden treasure, of which he learns of the existence in one of his dreams. With the pyramids of Gizeh as his destination, the young man crossed Andalusia and then North Africa. On his way, he meets characters each more amazing than the next, until he crosses paths with “The Alchemist”, who decides to help him in his quest. In his book, the author carries the idea of clinging to his dreams and believing in his ability to succeed. A universal message that has seduced thousands of readers for decades.
On the Road , by Paul Kerouac
Almost autobiographical work by Paul Kerouac, this book is one of the great classics that you must have read in your life. Written in one go, in 20 days, on a 36m long roll of paper, On the Road tells the story of the Beat Generation, the “new American hipsters”, at the end of the 1950s. Inspired by his own life and those around him, the author retraces his journey through the United States, denouncing the moral hypocrisy of an America which wants to be ” well-meaning”. For many, the book is not seen as a simple travel novel, but as a satire of society, and even a state of mind. Francis Ford Coppola acquired the rights to the work for the cinema in 1968, but it was ultimately Walter Salles who directed the first adaptation in 2012. Bringing together Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, the film was presented at the Cannes Film Festival on same year.