By Philippe Claudel
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385527248, 336pp.)
Publication Date: June 23, 2009
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Forced into a brutal concentration camp during a great war, Brodeck returns to his village at the war’s end and takes up his old job of writing reports for a governmental bureau. One day a stranger comes to live in the village. His odd manner and habits arouse suspicions: His speech is formal, he takes long, solitary walks, and although he is unfailingly friendly and polite, he reveals nothing about himself. When the stranger produces drawings of the village and its inhabitants that are both unflattering and insightful, the villagers murder him. The authorities who witnessed the killing tell Brodeck to write a report that is essentially a whitewash of the incident.
As Brodeck writes the official account, he sets down his version of the truth in a separate, parallel narrative. In measured, evocative prose, he weaves into the story of the stranger his own painful history and the dark secrets the villagers have fiercely kept hidden.
Set in an unnamed time and place, Brodeck blends the familiar and unfamiliar, myth and history into a work of extraordinary power and resonance. Readers of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Bernhard Schlink’s The Reade,r and Kafka will be captivated by Brodeck.
PHILIPPE CLAUDEL is the author of many novels, among them By a Slow River, which has been translated into thirty languages and was awarded the Prix Renaudot in 2003 and the Elle Readers' Literary prize in 2004. His novel La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh was published in 2005, and Brodeck won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in 2007. Claudel also wrote and directed the film I've Loved You So Long starring Kristin Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein, which opened in movie theaters in the United States in the fall of 2008 and in thirty other countries around the world.
- The novel is set in an unidentified place and time. Why do you think the author chose to make the setting anonymous? Do you think he had a specific historical event in mind? Was this device effective or not? Can you think of another novel in which this is done?