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17.8.03

New Books for Paris Reading Project

An article (Daniel Pennac: Five Sleazy Pieces of Paris, by Matthew J. Reisz, August 16) in The Independent drew my attention to Daniel Pennac's Paris stories, which I will be acquiring. They are five novels, set in the Belleville area, from the 1980s and 90s, translated into English by Ian Monk and now rereleased in Great Britain: The Scapegoat, Monsieur Malaussène, Passion Fruit, The Fairy Gunmother, and Write to Kill. Reisz also describes another novel, Comme un roman, "his wonderful hymn to the joys of reading." My only problem with the article is that it mentions Pennac's "description of the Vercors (the remote Provençal plateau where he spends part of the year)," which is Le Vercors d'en haut: la réserve naturelle des hauts plateaux (not available, I think, in the U.S.). However, the Vercors is not really in Provence. Where it begins, outside Grenoble, is exceedingly beautiful, I can tell you.

Pennac is a teacher of literature in the French school system, and he sees his role as author of fiction and children's books to be at least partially to bring people to reading and keep them reading. In an interview from April 2000, he was asked to list the ten books he thought worth saving from the 20th century and I think the choices are interesting. The top choices were Proust's A la Recherche du temps perdu, which he calls "The Book" and like Joyce's Ulysses, and Céline's Voyage au bout de la nuit.

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