Earlier this year in the book corner, FUSAC presented a book called « Mortel Tabou » by Gilles Schlesser. I am generally not a fan of polars* but I thought I’d give that one a go. On the cover, it says « Paris 1947. Who wants to kill Jean-Paul Sartre ? ». If you love Saint-Germain des Près and existentialism (which is my case !) then the book is made for you! From café de Flore to rue Bonaparte, the book mentions all the popular artists of that era such as Boris Vian or Mouloudji. A fiction with a great dose of reality. It is in French but it is a small book and the vocabulary is not extremely complicated. The book is very well written without being pompous.
When I finish a book that I particularly enjoyed, I generally try and find more information about the writer and his other books. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Paris and more specifically St Germain is Gilles Schlesser’s central theme for many of his books. His love for Paris comes from his dad, André Schlesser, who founded the « Cabaret l’Ecluse » in the 5th district in 1951. It became a very trendy place after the war where artists such as Jacques Brel or Barbara made regular appearances. Gilles wrote a book about his father’s cabaret called « Le Cabaret Rive Gauche » as he is extremely knowledgeable about the subject. Here is a list presentation of his other titles – the publisher is Parigramme (A publisher of all sorts of wonderful books Parisian!) :
Saga Parisienne – A story about a family over 3 generations from 1942 to 2003. Love, hatred, secrets…It obviously takes place in Paris. It is a huge book but once again the vocabulary is not too difficult.
La Mort n’a pas d’amis – Similar to « Mortel Tabou », it is a « polar » with a serial killer in the 1920s in Paris. This time it mentions famous French surrealists writers and artists such as André Breton or Aragon.
Saint Germain Des Prés : Les Lieux de Légende – A fantastic guide to learn more about all legendary places in Saint Germain Des Près. From « L’hôtel La Louisiane » where Miles Davis and Juliette Gréco spent time or Le Flore where Sartre used to write or le Tabou where Boris Vian used to play the trumpet, you will learn everything about Saint-Germain !
*un polar is a detective novel or a crime fiction. You will also hear roman noir or thriller but those are sub categories. Un roman noir is a novel where the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include the self-destructive qualities of the protagonist. As for a Thriller, the word obviously comes from English (to thrill) and the French name would be roman à suspense. Suspense is a crucial characteristic of the thriller genre.