La Boutique du Sommeil – Extrait 1

L’homme marche lentement le long de la rue Marie Stuart, dans le deuxième arrondissement de Paris, en direction du Passage du Grand Cerf. Autour de lui, les habitants se pressent, les yeux pleins de détermination et il s’efforce de les éviter. Lui aussi est déterminé, mais sa démarche ne nous le montre pas. Quiconque l’aurait rencontré ce jour-là aurait pensé qu’il errait sans destination.

Lorsqu’il distingue au loin l’entrée du Passage, l’homme s’arrête et se retourne. C’est seulement à ce moment qu’il prend conscience du soleil qui apparaît dans le ciel. Il a marché toute la nuit. Le trajet lui a semblé bien plus long pourtant, comme s’il avait marché des jours et des jours dans les rues sombres de Paris. Le soleil projette une douce chaleur sur son visage. L’homme respire. Il ne fera pas marche arrière.

Alors qu’il reprend le chemin de la boutique, il distingue pour la première fois de la journée son ombre. Elle semble plus rapide que lui, plus déterminée encore. Elle court devant lui, elle lui échappe presque. Il accélère le pas, et rapidement se retrouve à l’entrée du Passage du Grand Cerf.

Avant de pénétrer dans le couloir, il sort de sa poche un morceau de papier. Il doit être certain que c’est la bonne adresse. Il ne pourra plus continuer longtemps ainsi. Mais déjà son ombre avance dans le tunnel et, alors qu’un nuage se promène devant le soleil, elle disparaît. Il s’empresse de vérifier le papier, qui dit « La Boutique du Sommeil, 8 Passage du Grand Cerf, Paris » et se dirige enfin vers le magasin.

Quelque part dans la ville, les cloches d’une église sonnent huit heures. L’homme aperçoit la lumière du jour qui réapparaît à l’entrée du couloir. Au-dessus de lui, le plafond vitré du Passage laisse apparaître des nuages sombres qui bientôt couvriront le ciel au complet, et le soleil laissera place à la pluie.

À quelques mètres de la Boutique du Sommeil, une femme peine à entrer dans son magasin. Lorsque le déclic du verrou finalement ouvert se fait entendre, elle lève la tête en direction de l’homme puis jette un œil rapide à la devanture de la boutique.

« Vous savez que ce truc est fermé depuis longtemps ? »

L’homme confirme d’un hochement de tête mais la femme a déjà disparu. Il sort de nouveau le morceau de papier. Sur la façade, des lettres d’or presque effacées indiquent qu’il est au bon endroit. L’homme regarde à travers la vitrine, aucun signe de vie, bien que la pièce semble avoir été nettoyée récemment. À droite se trouve une cheminée, devant laquelle se tiennent deux fauteuils pourpres. Ce sont les seuls meubles de la boutique. Ses yeux parcourent le reste de la pièce, et au fond, il aperçoit une porte entrouverte par laquelle s’échappe un faible rayon de lumière. L’homme sourit et, décidé, il toque.

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Pour lire l’oeuvre en intégralité et commenter : rendez-vous sur Scribay

 

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Book Review #6 – The New York Trilogy – Paul Auster

I first read Auster in university when we studied Moon Palace, and I really loved it. Many years later, I decided to give 4 3 2 1 a try, even though the length of the book scared me (1000 pages). It was after reading it that I knew I wanted to read all of Auster’s fictions.

So I picked up City of Glass, which had been sitting on my bookshelves for many years. Within a week, I had read the entire trilogy. Let me now talk a bit about what I like in the New York trilogy, as a whole. I will not base my review on books as individual, but rather focus on the links between them.

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1/ Story-telling and a feeling of solitude

Paul Auster is a master of story-telling. He does not only tell nice stories, he plays with the way the stories are told. I know most writers do control the structure of their sentences, and more generally of their novel, but Auster experiments with story-telling.

When I read Ghosts, the second part of the trilogy, I thought of Beckett’s play That Time, in which a man is confronted to three voices : A, B and C. In Ghosts, characters are colours : Blue, Black, Brown and Grey. Blue is a detective, spying on someone. Saying the rest would be spoiling. I am linking it with Beckett’s play because in both works, characters are confronted to two worlds : a fictional one, or let’s say a world of stories, and the real one. And both characters (Blue in Ghosts and Listener in That Time) must deal with loneliness.

In City of Glass, the main character, Quinn, also finds himself investigating something. The reader therefore follows him in the city of New York, and in confined places, where the protagonist often ends up alone, and lonely.

2/ The issue of identity in the New York Trilogy

Maybe it was because I had just read Kundera’s Identity (for which I created a review) but I couldn’t help but focus on this theme when I read Auster’s trilogy. Well, I don’t think we need to be an expert on literature to spot some elements I will highlight now.

First, in City of Glass, Quinn takes the identity of a private detective, going by the name of Paul Auster. I know that some people hate when writers include their own names in works of fiction, but I liked it. Very rapidly, the reader understands that they are being lead by a narrator, and that they need to decide whether the story-teller can be trusted or not. Everything we know about Quinn can be doubted, even the core of his identity. The rest is for you to read.

In Ghosts, characters are named after colours, and although they could be common last names, Mr Black, Mr Blue, I read it as a code, as if their identities were hidden for some reason. I might be mistaken but that’s part of being an unexperienced reader. In the second settlement of the trilogy, Blue is a real detective, contrary to Quinn. Yet, his investigation will lead to his questioning of the reality of events, and therefore of the existence of other characters in the story. Eventually, that will impact his self-awareness.

The Locked Room introduces the reader to a first-person narrator, a narrative process which is (well…) different from the first two stories. I do not want to spoil the book, therefore I will not explain my “well…”. If you read it after reading my article, please comment so that we can debate. For the first time in the trilogy, we have more insight into the character’s thoughts. I really felt as if I understood the narrator, as if I knew his identity. But very soon, a twist occurs, and the narrator is sort of forced to become a detective, as he is responsible for writing the biography of a deceased friend. And soon enough, his identity becomes uncertain.

The third book actually offers key answers to the questions a reader could have asked themselves when reading City of Glass and Ghosts. Again, I will not talk about them so that I do not reveal the mysteries of the New York Trilogy.

To end this article now, I would like to say that I do not like to give marks on books (although I do it on Goodreads) ; I can only say that the trilogy is a must-read!

Currently reading : Tales of the City, by Armistead Maupin and Seven Gothic Tales, by Karen Blixen.

If you have advice for me, please leave a comment.

Sculptures in Denmark

Recently, I went to Denmark, as you might have seen in my latest post about architecture. Instead of publishing pictures randomly, I have decided to gather them into themes, and here comes the second part – Sculptures!

Pictures were taken in Copenhagen, in the Glyptoteket, as well as in Louisiana Modern Art Museum. Again, I used the black and white setting from my camera. I have been using a Canon 500D for the past five years, and although I sometimes feel limited, I still enjoy it.

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I don’t remember where this picture was taken exactly… But I remember loving the building.

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This is a piece by Giacometti, in the amazing Louisiana museum.

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This is a sculpture I found in the Botanical Garden of Copenhagen. All sculptures were related to Greek Olympics.

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A close-up on The Age of Bronze by Rodin. The light was amazing. This was taken in the Glyptoteket.

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I haven’t written the name of the piece or of the artist. Maybe someone will be able to tell me in comments. But again, I tried to play with lighting.

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I still have some pictures to share, which I will do in the next few days. My next trip should be in the south of France, and then San Francisco in the summer. I am looking forward to it.

Architecture in Denmark

I was recently very lucky to accompany my pupils for a one-week school trip in Denmark. We got to visit many museums and places in Hillerød and Copenhagen. It also gave me the opportunity to take some new photographs, which I will share now.

First, let me start with some pictures of architecture. As you can see below, I have enjoyed taking black and white photographs.

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This is a corridor in Louisiana, a modern art museum. This place is incredibly beautiful and the exhibitions were very interesting.

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Somewhere near the main river, just on the other side of Christiniasborg.

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This is another corridor, but outside. It was taken at the National History museum.

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These are the stairs going down to the entrance of the Danish Architecture Centre, where I was lucky to see an incredible exhibition about young people developing ideas to preserve the planet.

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The only photo in colours. This was taken at Nyhavn. It is so full of tourists and restaurants that I had troubles taking a good pictures of the colourful houses. The day after, we went on a boat trip and I seized the occasion for this amazing shot.

Top 7 of Harry Potter crossing London

Well, first of all, let me tell you that it is amazing that I had never written an article on Harry Potter on this blog before, as I am a huge fan of the book and film series. Last week, I watched the film series again, and it made me think a lot about how J. K. Rowling played with the different means of transport in the wizardly world. Hence my article. I chose to focus on seven, as it is a very recurrent number in the series.

#7 – Metro

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From Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This scene was quite funny. Mr Weasley, passionate about muggles, using public transports for the first time. I liked the lightness of the scene, especially since the fifth book is a very dark one.

#6 – Broom

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Also from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Harry is rescued by the Order, and they are flying towards Grimmauld Place, Sirius’s house. A quite exciting scene, as we meet some characters who will be famous afterwards, such as Tonk. Brooms are very frequent in the series, but I love the idea of the “typical witch crossing London”. I know that many people would have been burnt for that.

#5 – Apparition

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In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the trio apparates in London, in the middle of a crowded street, after Fleur and Bill’s wedding. It marks the beginning of their quest for Voldemort’s horcruxes.

#4 – Floo Powder

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I am very attached to the second book, as it is the first one I read (I saw the first movie and then read the second book without reading the first. I was young and I didn’t know better). In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, we learn about the chimneys being connected, and we all know how important they get later in the series. Plus, this scene was quite fun, and dark (when he arrives in Knockturn Alley).

#3 – Flying Car

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From the same book, The Chamber of Secrets. When Harry and Ron are denied the access to Platform 3/4, they decide to use Ron’s dad’s flying car. How I dreamt about owning such a car! Also, I love the architecture of Saint Pancras.

#2 – Thestral

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In The Order of Phoenix, we learn about thestrals, these creatures you can only see if you have seen death. I love how Rowling talked about the self-pulled carriages before. Did she already know that invisible creatures were driving them? So many mysteries I need answers to!

#1 – Dragon

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Escaping Gringotts was surely one of my favourite passages from the entire series. Doing it on a dragon was just a bonus. How powerful! I can only imagine what muggles would think when seeing a dragon in the London sky! That takes place in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is the first action scene in the second part of the film adaptation.

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That’s it for the top. Maybe as well for my articles on Harry Potter, although I am very tempted about writing something about politics in HP. Time will tell.

Book Review #5 – Identity – Milan Kundera (1998)

This is not my first review of a novel by Milan Kundera (read here) and I will try not to repeat myself.

Identity is Kundera’s second novel written in French, after Slowness. It was published twenty years ago and was succeeded by two other works : Ignorance and The Festival of Insignificance. It is a rather short novel, constructed in 51 chapters (as is Slowness).

The novel deals with the story of two lovers who have their identity questioned throughout the pages. What I liked about the book was the fact that the story’s reality itself is being questioned. At some point, we start wondering about whether the events are really happening, as the characters are confronted to changes.

Kundera tells this with a precise and concise voice. As it was the case with his other works, descriptions and the narration are straight to the point, with no added useless details. This is something I like about Kundera’s style. I remember literature classes in which some students pointed out that teachers would analyse colours and sometimes over-analyse everything. In Kundera’s work, if an object is said to be red, there’s always some sort of meaning behind.

So, although Identity is quite short and fast to read, it offers the possibility of a slow, analysed reading. Since the construction of the novel is also complex, I am sure that with some time, it is possible to focus on different chapters that mirror themselves. It is quite easy to see the link between the very beginning and the very end, but there must be some parts inside that talk to one another, as it is the case in Uysses by James Joyce, or Passing Time by Michel Butor (a writer who experimented with the new novel genre, and on whom I should write a review, as I loved his work).

Identity also offers a duality of visions. The story is told through the voices of two characters, sharing the pages. They tell us about their experiences, highlighting not the actions themselves but about the feeling that emerged from them, giving us two points of view on everything that is happening. At several points in the story, a chapter opens with the end of the previous one, with the other lover’s vision of what the first one experienced. This made me think a lot about other people’s thoughts, and how it can sometimes be hard to really accept the existence of a conscience that is not ours. I mean, have you ever felt as if only you could feel? As if other people were just puppets floating around you to give some realism to your existence?

I could go on and on but I think that I have said enough and I hope that this review will make you want to experience Kundera’s work.

Book review #4 – Lettre Ouverte Aux Animaux – Frédéric Lenoir

Should I write this in French or English, or both?

I don’t think that Lettre Ouverte Aux Animaux by Frederic Lenoir has already been translated into English. So I am maybe wasting my time writing this article in English, but I thought it was interesting that I talked about the topic of the book : our human relationship with animals. For English-speaking readers, I hope it will make you want to read non-fiction on the treatment of animals, and for lucky bilinguals who know French, that you will give this book a read.

Although I had heard of Lenoir before, I had never read any of his writings. For those who don’t know him, he is a French philosopher, and maybe one of the most influential authors of the 21st century in France. He has become very famous lately for his essays on happiness and wellbeing.

Lettre Ouverte Aux Animaux is a short essay which is addressed to animals. Although the writer insists in the book on the fact that they cannot read, I found this idea fun and interesting. I can only imagine the world in a few centuries (if it stands), with other species reading the book and saying : “so that’s why humans treated us that way!”. Plus, Lenoir asks for more consideration towards animals, and addressing the book to them is, I believe, a message of compassion.

Of course, you can imagine that a lot of this non fiction deals with omnivorous diets. I have been a vegeterian for three years now, so I am not one to convince about changing diets. But what I found interesting in the book was that Lenoir talked about his flaws with sincerity. He made many arguments pointing at the moral benefits of being a vegetarian or vegan, without judging those who have not yet tried doing so. He even admits that he continues eating some meat.

I am sorry for vegans who could read this, but I share his opinion on the subject. Not that I think that veganism is too difficult, I just need more time to adapt my diet, and I am not even sure I could do it. What Lenoir says, and I think many people can agree on, is that if we all make efforts in changing out eating habits, then we could make the world a better place. And hopefully with time, society’s eating habits will evolve altogether.

Another aspect on the book I liked was Lenoir’s explanation of the evolution of the humans’ treatment of animals. His approach is both scientific and cultural, with historical data. I found the book very informative, and not at all relying on pathos. Which could be a valid argument when talking about animal suffering though.

I could go on and on but I do not want to tell the entire story. I really think that it is worth reading.

Goodreads Reading Challenge

Since 2014, I have had a profile on Goodreads. But I hadn’t really used it until recently. On my blog, I have started writing book reviews but I am not yet used to doing them automatically. Which is why I decided to get back on Goodreads, so that I could post my opinions on books I’ve read.

I’ve also decided to try the 2019 reading challenge, setting a goal of 52 books this year. I am already behind schedule but I am expecting to get back on the track soon.

If you want to know more about the novels and non-fiction books I’m reading, you can follow me on there. Link HERE.

If you have any advice on books I should read, feel free to give me a (short) list !

Iceland Road Trip – Water

No need to have a PhD in science to know that water comes in different forms. Iceland in the winter is the perfect place to find all forms, sometimes all gathered in the same place. Here is a selection of photographs that were taken during my road trip, in which water is the focal point.

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Snow and liquid water in the same picture. It almost looks like a black and white photograph.

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After our snorkeling session in Silfra, we walked in þingvellir, where the first Icelandic Parliament was set.

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On the left is hidden Goðafoss, the Gods’ Waterfall. I already put a picture on my Instagram, so I decided to choose one of the river, as it flows in the snowy landscape.

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I did some experiments with my camera. Here is a picture of ice. The grass stuck in the water somehow looks like a fish. Am I the only one to see that?

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Jökulsarlon, where ice from the Vatnajökull derives into the ocean.

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Vik, with its black sand covered with snow, and its sometimes dangerous waves crashing onto the beach.

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Near Fluðir, we found an amazing hot pot, with a turf cabin to get changed. The spot was incredible, and because we went in the morning, we were alone there.