As Monty Python would say: “and now for something completely different!” This book is about uncomplicated characters, fun to read and at times moving. I saw Alexakis’ foto on the cover of the book and thought to myself, this man has a story to tell. Aged, recuperating from an operation he tells the stories of his youth while strolling through Jardin du Luxembourg Paris. The line between reality and fantasy is thin is very thin.
The storyline sways back and forth between Jardin du Luxembourg and the Kallithea garden in Greece. Alexakis speaks to us of Don Quichotte, d’Artagnan (“en garde, s’il vous plaît !”)Cyrano, Long John Silver, Robinson Crusoé, Michel Strogoff, Robin des bois, Zorro, Oliver Twist, Jean Valjean, the list
is exhaustive. These were his role models as a child and inspired him not to be a daredevil but to read stories. History of the Jardin du Luxembourg is touched upon. It was once a royal property, museum, prison and HQ for the Luftwaff in WWII. Not used to this fantasy story telling with a whiff of reality!
Fact, according to Vassilis Alexakis: a cypress tree is often planted in cemeteries for a reason writes “ ..the foliage stays silent in the wind. The tree does not complain about bad weather, does not moan, or bend too much. It is there to teach families dignity.(il est chargé d’enseigner la dignité aux familles) pg 80
Insomnia? Drink some hot milk. Not so Alexakis. He takes us on a magic carpet ride meeting his most beloved characters from literature and puppets! Guignol and Gnafron and the Greek version Karaghiozis. I know more about marionnettes than is healthy! We
see Lucien de Rubempré (Balzac) and oh yes, all the women Vassilis ever loved were sitting on the edge of his bed! Quirky and sometimes funny, I feel a bit overwhelmed by his fantasy about now.
Alexakis’ imagination is running wild and starting to get a bit boring. Style: ” interromper le cours de le récit pour évoquer son état d’ âme…” Example: a full-fledged Huron indian attack on a bookstore because the indians think they are not fairly portrayed in adventure books. Now, do you see what I mean? I will finish this ” coût que coût!”
Finally some introspection that is truly interesting. L’enfant grec refers to a poem by Victor Hugo. 1822 Greece is proclaimed independent, but lost everything after massacre by the Turks. Alexakis sees Greece as that child, “il a tout perdu.” He left Greece to study and live in France. All his hero’s (Jim Hawkins, Edmond Dantès, Remi, Capt Nemo) gave him the strength to ..”conquérir un territoire vierge…”
I get the impression that Alexakis has never really felt at home in France. I have the same feeling sometimes, born in USA and lived most of my life in The Netherlands. After many years you don’t feel at home in your country or the country of your birth. It feels like being in limbo.
Together with Alexakis’s fictional characters he has decided: L e jardin du Luxembourg est devenu mon nouveau pays.
Book: After an operation and the following convalescence, the Jardin du Luxembourg Paris becomes Vassilis Alexakis’ small world. Through reflexion he takes us back to the fictional characters of his youth and how they influenced him. The Greek economic crisis is mentioned, but not in depth. I finished the book and am ready to start another with a little more “substance”. Probably others will like the book better than I did.
Score 2 stars out of 5