Albert Camus: La Peste

Camus QUIZ_Le-retour-de-La-pesteQuiz-n2dAlbert-Camus_1755

  • Author:  Albert Camus (1913 – 1960)
  • Genre: allegory
  • Title: La Peste
  • Published: 1947
  • Table of Contents:   5 parts,   pp. 288
  • Publisher: Livre de Poche 
  • Language: French
  • Setting: Oran, Algeria
  • Timeline:  chronological   April 194?  – January 194?
  • Trivia: Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature  1957  at the age of 44.
  • Trivia: Camus was the second  youngest winner of Nobel for Literature.
  • Trivia: R. Kipling won the prize in 1907 at the age of 42.
  • Trivia: French Reading Challenge

Epigraph:  quote from ‘Robinson Crusoe’   (1719)

  • “Il est aussi raisonnable de représenter une espèce d’ emprisonnement (type of imprisonment)
  • par un autre que de représenter  (by another that represents)
  • n’importe quelle chose (anything)
  • qui existe réellement (that really exists)
  • par quelque chose qui n’existe pas. (something that does not exist)”.
  • It is always a puzzle to figure out the writer’s ‘hidden’ intention when using an epigraph.
  • Oran is imprisoned  and isolated by the plague.
  • But despite Dr Rieux descriptions of what he ‘really’ saw, Dr Richard (medical association)
  • still has doubts and asks: ‘avez-vous la certitude qu’il sagit de la peste?’ (pg 53)
  • Richard thinks Rieux is exaggerating about something that ‘does not really exist’.
  • He does not want to take the necessary steps to reduce the number of deaths.


  • People are blind to the truth
  • Book: Epidemic does exist.
  • Allegory: Dangerous enemies are everywhere, be aware and alert!
  • Reference to  WW II occupation of France.
  • ” l’obstination aveugle qui, dans now coerus, remplaçait alors l’ amour.” (pg 183)
  • [stubborn blindness that replaces  the love. in our hearts]


  • La Peste is an allegory.
  • It is a narrative which involves characters who represent daily life.
  • Camus reveals the causes, consequences and result of a catastrophe.
  • Day-to-day statistics – symptoms of victims – actions that must be taken.
  • Firstly the citizens regard the plague as a “distraction salutaire” (pg 81)
  • Their despair saves them from panic.
  • The misfortune ‘avait du bon’….feels somewhat good.
  • Later their lives are disrupted, terror and death invade the town.
  • Camus describes the changes in peoples actions and language.
  • Pleasantries of daily life and local ‘headlines’  turn into…
  • Lamentations and  life/death confidences among the people.
  • “La seule façon de mettre les gens ensemble,
  • c’est encore de leur envoyer la peste’. (pg192)
  • The only way to bring people together is to send them the plague.

Major characters:

  • Dr. Bernard Rieuxrecords the ‘facts’ in his journal.
  • Tarrou – volunteer helper – records his ‘feelings’ in his journal. (tableaux des réflexions)
  • Dr. Castel – sees disaster, is only one who dares to say what it is…the pest!
  • Cottard – goes from introvert to extrovert. He can deal with his fears b/c everyone is afraid.
  • Rambert – journalist – Camus uses discussions between…
  • Rambert and RieuxTarrou and Rieux to introduce the writer’s
  • grand philosophical ideas in the book.
  • Père Paneloux – gives a passionate sermon in part 2.
  • Camus includes many hallmarks of public speaking.
  • Tirads, contrasts, images, repetition, references  to past, present and future.
  • See if you can find all these in Père Paneloux’s sermon!
  • La Peste (mauvais ange, fléau) is the wrath of God.
  • He calls to mind the mythical origins of the plague .
  • The narrator is not impressed and keeps his distance from the prelate.


  • The story is told retrospective by a 3rd person narrator who remains mysterious.
  • The narrator wants to remain objective.
  • Part 1 is a prologue introducing the reader to Oran and its inhabitants.
  • Part 2 is the beginning of the narrator’s chronicle.
  • In part 2 the  ‘3rd person’ switches  back and forth which is confusing… (pgs 76-77)
  • ” And the narrator is persuaded…”  (3rd person is exterior)
  • We must try to manage…” (3rd person is now interior with ‘we’)
  • the  citizens, they must feel the suffering..” (3rd person is yet again exterior)
  • Camus alludes to ‘des événements mystérieuses’ but says nothing more about them. (suspense)

Setting: Oran:  

  • In the first chapter Camus introduces the reader to Oran and compares it to other cities.
  • Other towns are aware of risks, the possibility of harm, hazards or dangers.
  • They  are able to sustain the demands of a wave of disease among the population.
  • The citizens of Oran are only concerned with doing business, making  money, keeping to their habits.
  • Oran only looks to itself, interior.
  • Young and old have their vices and desires but seem to have no worries.
  • Oran is a town without suspicions
  • Pg 9: “Oran au contraire est une ville sans soupçons, c’est-à-dire, tout à fait monderne”.
  • Oran is a town that requires one to be healthy.
  • Pg 10: “…mais à Oran […] tout demande la bonne santé”.
  • This reveals a town of individuals who are isolated in their own private matters.
  • The plague will change them into a community who struggles to survive.
  • Some characters change permanently…. other temporally  and then slip back to  life as they knew it.


  • On a personal level the ‘plague’ symbolized Camus’s
  • own life long struggle with tuberculosis. (pg 191)
  • At 17 he first experienced the symptoms and had recurring attacks of this deadly disease.
  • There was no cure at that time.
  • The character of Tarrou observes the plague and remarks we are all under the sentence of death.
  • Each of us has the plague within him, no one, no one on Earth is free of it. (pg 242)
  • “…chaqun la porte en soi, la peste, parce que personne au monde n’en est indemne.”
  • On a historical  level ‘the plague’ represented…Oran, Algeria  as well as France
  • who were isolated and paralyzed with terror during the German occupation.
  • Specifically the relation between the internment camps (quarantine)
  • = concentration camps W II is clear. (pg 234)


  • Ironically the death of the heroic volunteer Tarrou occurs at the moment…
  • when the city is freed from the plague.

Style:  contrasts

  • Contrast is a rhetorical device through which writers identify differences between two places, persons, things or ideas.
  • The opposition between two objects emphasizes their differences.
  • Camus makes his writing stronger using contrasts  (examples pg 187 – 189)
  • jeunesse – vieillesse
  • guérir – dignostiquer
  • donner la vie – ordonner l’isoloent
  • duceur – druicissement
  • en avance – en recul (la peste)


  • Isolation is the main idea that repeats itself throughout  the book.
  • Citizens of Oran are exiled from the rest of the world by quarantine. (pg 76)
  • The town is described as the shell of an escargot with it’s back turned to the shore (pg 35).
  • This emphasizes the theme of people being blind to the truth.
  • “It’s impossible to see the sea (truth), you always have to go look for it.” (pg 35)
  • This quest for truth is the core of existentialist thought.


  • This book is intense. Every page feels like hard work.
  • It took many hours  of reading an research to finally see all the meanings.
  • I wanted to learn what Camus was really saying in his allegory.
  • It always takes time to get used to a writer’s vocabulary.
  • After page 150 I could read it without difficulty.
  • I knew this book was ‘more work than fun’.
  • That is probably why  I left it on the bookshelf for so many years.
  • Sometimes you just have to ‘dare to start ‘.
  • Last thoughts:
  • This book will not appeal to everyone.
  • It is one of the 1001 books to read before you die but…
  • You have to WANT to read it.
  • I’m giving it a score of 5 because it is  a chef d’oeuvre.
  • Sometimes great books are not meant to be easy.

Score: 5

Camus index


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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized


Emile Gaboriau: L’Affaire Lerouge


  • Author:  Emile Gaboriau  (1832 – 1873)
  • Genre:  classic roman policier
  • Title: L’Affaire Lerouge
  • Published: 1866
  • Table of Contents:  20 chapters,  pp. 440
  • Publisher: Livre de Poche
  • Language: French
  • Setting: France
  • Theme: justice, family honor, revenge
  • Trivia:  French Reading Challenge
  • Trivia: based on a true story
  • Trivai: L’ Affaire Lerouge was the first judicial crime fiction written in France.
  • Trivia: Arthur Conan Doyle was a great admirer of E. Gaboriau.
  • Trivia: It is believed that Sherlock Holmes is a combination of Tabaret and Lecoq.

Story: (no spoilers)

  • A 54 year old widow is found savagely killed in her home.
  • All the evidence points to a young man from a good family.
  • Facts and material proof are overwhelming.
  • Is he guilty or victim of circumstantial evidence?
  • Gaboriau weaves a two narratives together: a murder investigation and a love story.

Love triangles:

  • Le comte de Commarin
  • Mme de Commarin
  • Mme Valérie Gredy
  • Viscomte Albert de Commarin
  • Mlle Claire d’ Arlange
  • Judge Daburon

Characters: 3 investigators and 1 judge

  • Le juge Daburon – 38 yr – doesn’t search for the guilty, but the innocent (pg 20)
  • Gévrol – police inspector – bold, self-confident, arrogant
  • Le père Tabaret ( ‘Tirauclair’ ) – amateur detective = tir au clair – clarify
  • Lecoq – aide-de-champ Gévrol – shrewd, quiet

La veuve Claudine Lerouge – 55 yr

  • Moves to country village, Bougival and reveals nothing about her past
  • La veuve entertains a handful of visitors.
  • Claudine barricades herself in her ‘chaumière’ (thatched cottage) like a fortress.
  • She is suddenly found slaughtered in her ransacked home!
  • She knows  something that high placed people desperately want to keep secret!

Judge  Daburon – 38 yr

  • C’est un trembleur. (pg 20)
  • What he needed was not a conviction, not a presumption…but absolute certitude.


  • Lacks perseverance- is and sometimes blinded by his incredible stubbornness
  • If he loses the ‘scent’ of a criminal he refuses to  confess his mistakes and retrace his steps.
  • Full of audacity and sang-fiord, it is difficult to unsettle him.
  • He is never afraid to confront the most dangerous criminals (malfaiteurs).
  • Strong point is his memory for faces.
  • He concentrates only on the eyes and forgets the other features.
  • Does not want Tirauclair on the case……feels threatened.


  • Aide-de-champ for Gévrol
  • Shrewd, clever – (fin comme l’ambre, un esprit des plus déliés)
  • He is jealous of his ‘boss’  Gévrol who he thinks is incompetent.

Le père Tabaret:

  • 60 yr bachelor – twinkling eye, a web of wrinkles on his face seems to smile.
  • …”son petit oeil briller comme une escarboucle, ses rides semblaient rire.”
  • He wags like a dog that is eager to search while sniffing for any scent of the assassin!
  • …remuante du chien qui quête.”
  • Tirauclair presents his evidence  found at the crime scene.
  • The police have missed at least 8 clues! (pg 40-41)
  • Lecoq conceals his admiration, the judge is stupefied, Gérvol is silent.

Strong point: character development

  • Emile Gaboriau describes the flaws and strengths of each investigator in great detail.
  • L’ Affaire Lerouge is all about the detectives and their detection skills.
  • Gaston Leroux gave the readers 2 dimensional characters.
  • Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune was all about the puzzle (locked room) and the evidence.

Strong point: mystery

  • This is a an enigma solved by a detective.
  • Sometimes mystery fiction tends to fade into the back round.
  • Often readers are captivated by  crime fiction.
  • …where body parts are scattered with a profusion of blood.
  • Good for book covers and sales.

Strong point:  very good reading experience…never boring!

  • The book is more of a novel…than a straightforward  crime fiction
  • Garboriau has enriched the story with wonderful expressions.
  • prévenu (accused)
    pincé – nabbed, caught
    serré – fastened
    bouclé – secured
    ficelé – tied up
    emballé – taken in (to the nick)
    coffré – locked away
  • One that is often used is  “Je travaille pour la rue de Jérusalem.”
  • La rue de Jérusalem on the Île de la Cité  was once the metonymy for the Paris police.

rue de Jérusalem BI_Le_Forcat_Colonel_081


  • Well known novel from the French writer, novelist, and journalist.
  • Gaboriau is considered a pioneer of modern detective fiction.
  • The Lerouge Case was his first detective novel.
  • He introduces  an amateur detective and a young police officer named Monsieur Lecoq.
  • Lecoq will be the hero in three of Gaboriau’s later detective novels.

Last thoughts:

  • I loved the book, absolutely a coup de coeur!
  • 440 pages  was a long read but worth every minute.
  • The writing is just as good as Zola!  Impressed!
  • I ordered a 1961 version of the book Livre de Poche.
  • When I open the book it smells like 1961, really it does!
  • This book is available in English… #MustRead !

Score: 5



Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized


German Reading Challenge: update 29/06/15

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  • Today I throw  down the gauntlet on the German issue… to Mrs Peabody Investigates!
  • I will start my first German book.  #CrimeFiction
  • I am fluent in Dutch so I hope that will help.
  • German:  it’s not rocket science….not brain surgery!
  • I can do this!
  • My cat thinks I’m crazy!


  • 12/06: Visited two libraries and one bookstore in search of  books about Deutsche Grammatik!
  • There were more books about learning Turkish and Russian than German.
  • I noticed librarian  sigh when I said I was starting to learn the language.
  • “Good Luck”  were her last words
  • Finally settled for a book written in German to explain German.
  • According to Mrs Peabody Investigates …..
  • The key is immersion.
  • German Grammar Book – best reference!
  • 5 km run: wrote prepositions that always take the dative case on my hand….memorize during my run!
  • Biggest problem: I must stop trying to  learn German depending on my ‘Dutch’  language skills.
  • The two languages seem similar but they are very different.
  • Decision: learn German – English….and  let the Dutch vocabulary just  linger in the back round.
  • I started to learn German years ago…but after moving to NL I needed to just concentrate on Dutch.
  • Now I want to finally ‘ finish ‘ what I stared 40 years ago!
  • 13/06:English: 2 plural -s or -es ( simple) German: 5 options!
  • OMG, start memorizing…
  • 14/06: Struggling with the Dutch-German connections.
  • The  verb  worden  is used constantly  in Dutch. (3rd pers sing = wordt)
  • I think I found it this morning in the verb  werden  (3rd pers sing = wird)
  • Today this challenge feels like a huge uphill climb…
  • Basic words like  to eat – essen ( irregular verb) to drink – trinken (regular)  does not make me feel merry!
  • 15/06: Trying to build a German vocabulary and the ‘gender’  is essential.
  • Endings for normative, accusative, dative and genitive cases depend on it.
  • Thank you University of Michigan for some hints how to guess gender.
  • This was not easy to find…but I did it!
  • Learned 27 parts in German ‘Mein Körper’ (word gender: 9 (f), 11 (m), 7(neuter)
  • 16/06: Using pictures to help me learn German words:
  • 18/06: new: die Hüfte;n (hip)der Zeh;en (toe)der Nacken; Nacken (neck)
  • 19/06: 60 min German review verbs. Must repeat every day until I can dream them!
  • Killer verb today: essen (to eat)..drives me crazy irregular verb!
  • 20/06: Learning German makes me run 5 km better!
    I conjugate verbs and am home before I know it!
  • 20/06: Adjective declensions in agreement with noun/pron – strong and weak – make my head spin!
  • 22/06: My learning pattern: translate first Ger-Dutch then Ger-French. Word is in read-only-memory.
  • No English  translation needed!
  • Read Der Spiegel onlne – best way to connect news and build my vocabulary.
  • Motivation tool:  keep a ‘Bounty’ candybar handy…for those extra difficult words!
  • Es ist entscheidend (essential). Viel Erfolg! Success!
  • 23/06: Major breakthrough!
  • Adjectives have 3 different declinations  – reference link
  • after: definite article, indefinite article or NO article.
  • 24/06: Need a ‘language’  break after finishing La Peste by A. Camus. He is so intense.
  • 25/06: The joy of finally reading a German sentence
  • AND  understand the combination of  article (def/ind/none) with the adjective is indescribable!
  • I still wonder why German needs to be so difficult.
  • How many adjective declentions does a language need?
  • 25/06: Must stop head is spinning with disjunctive conjunctions
  • (entweder…oder) “entweder jetz oder nie” Now or never!  (either….or)
  • nicht nur…..sondern auch ( not only…but also) — sowohl….als auch (both….and)
  • weder…noch (neither…nor) —  …..sowie…..  ( as well as)
  • 26/06: review  Der-Die-Das nouns and learn more about verb-noun agreement.
  • New ‘tricky’  verbs:   genießen-genoss-genossen  and  lassen-ließ-gelassen
  • Not very exciting stuff….but exhausting all the same.  i just have to keep going.
  • Hör nie auf  damit  = Never stop!
  • 27/06:  I have spent HOURS trying to learn the words
  • IHR  (her, their, theirs) and SEIN (his) ( possessive pronouns)  with all it’s meanings!
  • Declension is the same as the  ‘EIN-group’ ..had to review that too!
  • I am totally exhausted and have to take a break! #DubbelExpressoBitte
  • 29/06: Subjunctive in any language is difficult but
  • the Germans have taken it to a new level:
  • The subjunctive II can be formed in two ways…
  • 29/06: In less than 3 wk I can understand Tageschau (daily news program NDR 1) and
  • Angela Merkel’s news conference about #GREXIT.
  • After more than 3 years of French reading.
  • I can only pick up snippits of French news and discussions!


Back to basis:   20/06: I feel like I am in grammar school!

german calender german-calendar-laminated-1851-p


Totenfrau:    by Bernard Aichner (2014)

  • 15/06: Start: ‘Totenfrau’ (B. Aichner) Write down nouns + verbs pg 21
    Try to form plurals  and past particles with ‘Dutch’ knowledge.
  • 17/06:  style of writing is easiy to read. Need something light to start with.
  • page 21 write down all  27 nouns and the 30 verbs on this page.
  • Learn gender and plurals – regular and strong verbs and irregular.
  • 18/06: still on page 21 – quiz nouns (32 – 6 wrong) why is Angst (f) and Tag (m) Boot (n)?
  • Auxiliary verbs sein/werden/müssen/haben  are the basics. Try to quiz myself riding the bike to the store!
  • 19/06: auxillary verbs = oke. Now learn strong verbs with vowel change and sometimes consonant change:
  • ei: bleiben – greifen — i: singen – schwimmen — ie: fliegen — e: helfen – geben – fechten — a: fallen — fahren
  • Verb conjugation – best reference!
  • 20/06: today I will analyse every sentence on pg 24. I understand the story
  • but I must learn the ‘ nuts and bolts’  of case endings for German words. 
  • This is where I stumbled and fell…years ago.
  • Now is the time to  #JustMemorize  until I drop!
  • 20/6: I discoverd WHY my first two attempts  to n adjectives on pg 24 were difficult.
  • I had learned the WRONG adjective endings!  No wonder I didn’t  ‘get it’ !
  • I was trying to compare apples with pears!
  • 20/06: It has taken 8 days…but I can finally read 3 sentences in this book.
  • I understand every meaning and noun-adjective agreement.
  • I can conjugate every verb (springen-unarmen-fliegen-landen-schmiegen) and 2 prepositions (in – an).
  • #Exhausted
  • 25/06: Ready to devote myself to Totenfrau for 3 days. Need to push beyond the first page!
  • 26/06: Studied very hard today. I managed to get to page 23.  Learned some expressions;
  • Wie das Schicksal es so wollte – ” as fate would have it “
  • Ich bin langweilig ( slowpoke…) aber alles fült gut aus!  (making progress slowly but surely)
  • Learning German is not a’s a marathon!
  • 27/06: I keep changing my tactics to get the right ‘plan of action’ to read a German book.
  • Decision: read ONE sentence at a time – dissect it and learn everything it has to offer.
  • Verb conjuncton,  Der-Die-Das words, prepositions that take all sorts of cases – adjective declension.
  • Decision: reading German – Dutch.  I tried to incorporate English into the picture….but it just is not ‘ do-able’
  • My brain is so accustomed to Dutch….and that language is similar to German in many ways.
  • Strange feeling….to abandon your ‘first language, mother language’
  • ….thought it would never happen!


Das Parfum

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a 1985  literary historical cross-genre  novel  by German writer Patrick Süskind.
  • The novel explores the  sense of smell and its relationship with the emotional meaning that scents may carry.
  • Above all it is a story of identity, communication and the morality of the human spirit.
  • 16/06: First sentence is difficult, convoluted and discouraging for a new student of German language!
  • 20/06: I am going to read Totenfrau first….this book will have to be nr 2 on the reading list.

Perfume 6477558_9a25_1024x2000


Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


Gaston Leroux: Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune

Chambre Jaune ob_e2bb74_66860511-jpg

  • Author:  Gaston Leroux  (1868 – 1927)
  • Genre:  classic roman policier
  • Title: Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune
  • Published: 1907
  • Table of Contents:  29 chapters,  pp. 314
  • Publisher: Livre de Poche
  • Language: French
  • Dedication: à Robert Charvay, souvenir reconnaissant des débuts 
  • de jeune Rouletabille
  • Setting: Chateau du Glandier
  • Theme: suspense,  locked door mystery
  • Trivia:  French Reading Challenge
  • Le mystère s’épaissit.
    Veuilllez le croire!  L’assassin s’est volatilisé !


  • The locked room mystery is a  sub genre of detective fiction.
  • It involves almost always murder that is committed under apparently impossible circumstances.
  • The crime involves a crime scene that no intruder could have entered or left  a locked room.
  • The attacker has vanished into thin air
  • The reader is presented with a puzzle of clues.
  • Can you solve the mystery before the solution is revealed in a dramatic climax?

Main characters:

  • M. Joseph Rouletabille – 18 yr  newspaper reporter
  • M. Sinclair is a criminal lawyer and journalist.
  • M. Frédéric Larsan – investigator called in to solve the mystery
  • M. Professeur Strangerson – owns Chateau du Glandier
  • Mlle Mathilde Strangerson (daughter)
  • R. Darzac ( fiancé)

Story:  ( no spoilers)

  1. M. Sainclair  is going to tell the world about the ‘locked room’ mystery
  2. Joseph Rouletabiller wants to forget the case completely.
  3. Joseph is a replica of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ .
  4. He is assigned by his paper L’ Epoque to get  the the scoop of the century:
  5. Who attacked Mlle Strangerson  in her ‘ Chambre Jaune ‘ ?
  6. How did the attacker escape the room?
  7. Chambre Jaune is as secure as a vault.
  8. No openings, air vents, secret doors or double floor.
  9. A fly could not enter or leave  it.
  10. Rouletabille searches  the floor on all fours and his fingertips glide across ceiling and walls.
  11. He meets Frédéric Larsan, a famous investigator at the chateau.
  12. Larsan observes and Rouletabille uses pure logic.
  13. Which one of these gumshoes will finally discover how the criminal escaped?


  • Gaston Leroux has created a wonderful young detective, Joseph Rouletabille.
  • His character is intelligent and capable  as he makes his way through clues by deduction.
  • He seems to see the hidden secrets of others.
  • Strong point: suspense – Rouletabille speaks and acts enigmatically.
  • The  reader supposes he has found some important clue without letting us know what it is!
  • His discoveries seem almost magical  but his conclusions  are based on pure logic.
  • Weak point:  I needed all my strength to keep concentrating in French.
  • After  275 pages I had no inkling as to what REALLY happened in Chambre Jaune.
  • The last 20 pages were a detailed and complex summation of facts and evidence.

Last thoughts:

  • This book was a welcome change to the ‘hard criminal world’ of F. Thilliez and P. Lemaitre.
  • I was tired of body parts flying in all directions!
  • I have not reached the ‘ tipping point’  yet.
  • I can read fluently in French  but still need a dictionary.
  • Looked up at least 110 verbs.
  • I did declare war on ‘ falloir’ (always a problem..Il faut, il fallait, il fallu etc) and
  • dégager (3 different meaning).
  • Expressions:
    Je viens au fait – I’m going to get to the point.
    il se pourrait que – it might be said that
    Retiens bien ceci  – je ne  te le dirai pas deux fois
    Remember this! – I will not say it to you twice

Feedback: comment by Finding Time to Write (MarinaSofia):

  • I still find it difficult …not to reveal too much of the plot.
  • On one level it was a straight forward crime scene….
  • …but when Rouletabille lets loose his rational ‘cold knowledge’ you can
  • see that there is a completely different meaning to the plot.
  • Don’t judge the crime….on face value.
  • There is always something yet to discover!
  • Very cleverly done…and without very much bloodshed!
  • Thanks so much for you comments!

Score: 5

Leroux tumblr_inline_n568bi6m8R1rn651m


Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


Reading plan June 2015


Selected books for plan June  2015:

  • I will do something I’ve never done…..
  • Reading ONLY French book in the month of June – July – August.
  • I want to increase my vocabulary.
  1. Le Mystère de la Chambre Jaune (G. Leroux) (1907)
  2. L’Affaire Lerouge (E. Gaboriau) (1866)
  3. Le Chapeau de Mitterand (A. Laurain) (2012)
  4. L’ Insoutenable Légèrté de l’ être ( M. Kundera) (1984)
  5. Que ma joie demeure (J. Giono) (1936)
  6. Dossier 113  (E.Garboriau) (1867)
  7. Le Rapport de Brodeck (P.Claudel) 2007
  8. Alouette (D. Kosztolanyi) (1924)
  9. La Peste (A. Camus) (1947)
  10. L’île mystérieuse (Jules Verne) (1874)

Cleo at Classical Carousel asked me a great question.

“Do you learn more French vocabulary by reading non-fiction, novels or classics?”

  • Avoid non-fiction in French. It is just too much work.
  • To be perfectly honest, crime fiction has increased my vocabulary.
  • Zola used the language of the XIX century and it feels obviously ‘sursanné’ outdated.
  • When one is struggling with a new language it helps if the text flows…
  • …with a normal dialogue and familiar descriptions.
  • Zola floods the reader with gardens and flowers.
  • These are words that you look up and forget instantly.
  • Crime fiction is filled with ‘snappy’ phrases that…
  • …I can even use around the house with the cats!
  • Je m’ en fiche   (I don’t care)
  • Je suis dessus ( I’m on it like a bonnet!),
  • C’ est vraiment infect. (This is disgusting)
  • Crétin fini!  (You are a complete moron!).
  • Luckily the cats don’t understand French!

Update May 2015:  read  9 books: 4 French, 2 non-fiction, 2 Dutch and 1 Sci-Fi.

French: Crime fiction



Sci-Fi: (challenge ended, I read 3 of 4 books. I have had enough Sci-Fi.)


Posted by on June 2, 2015 in Uncategorized


Elsa Marpeau: Et Ils Oublieront La Colère

Marpeau book big 4556954_5_f6f5_et-ils-oublieront-la-colere-d-elsa-marpeau_48a6a997b4034315afe9308f34b1ba38

  • Author:  Elsa Marpeau
  • Genre:  roman noir
  • Title: Et Ils Oublieront La Colère
  • Published: 2015
  • Table of Contents:  17 chapters,  pp. 231
  • Publisher: Gallimard
  • Language: French
  • Dedication: à ma fille, Anna
  • Setting: France, villages Saint-Valérien, Sens in Bourgogne
  • Timeline: complicated
  • Theme: revenge, suspense
  • Trivia: French Reading Challenge


  • The book is divided into 3 parts,  and 7 different settings.
  • L’ Hermitage (hamlet with house, pastures, forest where 3 families live)
  • Sens (village)
  • Les Frelins
  • Yonne (départment in Bourgogne)
  • Saint-Valérien (village)
  • Champ du Grâtnais (property b/t that of Mehdi Azem and Colette Marceau)
  • Bois Joli  (home for the aged)

Timeline: (I had to figure this out before reading the book!)

  1.  The  timeline begins on  24th August 1944 and ends on  25th August 1944.
    • The book contains 5 chapters  taking place during 19-25 August 1944.
    • This was the famous Battle of Paris.
    • Shortly before the Liberation women were shaven to clearly show they  were collaborators.
  2. Here is a list of the timelines in parts 1, 2,and 3:
  • part 1:
  • 1944 – 1942 – 1943
  • August and September 2015
  • part 2:
  • 1943 – 1944
  • September 2015
  • part 3:
  • 1944
  • September 2015


  • Summer 1944:  Marianne Marceau is running through the Bourgogne countryside.
  • She’s attempting to flee from a crowd that wants to shave her head as a ‘collabo’.
  • Summer 2015: a man is killed near a lake by L’ Hermitage.
  • What is the suspense?
    • What is the connection b/t  disappearance of Marianne (1944) and Mehdi’s murder (2015)?
    • Did Mehdi discover a Marceau family secret?

Main characters:

  • Capt. de Gendarmerie –  Garance Calderon – policewoman
  • Commander Alexandre Vinoy – Garance’s  boss
  • Marianne Marceau – sister
  • Paul Marceau – brother
  • Colette Marceau  – sister
  • Rose – Colette’s daughter
  • Joseph Grendon – Colette’s husband
  • Raymonde Marceau – mother
  • Isabelle Marceau – has 3 children: Thomas, daughter, and  Quentin
  • Christophe  Marceau –  grandson Paul, Isabelle’s husband
  • Mehdi Azem – murder victim (teacher at Lycée Janot)

Weak point: sense of place:

  • Marpeau wants to give the reader a sense of place by revealing what the place looks like
  • in instead of how it feels.
  • She describes rooms, offices, schools instead of using expressive images.
  • Marpeau: The bed was large with a wooden frame, the sheets once white now are a shade of ivory. (pg 32)
  • Lemaitre: On the bed the blankets are bulging, crowning in the pattern of a roller coaster.
  • (Robe de Marié, pg 21)
  • Do you see the difference?

Weak point: character development of  Garance

  • Love affairs and difficult personal histories of the detectives are
  • often added to crime fiction to keep the reader’s interest.
  • But I find that Garance recalls too many  of her own memories.
  • This gave me the feeling that the book was more about her than the crime!
  1. Garance recalls a incident in a school playground, (pg 53)
  2. Singing scout songs with her grandfather, (pg 67)
  3. Vacations by the hazy Loire with her mother,
  4. Garance’s  struggle to  forget ‘ma mère’. (pg 68-69)
  5. The victim’s  body reminded her of a passing affair with a Moroccan. (pg 27)
  6. Walks in the forest during her youth (pg 128)
  7. Her grandmother’s pleasant personality ( pg 129)
  8. Mother’s death (pg 136)
  9. Memories of family and troubling cases she has dealt with (pg 141-146)
  10. Visits grandmother  (pg 205-212  = 7 pages! )
  • This does not enhance the narrative or interest me.


  • Weak point: The book does not have the ‘ grab power’ of a page turner.
  • I must push myself to keep reading.
  • Strong point: the plot thickens in part 2 and 3.
  • Weak point: I found the book ‘too ‘poetic’.
  • I missed the matter-of-fact  style associated with rational deductive thinking.
  • Last thoughts:
  • I expected a chilling crime fiction thriller and got …
  • a mixture of a good WW II intrigue marred by
  • too many personal memories of the investigating officer, Garance Calderon.
  • If I have a choice between reading another Marpeau of Lemaitre, I would choose the latter.
  • It  is the difference between a  story you reread and remember  (Lemaitre) and
  • the one you skim through and almost instantly forget (Marpeau).
  • French:
  • Marpeau  aime à fouiller ( nose around in)
  • la psyché de Garance et déballer (unwrap, display) ses conflicts intérieurs.
  • Toutefois,  (however) ce travail de
  • mise à nue de l’âme de ses héroïnes (expose the soul of the heroine)
  • se fait ici au détriment de la cohérence de l’intrigue.
  • (mars (damages)  the coherence of the intrigue)

Score: 3 Marpeau author Le-charme-fatal-du-polar


Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Franck Thilliez: Syndrome [E]

Syndrom [E] Thiliez 13589136


  • Author:  Franck Thilliez
  • Genre:  crime fiction
  • Title: Syndrome [E] ( 1st reference  on pg 236)
  • Published: 2010
  • Table of Contents:  61 chapters,  pp. 510
  • Publisher: Fleuve Editions
  • Language: French
  • Dedication: à mes proches
  • Setting: France, Belgium, Egypt, Canada
  • Trivia: 1st book in Thilliez trilogy
  • Trivia: 2nd is Gataca (2011) and the last is Atomka (2012)


  • Franck Thilliez reunites two inspectors: Franck Sharko and Lucie Henebelle.
  • I know absolutely nothing about the author or the book.  #BlindDate

Story: (no spoilers)

  • Detective Sharko is a widower.
  • He is on medications to deal with violent memories.
  • The sound of his miniature trains racing at high speed calms him.
  • Photographs of wife and daughter hang only in the hallway…
  • …why not close to him in  the living room?
  • His personal life is a shambles and has left him doubting his sanity.
  • Yet he perseveres and rejoins the force as a profiler.
  • Detective Lucie Henebelle is a single mother of twins.
  • She is determined to work hard on Lille police force and make a promotion.
  • Sharko and Lucie meet during an investigation about a cult film.
  • Some people think that this short feature film…is worth killing for.

Difference between Franck Sharko and Camille Verhoeven:

  • Franck Sharko: is a profiler. He is only a spectator.
  • He must figure out the psychology, motivations  of the killer and nothing else.
  • Camille Verhoeven is the spin in the web of the  Brigade Criminelle,
  • His team follows his commands.

Similarities between Franck Sharko and Camille Verhoeven:

  • Both Sharko and Camille are conducting a police procedural investigations.
  • Both Sharko  and Camille are overworked police veterans.
  • Both Sharko  and Camille mourn the loss of their respective wife and children
  • Both Sharko  and Camille have mental issues that have deeply affected their ability to work.
  • Both Sharko and Camille have their quirks.
  • Sharko travels with a tape-recordings of miniature trains racing at full speed on their tracks.
  • He needs this sound to relax before sleeping.
  • He also has a jar of cocktail sauce en a box of marrons glacés with him.
  • Verhoven is constantly sketching during police interviews.
  • He connects to his wife and mother this way.
  • Elements such as love affairs and difficult personal histories are included.
  • Both Thilliez and Lemaitre have succeeded in humanizing their stories
  • ….without diluting the rational detective genre.

 Strong point: CSI

  • Thilliez introduces Sharko, a criminal profiler.
  • His method of identifying the perpetrator of a crime is based on an
  • analysis of the nature of the offense and
  • the manner in which it was committed.
  • Sharko’s investigation goes deeper into the forensics
  • Camille Verhoeven just scratches the surface in comparison to Sharko.
  • This challenges the reader to get involved  looking for hard evidence!

Strong point:  Cliffhangers

  • Chapters end is curiously abrupt.
  • The main characters are left in a difficult situation without offering any resolution of conflicts.
  • Thilliez maintains  the suspense in the plot in order to ensure the interest and focus of the reader.

Strong point: Dialogue

  • Thilliez uses no dialogue tags! ( i.e.  he said, she continued, he replied).
  • Thilliez  grounds the conversation with descriptions of the speaker’s actions.
  • For example, Sharko  rubbed his lips,  squinted,  nodded his head, sighed deeply
  • The result is a text that flows smoothly.
  • The sense that the characters are physically located in a particular setting.
  • The characters speech is realistic.
  • The dialogue requires some concentration….because Sharko hears voices at times.

Strong point:  puzzling clues

  • Story is filled with cryptic  sentences.
  • This gives the reader food for thought (donner du grain à moudre).
  • The eye is only a vulgar sponge that captures an image
  • (L’oeil n’est que une vulgaire éponge qui capte l’image) (pg 190)
  • There are words that keep returning in the story:
  • image (physical), eye (scientific), film and point of view (artistic)


  • Strong point: the interaction between Sharko and Lucie.
  • They both need each other but showing vulnerability could be a sign of weakness.
  • Faux pas …for a cop.
  • Strong point: Very intricate storyline
  • Strong point: different settings France, Belgium,  Egypt and Canada
  • Strong point: info about aspects of film making and the influence of optics on the brain.
  • Weak point: needed to adjust to Thilliez’s  extensive, French, scientific, medical vocabulary!
  • Last thoughts: I devoured this  this book!
  • It offers the reader a crime story enriched with cold-war espionage.
  • J’ étais ‘scotché par la fin’ ! (very surprised by the ending)
  • I highly recommend this book and have just ordered nr 2 in the trilogy.
  • The ending in Syndrome [E] is the link to the second book….Gataca.
  • Époustouflant,  bravo!

Score: 5



  • IML: l’institut médico-légal de Rouen.
  • OCRVP: direction (opération) centrale de la Police judiciaire
  • PJ: Police Judiciaire
  • SRPJ: service régional de police judiciaire  est une division d < PJ >
  • ADN: molécule biologique présente dans toutes les celluels ( DNA)
  • IRM: technique d’imagerie utilisée en médecine (MRI)
  • GAC: groupe analyse criminelle
  • Le Proc: prosecutor
  • DSGE: Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure
  • CCSD: Centre pour la Communication Scientifique Directe


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Posted by on May 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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