Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

French Lit Reading Bleg

I just wrapped up my current audiobook (Count of Monte Cristo) and I'm trying to decide what to read next. The ideal would be something that could help provide background for the next novel project, which would mean French (or German or Eastern European) literature from shortly before World War One. And I've tried the first novel by Proust and found it really hard to get through, so that rules out that.

Does anyone have any recommendations?


Brandon said...

Not a period of prose I tend to like on either the French or German sides, so I don't have many recommendations. But you might consider something by Gaston Leroux. His most famous work is The Phantom of the Opera, published in 1911, but The Mystery of the Yellow Room from 1907/1908 is one of the classics of detective fiction; both would almost certainly be easy to find in audio as well as print format. I don't know if either would quite fit the bill, but if you were sampling Proust, you must be casting a wide net.

Anonymous said...

The later novels of Theodor Fontane provide a window from the German perspective into the most rapid period of urbanization and technological change hitherto seen. Der Stechlin, Effi Briest, Irrungen, Wirrungen, Frau Jenny Treibel.


Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP said...

I haven't read it, but how about Joseph Conrad's Under Western Eyes? It was published in 1911 and based in part on a 1904 assassination, so the time period is right. It's written by a Pole and involves a Russian protagonist, so there's your Eastern European element. In addition to Russia, part of the action is set in Geneva -- not France, but Francophone. And Conrad's prose, if it's on the level of Heart of Darkness (the only work of his I have read), would probably have a healthy influence on your own style when you sit down to write your story.

Darwin said...

The Mystery of the Yellow Room turned out to be readily available on Audible, so picked it up and am listening to it now. Among other things, it's particularly interesting that it's almost exactly contemporary with the Sherlock Holmes stories which the kids are fond of at the moment.

Fontane goes on the list. Looks like he's not on audible, so I'll have to read him hard copy.

Somehow I'd always thought of Conrad in connection with the colonies, but Under Western Eyes looks like a good one. Added that to the list too.

Also added via Facebook suggestions:

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (breaking the No Englishmen rule, but oh well)

and in non-fiction: The Dreyfus Affair by Piers Paul Read

I'll also have to find a good book the The Caillaux Trial, since that managed to steal all the French headlines from the Balkan crisis during the summer of 1914. (The verdict came on the day Austria declared war on Serbia.)

Brandon said...

If you go with Joseph Conrad, you might also try The Secret Agent, which was published as a serial in 1906-1907. The setting for it is mostly England but (1) it is about anarchists and Marxist agitators; and (2) is based (loosely) on the true event of the attempted (and thoroughly failed) bombing of Greenwich Observatory in 1894, and so gives some sense of the political atmosphere of the time.