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Grijze zielen by Philippe Claudel
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Grijze zielen (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Philippe Claudel

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Member:Seljordroos
Title:Grijze zielen
Authors:Philippe Claudel
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Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel (2003)

(4) 2013 (5) 20th century (6) 21st century (7) Claudel (5) crime (11) death (4) detective (7) fiction (70) France (69) French (39) French fiction (7) French literature (46) historical fiction (5) history (4) library (4) literature (16) murder (23) mystery (26) novel (17) Prix Renaudot (6) read (4) Roman (40) to-read (7) translated (6) translation (8) unread (7) war (14) WWI (57) WWII (5)
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» See also 76 mentions

English (13)  Dutch (8)  French (4)  Spanish (3)  Italian (3)  Finnish (1)  Danish (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Ammetto di avere iniziato questo libro senza alcun sentimento particolarmente positivo: sì, m'ispirava, avevo voglia di un libro giallo senza troppe pretese, ma non mi aspettavo nulla. Invece mi sono trovata a leggere un libro semplicemente fantastico! La componente "gialla" viene sapientemente rimescolata a quello che in realtà è un profondo e doloroso diario di ricordi e riflessioni; più che un'indagine, il lettore si trova a fare i conti con una storia, che sembra iniziare ad annodarsi solo con l'indagine dell'omicidio di Bella di giorno, nell'originale Belle du jour, una piccola bimba di dieci anni. Il libro parte, fin da subito, con un inizio affascinante: si viene quasi trascinati a forza in queste campagne del nord-est francese, in un paese mai nominato. Ci è solo dato sapere che è piccolo, e che non è troppo lontano dal fronte della guerra. E quel che è strano è che anche il paese, la sua piccola realtà, finiscono per entrarci un po' sotto la pelle: alla fine della lettura lo si potrebbe descrivere, dargli vita, eppure rimarrebbe senza nome. Che mistero fantastico, la letteratura.
Ma torniamo alla storia e alla scrittura.

Le descrizioni, a parer mio, sono superbe. Dei tocchi poetici difficili da trovare, un continuo ricamo di particolari che insieme formano un affresco incompleto, e per questo ancora più affascinante. Le atmosfere vecchie, il lessico campagnolo, colloquiale e popolare del narratore, tutto rende perfettamente quello che è il paesaggio e l'animo del nostro protagonista: un abile uso della parola, non eccede mai, e non è mai troppo parco, in poche parole è sempre nel giusto equilibrio.

La narrazione è un continuo alternarsi di considerazioni del presente e ricordi: questo crea un'introspezione malinconica, fantastica da leggere, che scorre come un fiume placido. Eppure lentamente, in modo graduale, questo sentimento di malinconia "grigia" si fa sempre più presente, e l'alternarsi si fa più spesso e profondo; così come l'altalena tra vita e morte compie archi sempre più ampi, e il presente e il ricordo si fanno sempre più sfumati. Tutto questo va a formare una parabola, in cui al punto di partenza c'è più positività e distacco, e al punto d'arrivo l'esatto opposto: una scelta stilistica assolutamente necessaria, e ben sfruttata da Claudel.

La galleria di abitanti, varia, realistica, fatta di figure citate una volta sola o più volte richiamate, è meravigliosa. Sarà che abito in un paese, ma ho potuto riconoscere la verità di queste figure, dargli un "soffio di vita" in più. Inoltre, la caratterizzazione dei personaggi più importanti, come il freddo Destinat, l'insensibile Mierck, la bella Lysia, la stessa Bella di giorno che aleggia, nella sua mancata presenza, su tutto il romanzo, è davvero ben fatta, fantastica. Si finisce per voler conoscere il loro destino, nell'urgenza di sapere se ci sarà davvero un colpevole, se sarà chi si pensa che sia, se tutti nodi verranno al pettine; soprattutto, si finisce per amarne alcuni, e disprezzarne altri, e questa è la cosa più importante secondo me. Cosa sarebbe un libro senza protagonisti che valga la pena seguire? Se non ci fosse un reale interesse nel conoscere la fine della storia, nel sapere dove arriverà il protagonista, penso che l'autore dovrebbe considerare il proprio lavoro come un fallimento. Ovviamente, come ho appena scritto, in questo libro succede tutto il contrario.

Il finale è da applausi: gli ultimi capitoli sono inaspettati, danno alla storia quel qualcosa in più che mi ha colpita, lasciano sicuramente senza parole.

Sono stata a lungo indecisa sul voto da dargli, ma... che dire, mi ha davvero stregata. A caldo, non posso che dargli il massimo :) ( )
  Dasly | Feb 18, 2014 |
transferring information from 2006 spreadsheet
  sally906 | Apr 3, 2013 |
A young girl is murdered by the banks of a river, and a policeman spends the rest of his life trying to solve the mystery of her death. The novel begins years after the murder, as the policeman writes his memories of the crime into journals, but to him it seems like yesterday. As the narration moves between the past and the present, not only does the mystery unfold, but also the psyche of an entire French town in the years during the First World War.

The plot revolves around the prosecutor in the town, an important man whom the town respects but doesn't necessarily like. Pierre-Ange Destinat lives a remote and isolated life moving between his large but empty chateau and the courtroom, where he always gets a conviction and most likely a head. His one social concession is lunch in a town pub, a routine that is as unvarying as it is boring. His nemesis, the judge, is a greedy man who acknowledges him from a nearby table, but seems above talking with him. The two are waited on by the publican's young daughters, the youngest of whom is known affectionately as Morning Glory.

When Morning Glory is found dead, strangled on the banks of a river, the judge performs a summary investigation, but doesn't seem interested in pursuing the case or finding the truth.

The strange thing about the inquiry was that it got assigned to everybody and nobody. Mierck made a mess of it. The mayor stuck his nose in. The policemen sniffed the pile of shit from a distance. But taking the lead was a colonel who showed up the day after the crime and used the state of war and our being in the front-line zone as an excuse to give us orders.

The judge and the mysterious colonel convict two young deserters of the crime and declare the case closed, forbidding the policeman narrator from investigating further. But he can never let it go. In part because of its iniquitous nature, in part because the girl's death is tied up with his memories of the apparent suicide of a beautiful young teacher in Destinat's house and with the tragic loss of his own wife. As he relates his memories of the crime, the policeman also beautifully brings to life a small town struggling to deal with industrialization and the horrors of war and its casualties. Nothing is black and white, not the war, not its victims, not the crime, and not the souls of those involved in the crime investigation. Only little Morning Glory is innocent, and she is dead.

I love the works of Philippe Claudel and was not disappointed in this one. Like [Brodeck], the novel is set in a place and time that are part of the story itself. Small town life is depicted as both intimate and as isolating for the outsider. Like [Monsieur Linh and His Child], this novel has a surprising twist at the end, but smaller and without the emotional impact. For [By a Slow River] is emotionally restrained, powerful yet subdued. Although this may not be his strongest novel, it by no means detracts from the author's body of work. ( )
4 vote labfs39 | Apr 1, 2013 |
An enigmatic, possibly unreliable narrator tells a tale of sorrow, suspense, tragedy and ironic justice set in a small village in France during WWI. I found reading this novel frustrating and rewarding in approximately equal parts. The non-linear narrative kept me slightly off-balance, while the underlying mysteries kept me reading with a sense of some urgency. A few translational glitches threw me out of the moment from time to time, and I wish they had kept the original title, Gray Souls, which seems so much more appropriate. ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Mar 4, 2013 |
Excellent, in many ways better than Brodeck, this earlier novel is set during World War I and follows a similar non-linear tale of a village filled with archetypes and surprises. It centers around "The Case" -- the murder of a young girl -- which is just one of many terrible events in this town near the front lines of World War I. Not a mystery novel, but there is some suspense and surprise as the story unfolds. ( )
  jasonlf | Aug 2, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philippe Claudelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Casassas, AnnaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Obstová, ZoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ManikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I'm here. Being here is my fate.

Jean-Claude Pirotte, An Autumn Journey
To be the court clerk of time,
some magistrate's aide who happens to be around
when humans blend with light.

Jean-Claude Tardif, The Contemptible Man
Dedication
In memory of André Vers
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It's very difficult to find the beginning.
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
Souls are never black or white; they're all gray in the end, Dadais. You're a gray soul for sure, just like the rest of us.
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The placid daily life of a small town near the front during World War I seems impervious to the nearby pounding of artillery fire and the parade of wounded strangers passing through its streets. But the illusion of calm is soon shattered by the deaths of three innocents.… (more)

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