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Brodeck's Report by Philippe Claudel
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Brodeck's Report (2007)

by Philippe Claudel

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English (12)  Dutch (11)  French (8)  Spanish (6)  German (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
I am Brodeck, and I had nothing to do with it.So begins Philippe Claudel’s brilliant novel about xenophobia, narrated by the eponymous Brodeck. Of an ambiguous national identity, living in an unspecified country just on the heels of World War II, Brodeck is the outsider par excellence: a man who has spent time in the concentration camps to return home to the same villagers to find their attitudes toward him altered, his position always uncertain and unclear. This is also underscored by his changed familial relations upon returning from the camps.

Brodeck begins post de facto: The “it” with which Brodeck claims emphatically that he has had nothing to do only becomes clear by the end of the text. An incident has occurred, and the villagers have unanimously enlisted Brodeck to write a report of the events leading up to it, an act of rhetorical self-defense for the village. The collective guilt and shame the villagers feel to make such a report necessary are juxtaposed in liquid prose with Brodeck’s own individualized feelings of guilt and shame, a “conflict between knowledge and ignorance, between solitude and numbers.”

As he undertakes to write this report (“a cross which was not made for my shoulders and which didn’t concern me”), Claudel allows Brodeck to tap into questions of reality versus fiction, what makes something true or false (depending on the amount of people who claim something is true despite it being far from it), and also a kind of Freudian analysis of group psychology: the group’s word is gospel, and Brodeck is being forced to write for a group of which he is not truly a part. How can a person speak for another, or for a group of others, when one’s subjective truth is at variance with the account expected of those who hold and wield power?I thought about History, capitalized, and about my history, our history. Do those who write the first know anything about the second? Why do some people retain in their memory what others have forgotten or never seen? Which is right: he who can’t reconcile himself to leaving the past in obscurity, or he who thrusts into darkness everything that doesn’t suit him? Brodeck’s work on the report dredges up memories of his past—not only are we privy to his pre-war memories, but we also experience along with him a resurgence of violence as his horrific piecing together of events at the camp which cause him to realize that he has been lying to himself: “of all dangers, memory’s one of the most terrible.” As such, we see made manifest the latent and repressed content of an individual’s life, brought to the level of consciousness, a task that is related to his vocation as a writer and one that requires Brodeck’s narrative to follow no logical in the way of temporality, but one that also involved a kind of subterfuge (even from oneself):I keep going backward and forward, jumping over time like a hurdle, getting lost on tangents, and maybe even, without wishing to, concealing what’s essential.While Brodeck becomes more conscious of his own life narrative, and his complicity, this is a self-awareness that Claudel develops alongside a group of others who are asking him to do the exact opposite—namely, to repress, to document falsities, to erase, to render into nothingness. Claudel’s prose is fluid, brisk, and lucid as he allows the reader, by way of Brodeck, to experience revelation and annihilation, individual growth and group oppression:I think we’ve become, and will remain until the day we die, the memory of humanity destroyed. We’re wounds that will never heal.I cannot recommend this book highly enough: it will stay with you long after you’ve finished journeying along with Brodeck, haunting you, making you ponder the nature of subjective truth as unwaveringly and as bravely as Brodeck does here, reconciling the horrific with the sublime: “Sometimes you love your own scars.” ( )
  proustitute | Jul 17, 2014 |
A remarkable book, an allegorical fable that reads at times like Kafka and at times like Primo Levi. It clearly depicts the Holocaust in Central Europe, notwithstanding the somewhat thin veneer of a quasi-mythical setting outside of any particular time or place. The narrator has a combination of naivete, sophistication, insight, and apathy that is memorable. And perhaps the most memorable scene of dead horses since Anna Karenina. Overall highly recommended. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Not on Audio. Recommended in The Week 18Jan14. At the end of the Second World War, an unassuming stranger arrives in a hamlet in German-speaking Alsace. Three months later, he is savagely murdered. Brodeck is commissioned by the villagers to write a report – and finds himself lifting the rock on a writhing tangle of worms.
  decore | Jan 25, 2014 |
A remarkable book, an allegorical fable that reads at times like Kafka and at times like Primo Levi. It clearly depicts the Holocaust in Central Europe, notwithstanding the somewhat thin veneer of a quasi-mythical setting outside of any particular time or place. The narrator has a combination of naivete, sophistication, insight, and apathy that is memorable. And perhaps the most memorable scene of dead horses since Anna Karenina. Overall highly recommended. ( )
  jasonlf | Aug 2, 2011 |
This book begins as quietly as a whisper, albeit with a murder, and I almost thought it was going to be boring. But the author so cleverly peels away layer after layer of the facade of the idyllic mountain village in which this novel is set, that I was stunned by the rotten core ultimately revealed.

Brodeck has just returned to the village after surviving an unnamed war in a horrific prison camp. He endured the dangers and degradations of his internment by focusing on his beloved wife Amelia back in the village. Shortly after his return, the 'Anderer' (the Other) arrives in the village. It is the murder of the Anderer that occurs in the opening pages of the novel, and Brodeck is required to write an official report to explain the 'Ereignies', 'a curious word, full of mists and ghosts; it means more or less, 'the thing that happened,'...a word to describe the indescribable.'

This book is a fable about how and why people do evil things; it is about the innate fear of the unknown, even the unknown within ourselves, and it is about remembering, not forgetting. ( )
1 vote arubabookwoman | Jun 29, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Uncertainty is a major theme of Claudel's novel, which is both fable-like and documentary in style. While it is concerned with difference and intolerance as abstract, universal themes, Brodeck's Report is also a historical novel about a camp survivor (Brodeck) and the effect of Nazism on a specific place, assumed to be a German dialect-speaking part of Alsace Lorraine.
added by kidzdoc | editThe Guardian, Giles Foden (Mar 21, 2009)
 

» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philippe Claudelprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Sarkar, ManikTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I'm nothing, I know it, but my nothing comprises a little bit of everything. - Victor Hugo, The Rhine
Dedication
For all those who think they're nothing

For my wife and my daughter, without whom I wouldn't be much
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I'm Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.
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When a stranger with unusual manners is murdered for his unflattering and insightful illustrations, a government report writer and concentration camp survivor writes an official, whitewashed account of the incident while secretly penning the truth in a parallel narrative.… (more)

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