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The Scapegoat by Daniel Pennac

The Scapegoat (1985)

by Daniel Pennac

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Italian (6)  English (6)  French (4)  Spanish (2)  All (18)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
The first part of Pennac's Mallausène saga. The central character, Benjamin Malaussène, works in a big Paris department store, "Le Magasin", nominally as "controle technique" but in fact he is the person who is designated to be told off in the presence of dissatisfied customers for any mistakes the store makes: he is a professional scapegoat. Benjamin has an eccentric gay best friend; he lives in a quaint-but-development-threatened Paris neighbourhood with his enormous dog; in the flat under him is a large and anarchic collection of younger half-siblings to whom he stands in loco parentis, their mother being off somewhere taking steps to maintain the supply; the North African owner of the café on the corner acts as a sort of surrogate grandfather to them all. In short, he's so like the hero of a comic novel that he really couldn't be anything else (except possibly the hero of a comic film). But then there is a series of bomb explosions in the store, and it starts to look as though Benjamin is going to be the scapegoat for something rather more serious than a defective fridge.

I think this was the problem I had with the book to start with: it seemed to be a compilation of charming and funny details from the standard repertoire of the comic novelist rather than a coherent narrative you could engage with as a novel. It's done well, especially Pennac's cunning conversion of coarse, idiomatic street-French into witty literary language, but there seemed to be too great a gap between the comic elements and the serious crime story. This worked itself out eventually, but I felt uncomfortable with it in the first half of the book.

The French title Au bonheur des ogres is, of course, a reference to Zola's famous department-store novel. Being French, there are also a whole string of allusions to high-literary crime fiction (Carlo Emilio Gadda, Jerome Charyn, etc.), and there's a postmodern element when the real story of events starts to get mixed up with the serial bedtime story Benjamin is creating out of it for his smaller siblings. I'm not sure if I'll go on with this series, but it was an entertaining light read. ( )
  thorold | Dec 5, 2014 |
You will never ever forget your first contact with the Malaussene family. Never. From le Petit (the youngest boy of this rag tag family of misfits) to the latest baby named Verdun because she doesn't just yell she howls like the bombs at the battle of Verdun, to Clara, sweet Clara to Benjamin who heads the family because he isn't really given the choice and makes due and because it's in his nature to be the scapegoat for everyone, his family included.

This first novel featuring the Malaussene family establishes Benjamin's status as the perfect scapegoat. He ends up the prime suspect for bombings he has nothing to do with unless being there is reason enough. In Benjamin's case, it is. Au bonheur des ogres is this sideways holiday fairy tale where being different is something to be celebrated not hidden.

One of my all time favourite series of novels starts with this quirky opening bow where amidst all the drama Benjamin finds love without looking for it. ( )
  writerlibrarian | Apr 15, 2013 |
[The Scapegoat] by Daniel Pennac is the first in a series of five books about Benjamin Malaussene, the big brother who is bringing up all his half-siblings while their mother is away making more siblings for them with her latest beau. He also gets mixed up in murder mysteries and I am finding Pennac's books irresistible. ( )
  pgmcc | Feb 4, 2013 |
Tre stelle emmezza.

L'asticella del bellometro pende più verso il positivo ma il feeling tra me e questo romanzo non è scattato appieno e non so perché u_u

Forse perché l'ho letto troppo di fretta e non mi sono concentrato abbastanza >_>
Oppure è il libro che non si fa piacere u_u

Mea culpa o sua culpa? ( )
  Malla-kun | Sep 22, 2012 |
Benjamin Malaussène a un drôle de métier : bouc émissaire au service réclamations d'un grand magasin parisien où il est chargé d'apitoyer les clients grincheux. Une bombe, puis deux, explosent dans le magasin. Benjamin est le suspect numéro un de cette vague d'attentats aveugles. Attentats ? Aveugles ? Et s'il n'y avait que ça ! Quand on est l'aîné, il faut aussi survivre aux tribulations de sa tumultueuse famille : la douce Clara qui photographie comme elle respire, Thérèse l'extralucide, Louna l'amoureuse, Jérémy le curieux, le Petit rêveur, la maman et ses amants... Le tout sous les yeux de Julius, le chien épileptique, et de Tante Julia, journaliste volcanique. Quel cirque ! Avec ce premier tome des aventures de Malaussène, on plonge avec bonheur dans un univers baroque. Pennac multiplie les personnages secondaires, les digressions. Ça grouille comme dans une fourmilière. Le rire n'est jamais loin des larmes, le sordide côtoie le sublime. --Bruno Ménard
  PierreYvesMERCIER | Feb 19, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Daniel Pennacprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mélaouah, YasminaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Passet, EvelineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Average: (3.85)
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