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Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger
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Soft in the Head (2008)

by Marie-Sabine Roger

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English (6)  French (3)  German (2)  Norwegian (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All (14)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
“When I was a kid, my mother used to call me the happy halfwit. But it wasn't true. I wasn't happy. Halfwit, maybe. But happy, no way.”

Germain has always been told he is slow, soft in the head, and he has always believed that. He is crude and unloved and poorly educated, and pretty much accepts that is how it will always be. And then he meets an old lady, Margueritte, on a park bench.

Initially, I wasn't sure I'd like this book. Germain's first person telling of his story seemed a bit clunky, and as I said before, he was pretty crude.

It didn't take long for me to love him, and for me to love Margueritte, who gently taught him without making him feel soft in the head. I love that Germain shared his learning, his dictionary definitions, with the readers.

Germain's friends were not quite sure how to take the new Germain. If a person changes, is he still the friend you had before? Has he betrayed you by not sticking to the stereotype you gave him?

This is a charming book that I ended up loving.

I was given an advance e-book for review. The quote may have changed in the published edition. ( )
  TooBusyReading | May 18, 2016 |
For whatever reason it took me like 8,000 years of being a book blogger before finally getting on the NetGalley bandwagon, but here I am, ridin’ that wagon!

My first book was Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Rogers, which has been translated from its original French and will be published in June of 2016.

Man, I need a friend to read this and tell me what I think about it. It’s a first-person narrative told from the perspective of Germaine, a man whose mother describes him as a “halfwit.” Certainly there is some non-neurotypical stuff going on with this guy but it’s hard to gauge how much of it is his low opinion of himself and how much of it is actual obstacles.

One thing we do know is that he’s a drunk and the drunks he hangs out with make fun of him constantly. He doesn’t realize that and it’s painful to watch. But then it’s not. Like, do I want the guy to be hurt by the comments of these assholes? Certainly not. But I do want him to just magically stop hanging out with jerks.

And he sort of does. The story is mostly about him meeting an older woman who, like Germaine, is obsessed with counting pigeons. Fun times!

Their friendship develops and they teach each other things and blah blah. Heartwarming and all that, sure. But most of this was painful to read and I was never really clear if the author was trying to show us how mean everyone was to Germaine or if she was being mean to him herself. Overall this book left me feeling uncomfortable and irritated at pretty much everyone in the book. ( )
  agnesmack | Apr 20, 2016 |
Germain, a 45-year old man living in a small French town, was abused mentally and physically by his angry single-mother, taunted by teachers, and bullied most of his life. He considers himself a self-made man, perhaps not too bright but with friends, a girlfriend, and jobs enough to keep him in beer and necessities. His vocabulary is limited, but he thinks deep thoughts, using curse words to fill in when he doesn't know the words to use. A rather sad case, although, as he says, he's made a satisfactory life for himself.

Then he meets Margueritte, a little old lady who sits on the town park benches, just as he often does. They get talking about the pigeons they both regularly count, and she's genuinely interested in what he has to say, unlike anyone he's ever met. They begin meeting regularly, and eventually she interests him in listening to her read and even, to his shock, giving him a dictionary, with which he becomes fascinated. One thing leads to another: an interest in reading, a wider vocabulary, a thirst for learning, and finally, a dawning love for this attentive grandmother he never had.

Well, how this plays out is just delightful, and even the reader sees the changes is Germain. In return for her attention, he reveals to Margueritte some of himself, parts he's never offered anyone else out of fear of rejection. It is, in the end, a story of two lonely people giving of themselves to a new friend they've come to love, and the ways it changes the future for both of them. Charming. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Apr 11, 2016 |
Germain, Mitte 40, ist zumindest wissensmäßig betrachtet ein großes Kind geblieben. Vater unbekannt, von der Mutter nicht geliebt und nur als Last betrachtet, mogelte sich der kleine Germain so durch die Schule und glänzte mehr mit seiner Abwesenheit als durch gute Noten. Da auch sein Lehrer keinerlei Interesse zeigte, mehr Zeit als nötig für ihn aufzubringen, verließ er die Schule praktisch als Analphabet und schlägt sich seitdem mit Gelegenheitsjobs durch. Doch was ihm an Kenntnis und Kultur fehlt, macht er durch Herzensbildung wieder wett. Eines Tages lernt er beim Taubenzählen Margueritte kennen, eine hochgebildete und belesene alte Dame, mit der er sich anfreundet und die ihm die Welt der Wörter, der Bücher und des Denkens nahe bringt. Und Germain beginnt, sich eigene Gedanken zu machen...
Und dieses Buch hat man verfilmt? Ich muss gestehen, dass ich mir das nur schwer vorstellen kann, da ein Großteil der doch eher mageren (da häufig nur halbvollen) 220 Seiten die Gedankenwelt des Protagonisten widerspiegelt. Es ist ein leicht und auch schnell zu lesendes Buch, denn die Autorin behält konsequent die Schlichtheit der Sprache Germains bei. Doch genau durch diese Schlichtheit wirken viele der Überlegungen so anrührend, da komplexe Gedanken durch einfache Sachverhalte erklärt werden - wie bei einem Kind, dem noch die Fähigkeiten fehlen, sich auszudrücken: 'Wenn man unkultiviert ist, heisst das nicht, dass man nicht kultivierbar ist. Man muss nur an einen guten Gärtner geraten.' (Und mit Gartensachen kennt sich Germain aus!).
Schöne, gefühlvolle Unterhaltung, die einen vielleicht den Gedanken 'Mensch, ist die/der dumm!' mit etwas mehr Zurückhaltung benutzen lässt. ( )
  Xirxe | Dec 2, 2014 |
La storia dell’affetto che nasce tra Margueritte e Germain è narrata con una freschezza che mi ha piacevolmente sorpresa. Germain mi ha fatto morire dal ridere quasi ad ogni pagina con la sua schietta genuinità.
Per raccontare i sentimenti non è sempre necessario un registro lirico, e qui la disarmante forza della realtà degli affetti irrompe con tutti i suoi colori nel linguaggio, da principio limitato ma poi sempre più ricco, pur con quel suo simpatico non so che di grezzo, di Germain.
Presentata con garbo e senza melensaggini è davvero una storia ben scritta e i personaggi sono tutti riuscitissimi.
Ci sono molti passaggi commuoventi, ma anche se gli occhi si fanno un po’ umidi il sorriso non si spegne sulle labbra mentre li si legge, è il bello di questo libro.
Lettura consigliatissima!

“Prima, non guardavo Margueritte a fondo. La vedevo arrivare da lontano nel viale, a passettini. Oppure si era già seduta sulla panchina, ed era lei ad aspettarmi. Ci salutavamo, contavamo i piccioni, facevamo le nostre letture, senza squadrarci come degli scostumati. Oggi la osservo.
Osservare è un guardare utile, pensando che ci si vuol ricordare. E, di colpo, si vede meglio. Per forza. Si vede anche ciò che si sarebbe preferito non sapere, e tanto peggio per noi.
Per esempio, quando scrive - anche quando legge -, torce un po’ la testa, adesso. Al principio la trovavo buffa, questa nuova abitudine. Pensavo: To’! fa come gli uccelli, guarda tutto di lato, con un’espressione un po’ sofferta. Solo che lei non lo fa per atteggiarsi. No davvero. Lei gira la testa per cercare di leggere, perché sennò non distingue già più bene quello che ha davanti. Vede la vita con la coda dell’occhio, Margueritte.
E, quando cammina, si capisce benissimo che tentenna.
Insomma, se uno la osserva, lo capisce benissimo.
Perché al contrario, se uno è soltanto un grande egoista com’ero io prima, non nota niente.
Adesso, quando ci separiamo l’accompagno fino al grande cancello di boulevard de la Libération. Mi vergognerei a lasciarla andar via sola soletta.
Le dico: Vengo con lei, Margueritte, la lascerò al cancello. Lei mi risponde: Oh, no, Germain, lei è gentilissimo, ma no, mi mette in imbarazzo, sarà costretto a fare una lunga deviazione!
Le rispondo che non è un problema. E poi, sai la grande deviazione... saranno duecento metri! Ma i metri dei vecchi devono essere più lunghi.
«Non importa, le faccio perdere tempo, me ne rendo conto!...»
Di tempo... ne ho da buttare! Cosa ci guadagnerei, se smettessi di perderne?
Cammino accanto a lei. Si potrebbe quasi dire sopra di lei, per com’è piccina, dal momento che la supero di cinquanta centimetri buoni.
A volte ho una voglia matta di prenderla sottobraccio, quando vedo che esce di carreggiata, anziché procedere dritta in mezzo al viale. Ma la lascio fare, finché si regge sulle gambe. Non voglio mica umiliarla. Solo, quando parte un po’ troppo di traverso, cambio lato - così la frego - e la rimetto in riga senza che lei se ne accorga.
E quando usciamo dal parco non oso seguirla fino alla casa di riposo. Rimango lì contro il cancello a guardarla allontanarsi, tutta dondolante come un vecchio anatroccolo.
Tengo gli occhi aperti, non si sa mai.
Penso a lei, in mezzo a tutto il casino del traffico, i passaggi pedonali, la gente che la evita, e... merda! Avrei voglia di andarle dietro, di fermare le macchine, di far paura alla gente perché lasci tutto il marciapiede a lei.
E dico a me stesso che affezionarsi a una nonna non è più riposante che innamorarsi.
Proprio il contrario.” ( )
  Kazegafukuhi | Aug 10, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Roger, Marie-Sabineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kalscheuer, ClaudiaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Dedication
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À Émile et Germaine, Alice et Henri,
Louis et Simone/Voir : racines.
À Samuel, Antoine et Cécile/Voir : fruits.
First words
Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Ich habe beschlossen Margueritte zu adoptieren. sie feiert bald ihren sechsundachtzigsten Geburtstag, da sollte man nicht zulange warten. Alte Leute sterben gern.
Quotations
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
La lecture, c'est de l'acquis. Pas besoin d'aller la chercher : quand tu es petit, on t'envoie à l'école pour te gaver de force, comme on fait pour les oies.
Il y en a qui le font proprement, ils ont le doigté, la patience, tout ça. Ils t'emplissent en douceur la mémoire, jusqu'à ce que tu sois bondé comme un œuf. Mais avec d'autres, gobe ou crève ! Ils te fourrent ça dans la tête sans aller vérifier où ça va se loger. Résultat, le moindre petit grain de savoir qui te reste en travers, ça t'étouffe.T'as plus qu'une envie : le recracher et puis rester à jeun, plutôt que d'être mal.
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amazon ca :His mother calls him a worthless halfwit while his fellow drunks at the local bar ensure he's the butt of all their jokes. He spends his days whittling wood, counting pigeons and adding his own name to the list on the town war memorial. So how could Germain possibly anticipate what a casual encounter on a park bench with eighty-five-year old Margueritte might mean?

In this touchingly comic tale of an unusual friendship, that first conversation opens a door into a world Germain has never imagined—the world of books and ideas—and gives both him and Margueritte the chance of a happiness they thought had passed them by.
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An illiterate unemployed man bonds with an older, well-read woman, who introduces him to the world of books.

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