Au fil du récit, se dessine un paysage de sapins, de champs à la terre noire et de rivières, et revit un monde de gens simples et vrais, pour lesquels leur lit de naissance est celui de leur mort. En leur rendant hommage, pour la première fois, et « malgré lui », Philippe Claudel se raconte. Il raconte ses origines, sa Nancy natale, Dombasle, la ville où il est né et habite toujours, ses parents, ses sœurs, comme il ne l’a jamais fait.
Rights sold to Albania (Ombra GVG), Catalonia (Magrana), Germany (Rowohlt), Italy (Ponte alle Grazie), Korea (Samtoh), The Netherlands (De Bezige Bij), Portugal (Porto), Russia (Eksmo), Spain (Salamandra), Taiwan (Ecus), Turkey (Sel) and UK (MacLehose Press, WEL)
In 63 texts, ranging from “Acacia” to “Voyages”, Philippe Claudel evokes the smells of childhood and adolescence. Each evocation conjures a forgotten world from which a few traces remain: a father’s after-shave, a mother’s sun-cream, the silky hair of first girlfriends, Gauloises and Gitanes cigarettes, cinnamon in cakes and mulled wine, coal in warming fires, ink from schooldays, hay in the meadows, an uncle’s pullover… Smells that may be sweet or acrid, simple or sophisticated.
As the book progresses, a landscape appears with its fir trees, its rivers, the black earth of its fields; and a cast of characters comes back to life, modest and very real people who live and die in the place they were born. By paying tribute to them for the first time, Philippe Claudel is almost inadvertently telling his own story. He describes as he never has before his beginnings in Nancy, Dombasle the town where he was born and where he still lives, his parents and his sisters.
Philippe Claudel is the author of Grey Souls (Les Ames grises, winner of the 2003 Prix Renaudot, and the 2004 Elle reader’s Grand prix littéraire, named the 2003 Lire magazine book of the year, and translated in more than 30 countries), Monsieur Linh and His child (La Petite Fille de Monsieur Linh, Stock 2005), Brodeck’s Report (Le Rapport de Brodeck, winner of the 2007 Goncourt des lycéens) and L’Enquête (Stock, 2010). He has directed two films: I’ve Loved You so Long (Il y a longtemps que je t’aime) with Elsa Zylberstein and Kristin Scott Thomas, which won two César awards, and Tous les soleils (with Stefano Accorsi, Clotilde Courau and Anouk Aimée). He has also written two plays: Parle-moi d’amour and Le Paquet.