I‘ve been championing all things French, recently. My London based book group occasionally rings the changes by meeting somewhere unusual. We all went to Paris for the weekend last month and read The President’s Hat by Antoine Laurain. Amusing, uplifting and achingly Parisian, it was the perfect book to accompany what turned out to be a ridiculously perfect weekend. Weather, food, accommodation and most importantly, the Parisians themselves, all conspired to present the city in an unashamedly chic and welcoming light.
It would have been rude not to make time for a leisurely browse in the legendary English language bookshop Shakespeare & Company and the good folks there couldn’t have been nicer either. Mind you, I almost felt like family anyway, as Mr B’s was temporarily ‘twinned’ with Shakespeare & Co. on 28th April 2015. Marking the launch of the English edition of Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, we recommended books to each other’s customers and it was great fun.
In search of something a little darker than Nina George this time though, it was Jean Baudrillard’s Fragments that caught my eye so I bought a copy – what better counterpoint to joie de vivre than the notebook jottings of a post-Marxist, philosopher? My love of French literature therefore spans many genres and brings me neatly on to our exciting collaboration with Gallic Books.
I am on a bit of a mission, here. I want to introduce as many readers as possible to author Pascal Garnier’s special brand of French noir. Often mentioned in the same breath as Georges Simenon (although, think standalone stories rather than the Maigret detective series) Garnier is deliciously sardonic. Humour and tragedy are blended together effortlessly, his characters are diverse and memorable, the writing is taut and transporting. I’ve been hooked on his novellas ever since Gallic Books translated and published Panda Theory in 2012. The second one, How’s the Pain? is now a firm fixture on my favourites shelf in the shop. The everyday story of a hitman and his unsuspecting new driver, travelling across France together, has a little bit of everything: humour, romance, death…
We’ve introduced countless customers to Garnier’s darkly comic, precise prose through this book – and many have gone on to become full blown Garnier addicts like me (Gallic have kindly published ten novellas to date to keep us going). One such customer, the artist Stanley Donwood, has been spreading the word about Pascal Garnier too, so when we mooted the idea of producing a special limited edition of How’s the Pain? he was happy to get involved. As a result, our 750 hand numbered hardback copies have a striking cover designed by Stanley and an introduction penned by him that gets to the heart of why the books have such a lasting impact on readers. Our previous collaborations with publishers have been hugely successful i.e. have sold out, so if you want to get your hands on one of these beautiful editions, you’ll have to be très vite!