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Brodeck: A novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 23, 2009


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Nan A. Talese; First Printing edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385527241
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385527248
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,619,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Coming across as the love child of Bela Tarr's film Werckmeister Harmóniák and Gabriel García Márquez's A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, this disconcerting and darkly atmospheric novel, set in an unnamed European town secluded high in the mountains, deals with the effects of collective guilt by examining the dark secrets of its residents as they recall the hardships of war and occupation. Following the end of an unspecified war that sounds very much like WWII, protagonist Brodeck, who survived the camps by literally becoming a guard's pet (Brodeck the Dog), is reunited with his wife and daughter. After the murder of a mystical drifter, Brodeck is made to write a narrative of the events for the authorities absolving the village's inhabitants of any blame. Though there are no innocents, by the end some characters make tentative footsteps toward reclaiming their humanity. Claudel's style is very visual and evocative (he also wrote and directed the film I've Loved You So Long), and this novel, like the brothers Grimm fables, is full of terror, horror, and beauty and wonder. (June)
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Review

Winner of the 2010 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize!

"Although Claudel had long been respected as a novelist in France, only two of his previous books, By a Slow River and Grey Souls, had been translated into English. Now his latest novel, Brodeck, arrives like a fresh, why-haven't-we-known-him discovery, revealing him to be as dazzling on the page as he is on the screen.... Brodeck is the Brothers Grimm by way of Kafka.... [Claudel] audaciously approaches a subject that seems thoroughly covered and makes it fresh. His nightmarish fairy tale captures the essential, inescapable evil at the center of the Holocaust, the human urge to destroy Others ... a compulsion existing beyond time, place or politics."
The New York Times Book Review

"Coming across as the love child of Bela Tarr's film Werckmeister Harmóniák and Gabriel García Márquez's 'A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,' this disconcerting and darkly atmospheric novel, set in an unnamed European town secluded high in the mountains, deals with the effects of collective guilt by examining the dark secrets of its residents as they recall the hardships of war and occupation. Following the end of an unspecified war that sounds very much like WWII, protagonist Brodeck, who survived the camps by literally becoming a guard's pet (Brodeck the Dog), is reunited with his wife and daughter. After the murder of a mystical drifter, Brodeck is made to write a narrative of the events for the authorities absolving the village's inhabitants of any blame. Though there are no innocents, by the end some characters make tentative footsteps toward reclaiming their humanity. Claudel's style is very visual and evocative (he also wrote and directed the film I've Loved You So Long), and this novel, like the brothers Grimm fables, is full of terror, horror, and beauty and wonder."
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A beautiful, sinister and haunting fable of persecution, resistance and survival. It is set in the aftermath of genocidal war in a vividly etched rural landscape that has all the spine-tingling intensity of a waking dream. . . . Claudel prevailed with his hallucinatory story—almost a dark fairy-tale in which Kafka meets the Grimms—of an uneasy homecoming after wrenching tragedy. . . . Written with a lyrical but solemn grace to which John Cullen's English does rich justice, this book both is, and is not, a novel about the moral wastelands left behind by the Holocaust and other modern killing-fields.” 
The Independent
 
"Deeply wise and classically beautiful…. Brodeck won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in the original French and John Cullen's English translation is as clear as a mountain stream. It is a modern masterpiece."
The Daily Telegraph
 
 "This is a remarkable novel, all the more so because this account of man's inhumanity to man, of coarse and brutal stupidity, of fear and surrender to evil, is nevertheless not without hope. Brodeck survives because, despite all he has experienced, he remains capable of love. It is also beautifully written, and well translated… I mentioned Kafka earlier, and the novel is as compelling as anything he wrote. In France it won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens. The reviewer in Le Monde called it, simply, magnificent. And so it is."
The Scotsman

"[O]riginal, brilliant and disturbing… It is a relentless, uncomfortable book that achieves a beauty of its own through Claudel's deft writing and passionate commitment to truth. Claudel is a novelist of ideas, in the French tradition. He deals skillfully in archetypes and abstractions. His characters and their village are sparsely sketched, just like the De Anderer portraits and landscapes that cause such fatal offence.
“Clauel's film] I've Loved You So Long was certainly an upsetting film, but it was also life-affirming and celebratory. The same, ultimately, can be said of Brodeck but, in this case, the journey towards affirmation is as bleak and dark as can be, a journey that goes to the heart of what it means to be human, responsible and committed to the truth. A journey towards what it means to live a life that is something rather than nothing at all.”
The Times
 
"In John Cullen's deft translation, Claudel's writing is lucid and passionate…. [An] excellent novel."
The Guardian
 
"….a grave, powerful, unforgettable book."
Livres Hebdo
 
"In a finely-wrought style…Philippe Claudel describes a terrible world where crime is a natural function of the living."
Le Magazine-Littéraire
 
"Philippe Claudel is at the peak of his art as a storyteller and portrait-painter."
Elle (France)
 "Don't expect to get out of this powerful, disturbing novel unscathed….Long after you close the book, you'll remember its words, which always sound like terribly accurate reflections of our doubts as well as our fears."
Lire
 
"In Brodeck, Philippe Claudel delves deep into his obsession with the theme of hatred for the other and with the evil perpetrated in the name of that hatred. His writing, free from any trace of pathos, is astonishingly virtuosic and beautiful, and his humanist stance is all the stronger for it. Unforgettable."
L'Express
 
"….a meditation upon the hatred of the foreigner, the rejection of difference, the blindness of crowds, group stupidity, collective cowardice. Once again, Philippe Claudel plumbs the black depths of the human heart, with contained fury and deliberate humility….In the end, this is simply very great literature."
Le Parisien


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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A haunting work of art.
Ralph Blumenau
And yet ... And yet, it's inescapable that this is a Holocaust novel, even if it's one man's story about his own and his neighbors' inhumanity.
Giordano Bruno
Richly drawn characters are confronted with realistically presented challenges.
Friederike Knabe

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Biblibio VINE VOICE on July 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In giving Philippe Claudel a second chance (after leaving "By a Slow River" not wholly impressed), I hoped Claudel would learn from the failures of that previous book and find a tighter storyline and a clearer purpose. While Claudel maintained his beautifully written style and often a sense of distance from the story itself, "Brodeck" ends up as the best of both worlds, a beautifully interesting story that does more than just amble along.

Be warned: "Brodeck" is not a fast paced book. It has no intention of racing through pages at a breath-taking speed. Instead, narrator Brodeck calmly tries to arrange his thoughts on paper, essentially leading to three stories. In one, Brodeck tells about life before the unnamed war (easily the second world war), in another, he tells of his war experiences (clearly the camps) and in the third he tells of the "Anderer", the "other", a man who suddenly and strangely appeared in Brodeck's town after the war. These three stories develop side-by-side in a rather non-linear fashion: hints in regards to each are dropped along the way but they're not meant to surprise, necessarily. The story simply grows and becomes clearer as Brodeck tells his tale.

This is not much of a Holocaust tale, even as the remarkable unnamed parallels become clear. The story focuses less on the horror of the war and more on consequences. It shrinks a giant story and presents one man, one town, one situation. The story does not ever feel tired or old; rather, its anonymity gives it new light. While aspects of the setting seem set in stone, each reader leaves the book with their own impressions regarding certain aspects, with their own interpretations and their own crystal clear image of the story.

It helps that "Brodeck" is beautifully written.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By S on August 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm sorry I've finished reading it; I didn't want it to end. But I couldn't stop reading. Brodeck is the story of a man, his village, and a visitor. And the story is three tales in one.

The biggest story is the backdrop of history, of camps in a nation that has undergone cleansing. We can't be certain the character is talking about Nazi Germany, but we can be fairly comfortable with that analogy.

Or...perhaps the biggest story is that of the visitor, the traveler, and an event that occurs in this village, already scarred by fear, suspicion, and a decided lack of kindness.

Or...maybe the biggest story is about the report that our protagonist Brodeck must write, is asked to write, to explain the situation with the visitor. And in collecting interviews, we learn about the villagers, their dark hearts, and their consciences which ought to be guilty. Crowd psychology, what fear will make people do.

I'm taken by the non-linear presentation, yet it flowed like silk. The natural environment, the Valley, the secrets and suspicions. The things I read that I still question - particularly the reality of some things.

I won't forget this book. Nor his name.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jill I. Shtulman TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
There are many reasons we read: for enlightenment, escape, education, and in some rare instances, to confront ourselves with truths and insights we never would have encountered otherwise.

Brodeck is one of those rare instances. It is, quite simply, one of the best contemporary books I have ever read. And I have read a lot.

The book - which reads like an allegory or dark adult fairy tale - transcends those genres by strongly tethering itself to recognizable events and images. Brodeck, by many indications, appears to be Jewish, yet he served as an acolyte to a priest in his youth, implying that he isn't. The locale appears to be in France's Alsace-Lorraine, yet many of the geographical features do not fit. And the Nazis have wrecked havoc in the region, yet they are never mentioned by name. What we DO know is this: Brodeck has been taken prisoner of war and has scratched and scraped his way to survival, serving as "Broderick the Dog" to sadistic camp officials. Against all odds, he has returned to his insular village where he is greeted with less than 100% enthusiasm.

And now, an elusive stranger referred to as the Anderer - the Other - has appeared in the village with his horse and donkey and sketch pads, serving as a mirror to the truth of the village's betrayals...its cowardice, dishonorable conduct, spinelessness and moral stain. Early on, we learn that the village participated in a mass murder of the Anderer and it falls upon Brodeck - a low-level bureaucrat who now makes his living cataloguing the area's flora and fauna - to write a whitewashing report about the event. Brodeck himself is also "the other"; he is an orphan, with only the sketchiest recollections of where he comes from and how he got to where he is. He knows that "each of us was a nothing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Raizel the Raisin on October 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
There's a quote from LIRE on the back of Brodeck that reads, "Don't expect to get out of this powerful, disturbing novel unscathed...long after you close the book, you'll remember its words, which always sound like terribly accurate reflections of our doubts as well as our fears." This is true. This book is so sad and you will be thinking about it for days after you read it. It unfolds like flower petals opening, but it shows evil in its petals instead of beauty. I've never read a book like this.
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