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Brodeck Paperback – July 13, 2010

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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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Arrives like a fresh, why-haven't-we-known-him discovery, revealing Philippe Claudel
to be as dazzling on the page as he is on the screen."--The New York Times
 
“Extraordinary. . . . [A] modern masterpiece.”—The Independent, London 
 
"A haunting, intensely claustrophobic allegory about intolerance, trauma and guilt."--San Francisco Chronicle
 
“A layered recollection of wartime crimes, atrocities, cowardice, and betrayal.”—The Boston Globe

“Claudel’s insightful prose, translated gracefully by John Cullen, renders the tale both literary and deeply philosophical.”—Washington City Paper
 
"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."—The Scotsman
 
“This novel, like the brothers Grimm fables, is full of terror, horror, and beauty and wonder.”—Publishers Weekly
 
"Philippe Claudel is at the peak of his art as a storyteller and portrait-painter."
—Elle (France)
 
"It is a relentless, uncomfortable book that achieves a beauty of its own through Claudel's deft writing and passionate commitment to truth.”—The Times, London 
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (July 13, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307390756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307390752
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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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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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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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Imagine a region on the border between two powers, its nominal sovereignty shuffled between them with the ebb and flow of history. Imagine a place whose personal and place names belong to one country, but whose official language is that of the other, and whose local dialect is a hybrid known only to its inhabitants. Imagine a land of mountains and forests, where individual villages are isolated "like eggs in nests," and where even somebody arriving from three hours' walk away will seem a stranger. Philippe Claudel was born in Lorraine, parts of which have shifted between France and Germany, but the setting of his novel is left deliberately vague. The country borders on Germany, of that there is no doubt, but the mountains seem a lot higher than the Vosges, and the isolation is more complete.

I read the book in French (as LE RAPPORT DE BRODEK), and Claudel does something similar with the language. The French (sometimes elevated, sometimes down to earth, always brilliant) is sewn with numerous German words in italics. But they are German with a French accent, German in a dialect, words which may mean one thing but suggest others. The word for their neighbors over the border, for instance: "Fratergekeime," with its suggestion of both brother and stranger. Added to the mostly-Germanic proper names and the vagueness about place and time, Claudel creates a kind of fog with his writing, despite the clarity of his actual descriptions. It was a doubly interesting experience for me to add that extra layer of reading in a foreign language to a book where foreignness is a major subject.

For Claudel's fog parallels a moral miasma, where nothing is as it seems.
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