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Lila Says: A Novel Hardcover – January 11, 1999

17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The tragedy of chronic unemployment and hopelessness among North African youth in contemporary France explodes in this anonymous first novel that has garnered front-page attention in Europe. Purportedly, the author?"Chimo," the 19-year-old narrator of the doomed blue-collar love story?wrote this account in two school notebooks delivered to the publisher by a lawyer. In a note, the publisher confesses that opinion in the house was divided between those who thought the author was a poorly educated but talented young person or an experienced writer perpetrating a hoax. Fatherless, poor and, like most of his friends in the Old Oak Housing Project near Paris, without a job or prospects, Chimo finds that writing about Lila, a 16-year-old girl who befriends him, transports him from the bleakness of his life. Chimo is an unremarkable, shy and sensitive boy; Lila's angelic looks are in stunning contrast to the precocious fantasies about sex that she shares with him. An enigma in the projects because of her blonde hair, blue eyes, Christian faith and elusiveness, as well as the crazy, devil-fearing aunt with whom she lives, Lila confides only in Chimo. Is she a hustler working for rich men in the city or just a confused kid whose fantasies serve as her own method of escape, much as Chimo's secret nocturnal writing acts as his? Prurience aside?and there is plenty of it?Chimo's simple narrative aches with the writer's yearning for self-expression, and frustration at being "excluded" from the language: "You always feel you're sailing right by a green island you can't get close to... an island stuffed with wonderful fruits, words that people pick for themselves and feast on... but not you, never you." Revelation or hoax, its melodramatic ending a shocking surprise, the work of this writer resonates powerfully. (Jan.) FYI: His identity still unknown, Chimo has published a second novel in France.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This was a best seller in France, but will it go over here? Since it's described as a "raw, voyeuristic tale of sexual discovery in a Parisian ghetto," it might well have a chance. The identity of the author, who wrote pseudonymously, sparked some lively conversations in France.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (January 11, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684836033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684836034
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,677,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "theaterfiend" on January 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In my opinion, there is nothing more powereful than a book that makes you want to reach inside and touch the characters. Throughout this book, I wanted to do just that. The stream-of-conciousness style pulled me into Chimo's mind and wouldn't let me out; I saw the ghettos as he saw them, and I saw Lila as he saw her. I understood what he understood because his language made me feel it, and it devistated me. It's very seldom that I read a book and have to take a few moments after finishing it to gather up the pieces and put myself back together. Jane Eyre, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and Jude the Obscure are just a few of these works; and the fact that the slim little volume "Lila Says" can do just as much to me as those classics speaks volumes.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By lvkleydorff on October 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
If you had ten stars for your ratings, I would give this book twelve of them. The Algerian slums outside of Paris. A 19-year old boy who knows that he has no future. Yet he steals paper and pencil to write stories, dreaming to become a celebrated writer. A 16-year old girl who dreams of perfect love. She knows she will never achieve it. So she talks dirty to force it. An incredibly powerful story of two people condemned to live all their life in abject poverty, knowing this - and still hoping, trying to force destiny. A very sad book, and very disturbing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M. H. Bayliss on October 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even without the publishing mystery that stands in the background of this books's publication, it would still be an excellent book. It seems too facile to follow the Times lead and write it off as morally abject or high brow pornography. Sure, the book has sex right in the forefront, but it also holds poverty, despair and life in the projects right in your face. The fact that Chimo struggles after each incident to stay up by candlelight and try to capture in his diary what Lila says, shows that there is some salvation. The material can be a bit shocking. You'll never think of riding a bike the same way again! The first thing we hear Lila say to the narrator is, "Do you want to see my pussy." If you're troubled, read no further. But, if you want to see beneath the outer layer of life in the projects in France, you'll want to keep reading.
I don't want to give away the plot, but the scene in which Lila describes the devil to her pious aunt will have you alternating between laughing and crying, and the ending is well-suited to the novel.
I don't know if I believe the story behind the book's publication, but whoever Chimo is, he/she has a powerful literary voice and a unique style.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Evelyn Amy on March 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
'Lila Says' is a book i picked up for the first time today and quickly finished. The beauty and simplicity of the text owes everything to the wonderfully spontaneous, stream of conciousness format by which Chimo's story is conveyed to the reader and it loses nothing despite (by Chimo's own admission) his worries that he has difficulty expressing himself in a formally eloquent manner.
Lila (with whom Chimo the narrator is obsessed) is a breathtakingly sexual character who both excited and dismayed me as a reader; her burgeoning sexuality reminded me of my own puberty, the main difference being that she takes her sexual desires almost to the brink of nymphomania (indeed, describing a sexual encounter with the devil is one flight of fancy that i have yet to take.)
The narrative style is similar to that of JD Salinger's Holden, and 'Lila Says's' protagonist holds many similarities with Salingers' creation. They share the same adolescent doubts and emotional turmoils that will be familiar to those that can remember their teenage years and the free flowing, often barely structured narrative, keeps you reading with the same fervour and hunger that you would feel if you'd accidently got hold of a close friends diary, (indeed there is some controversy about the origins of the book but many believe that the manuscript was indeed a genuine diary, thus explaining this.)
Despite Chimo's lack of education and, frankly, bleak future, you really do care about what happens to him within a very few pages of the book. Similarly, Chimo paints Lila's character in such a way that you are quickly both in awe and slighly repelled by her beauty and morally reprehensible sexual conduct (be it imagined or otherwise.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I was compelled to read on and on. Through the images of despair; the destructive frustration of the trap of poverty. Through the eyes of a prisoner in the dirty concrete other world, minutes away from Paris. The nameless ghetto estate is our exclusive setting. A story told through the eyes of a young Arabic lad, less hardened than his friends to the harshness of life, who finds a moment of liberation in his relationship with Lila.
Lila finds freedom in other ways. She reaches out for something tangible that penetrates the shell around her emotions. She finds it only in images. To feel sex is not enough that she needs to see it as well, herself in a mirror, or on a TV screen. She is able to describe her fantasies most lucidly to Chimo, her confidant, who duly transcribes them for our reading pleasure. It is the exciting, voyeuristic joy gained from reading these accounts; of loveless sexual hedonism from the mouth of a child, that disturbs me about this account most of all. It seems even at 16 years of age Lila is rendered incapable of love. Could she love Chimo?
Chimo describes Lila's beauty with such eloquence and emotion that it is clear that he loves her. But does such eloquence betray the book as ghost written by the publishers; the story of the anonymous manuscripts simply a publicity stunt? The naivety, simplicity and disorder of the work adds an air of authenticity. In a sense it does not matter who wrote it, the book will leave you breathless anyway.
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