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Les livres de mon père

Luan Starova

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Pour acheter Les livres de mon père

Title: Les livres de mon père
Author: Luan Starova
Genre: Novel
Written: 1992
Length: 298 pages
Original in: Macedonian/Albanian
Availability: Les livres de mon père - France
  • Les livres de mon père has not been translated into English
  • First published in Macedonian in 1992 as Tatkovite knigi
  • Published in Albanian in 1995 as Librat e Babait
  • French translation, by Clément d'Içartéguy, 1998.

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well-done portrait of the Balkans, 1926-76

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Humanité . 10/2/99 Bruno Peuchamiel

  From the Reviews:
  • "Avec ce roman, peut être mieux que ne le font bien des ouvrages documentaires, il va au cour et éclaire la complexité balkanique." - Bruno Peuchamiel, L'Humanité

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Albanian literature seems frequently to find its way West via France. Some of the few works available in English by the doyen of Albanian literature, Ismail Kadare, are still only available in those bizarre English versions that are, in fact, translations of the French translations. (And publishers wonder why he has never really caught on in the United States or Britain .....)
       Luan Starova will hopefully be spared the double-translation fate. This book, Les livres de mon père ("The Books of my Father") in its French incarnation, is in fact an oddity because the author himself wrote it in two languages, or at least presented it in two versions: his native Macedonian and his ancestral Albanian. Clément d'Içartéguy's French translation is pointedly from both. (And Starova, a fluent French speaker, presumably vetted this third version.)
       Les livres de mon père is a decidedly Balkan novel, though it is about the part of the Balkans least heard of -- Macedonia and Albania. The narrator's father is a book-obsessed intellectual -- his life is, almost entirely, in his books and his writings. Starova uses the character to relate the history of the Balkans from 1926 to 1976. The father has lived through the Ottoman times, the fascist period in World War II, and the Stalinist post-war period, his books always there to help endure the constant tide of change and uprooting.
       Les livres de mon père is a family chronicle. The father is not an isolated bookworm: he has a supportive and somewhat more worldly wife and several children. The pater familias (and his books) are respected and indulged; his love of books carries over to the other family members (especially the son who becomes a writer). For the whole family the books are something to hold onto in a world that is otherwise so unpredictable.
       Told in chapters that are generally very short (some eighty in all) the book proceeds episodically as the father and his love of books are variously introduced and elaborated on. Few individual books figure in the novel -- this is not a reading list of what influenced the man and why. Rather, it is the general attitude towards literature and the possession of books and what they contain that is of significance. The chapters offer many variations on many themes, not all focussed on the literary. Together they make for a powerful impression of the place and times.
       Istanbul and Paris figure as the distant cultural poles exerting a continued influence on the father as well. Both mother and father are cosmopolitan, having travelled and studied abroad in their youth, so different from the claustrophobic socialist state the son/narrator knows. The father lived in Istanbul, and his dreams are of the Orient. His one close friend, K., studied in Paris and dreams of the Occident, a balance of influence of the two foreign cultures that comes to play in much of the book.
       Starova is able to give an excellent impression of the uncertain Balkans in these tumultuous times. (One of the striking things is the general calm of the family, even in the face of great unpleasantness.) The emphasis is on the cultural, as the father tries to preserve it in times that do not necessarily respect the literary above all else. Starova gives a good sense of the Balkanbabel of alphabets and languages and cultures in the region in these years, with politics always simmering sinisterly in the background but almost never allowed to take center stage here.
       Books are, ultimately, only one aspect of this chronicle, used to paint a picture of an unusual area in difficult times. They are the soul of the man, and in his work on his rare old manuscripts he is preserving a lost heritage and culture that has been repeatedly bulldozed out of the way with each new front of political oppression. Nevertheless, Starova has fashioned more around this central theme: the novel is also an excellent family chronicle, easily enjoyed as that. Les livres de mon père is a valuable portrait of the Balkans, and a good family-novel. Recommended

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Reviews: Luan Starova: Other books of interest under review:
  • Index of Eastern European literature at the complete review
  • Index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Balkan author Luan Starova is a Macedonian of Albanian origin, and writes in both languages. A professor of French literature at the University of Skopje and translator of authors such as Raymond Queneau, he currently serves as the Macedonian Ambassador to France.

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