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Aged fifteen, as Franco's forces begin their murderous purges and cities across Spain rise up against the old order, Montse has never heard the word fascista before. In any case, the villagers say facha (the ch is a real Spanish ch, by the way, with a real spit). Montse lives in a small village, high in the hills, where few people can read or write and fewer still ever leave. If everything goes according to her mother's plan, Montse will never leave either. She will become a good, humble maid for the local landowners, muchisimas gracias, with every Sunday off to dance the jota in the church square. But Montse's world is changing. Her brother Jose has just returned from Lerida with a red and black scarf and a new, dangerous vocabulary and his words are beginning to open up new realms to his little sister. She might not understand half of what he says, but how can anyone become a maid in the Burgos family when their head is ringing with shouts of Revolucion, Comunidad and Libertad? The war, it seems, has arrived in the nick of time.
The Power of Flies begins in a courtroom, where a man is undergoing an interrogation. He has committed a crime, and he must now explain himself. But instead of letting the judge, lawyer, and psychiatrist question him, he asks himself all the questions--and answers them. While ranting on to the court about various topics--his family, the museum where he works as a tour guide, and even the French philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal--the narrator of The Power of Flies reveals himself to be both calculating and unstable. In this latest novel from acclaimed French writer Lydie Salvayre, it is up to the reader to sort through his philosophical diatribe to discover why this man turned killer.
The hiring of a new secretary shouldn't be a big deal--just a slight a change in the office environment. But for the protagonist of this novel, it is a declaration of war, a call to arms: "The new secretary has only been here two days," she says, "and I'm already talking about evil, a word I shouldn't even be using--arming myself for battle and choosing my weapons." Her quiet life of sacrifice and service has been rudely disrupted by the new hire, and she is not--despite the advice of her doctor, her neighbors, and her daughter--about to leave it at that. Instead, sabotage, alcohol, and kindness become the arsenal in a conflict fought across copy rooms and office parties. But the humor is undercut by a sadness, a sense of defeat that makes this slim novel resonate with the injustice of our increasingly impersonal, corporate world.
At the City Hall in a small town in the South of France, one man starts his campaign to correct the ills that have overtaken his proud nation by lecuring the town's inhabitants on the art of conversation. In the narrator's opinion, "coversation is a specialty that is most eminently French," an art that should be nurtured and practiced, and can help repair France's reputation. Not to mention being a good conversationalist is extremely useful for seducing women, which is how the narrator managed to attract Lucienne, his "superbly lumpish" wife who died two months before giving this lecture. One of the oddest characters in contemporary fiction, the lecturer in this novel can't help but digress about his sad life in the midst of his speech, giving the reader a view of a self-centered man trying to turn one of his greatest faults into a virtue to be forced on everyone else. By turns ironic, hilarious, pathetic, and mortifying, Salvayre's The Lecture is an exuberant example of the exciting fiction being written in France.
What happens when a writer throws herself into the service of one of the richest businessmen in the world? Will all the luxuries and corruption of the business world turn her into a complacent drone?
When a process-server arrives at a housing project on the edge of Paris to draw up a routine inventory of goods in view of seizure, the reception he receives from distrainees Rose Melie and her teenage daughter Louisiane is more than he has bargained for. Rose, forever unhinged by the trauma of a childhood spent under Nazi occupation, mistakes him for a collaborationist thug and assails him with her alternately tragic and hilarious memories of Vichy France. Louisiane, for her part, treats the process-server to an exaggerated display of courtesy laced with precocious classical erudition and a stream of late-pubescent revelations. In a narrative that lurches giddily between 1942 and 1997, Lydie Salvayre picks at the sores of recent French history, impertinently exposing continuities of authoritarianism. In Some Useful Advice for Apprentice Process-Servers--a short piece also included in this book--the author grants the process-server a right of reply, which he uses to chilling effect.
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