Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Favorite International Book

Because we're reading an originally French book this week, we are picking our favorite international books. Since that's a vague descriptor, let's say "international book" means something originally written in language other than ours, and/or is about/from a culture very different from our own. (Therefore, what constitutes an "international" book varies by person.)

We've discussed Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis and Persepolis 2 on the blog before, but it is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the parameters set above for an international book.

I really learned things about a culture other than mine that - before picking up these books - I knew nothing about. I also identified with characters who are very different from me. These are the marks of a good international book: bringing readers and writers/characters together despite their many differences.

If I had to pick a favorite book of all time, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, or Dangerous Liaisons in English, would probably be that book.

It takes place in France in the late 1700s.  It's about two rivals (Madame de Tourvel and Vicomte de Valmont), who use sex to get whatever they want in life.  Which, in the 1700s, to write a whole book about sex... well, that was a HUGE deal (And in fact, in the beginning of the book, there's an editor's note that says it was all the idea of the author, and an author's note that says it's all the idea of the editor, who subsequently were both LaClos.  He did it so that he could simultaneously take credit/deny any accusations, depending on how the book did.)

The two decide to make a bet to basically see who's the better seducer (also, so Tourvel could take revenge on an old boyfriend), and the whole thing just goes crazy from there.  The book is told through letters between the characters, so it's even more interesting because you don't actually see anything in real time.  It's all tainted by the narrator of the letter (remember Alex's post on unreliable narrators?  This book is the best example you will ever find of that.)

The book was originally written in French, and you learn a lot about French 1700s etiquette (which, while not so relevant today, is still really fascinating.)

Really, the book is just awesome and fascinating and incredibly well-written. 

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