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My Friends [Paperback]

Emmanuel Bove , Janet Louth


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Book Description

March 1 1988 0856357847 978-0856357848 Reprint
Victor Baton is a wounded war veteran trying to reestablish his prewar lifestyle but avoid work. Living in a run-down boardinghouse, Baton spends his days searching Paris for the modest comforts of warmth, cheap meals, and friendship, but he finds little. Despite his desperate situation, Baton remains vain and unsympathetic, a Bovian antihero to the core. Bove himself called My Friends, published in France in 1923, a “novel of impoverished solitude.” The book, his first novel, drew praise from such writers as Rilke, Gide, and Beckett and is to this day the author's most celebrated work.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 150 pages
  • Publisher: Carcanet Press Ltd.; Reprint edition (March 1 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0856357847
  • ISBN-13: 978-0856357848
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 12.4 x 1.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 113 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,888,108 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This wistful, sad little French novel from the 1920s is here translated into English for the first time. Bove, who died in 1945, has regularly been admired by other writers but never by a wide audience. His melancholy clown, Baton, is a damaged veteran of the Great War, living from hand to mouth in the dank rooming houses, filthy soup kitchens, grubby cafes and drab streets of the Paris no tourist knows. He longs only for a friend whom he can love, and who will love him; but in a sequence of accidental encountersgenerally with gross, coarse, unfeeling peoplehis life is briefly jarred but never significantly altered. A man of exquisite sensibilities, hoping that one day, against all odds, something splendid will happen, Baton finds the doors remain shut against him. If Marcel Marceau's eternally yearning little man could remove his mask and find a voice, he might look and sound like this one.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Three years after World War I, Victor Baton is a crippled veteran wandering the streets of Paris, disoriented and alone. In his rented room, he envies and suspects his neighbors and dreams of wealth, friends, and good times he will never have. He is a hapless observer of his own lot whose delusions and foolish behavior defeat his attempts at love and friendship. When a wealthy manufacturer takes pity on him and offers him a job, Baton betrays him by pursuing his young daughter. First published in France in 1923, this is a portrait of a frightened and pitiful man unable to adapt to the strange world of normalcy. Bove's influence on other French Writers (Colette, Rilke, Gide) has led to a recent rediscovery of his work, largely out of print since his death in 1945. For large fiction collections. Leonard Kniffel, Detroit P.L.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A memorable voice of impoverished solitude Sept. 11 2012
By R. M. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Born in 1898 in Paris, Emmanuel Bove was the son of a Ukrainian Jew and a housemaid from Luxembourg. ("Bove" was a shortened version of his father's surname - Bobovnikoff.) His family were among the myriad poor of Paris, and Bove had a hard childhood. As a teenager, he was a waiter in a café, washed dishes in a restaurant, worked in the Renault factory, drove a tramway car, and served a month in prison. His ambition, however, was to be a writer, and Colette became his sponsor. Bove ended up writing over a dozen novels and books of short stories. Among his admirers were Rilke, Gide, and Beckett. During WWII Bove was a Gaullist and under Vichy rule he refused to publish and he and his second wife had to go underground. In July 1945 Bove died in Paris of malarial fever (contracted in Algiers).

"Mes Amis", or MY FRIENDS, was Bove's first novel, published in 1924 when he was only twenty-six. It appears to be his most famous novel, and many reportedly think it his best. It certainly is distinctive. The first-person narrator, Victor Bâton, is a wounded veteran of World War I, trying to eke out existence in Paris on a 50% disability pension. He is about as sorry and sorrowful a character as one finds in literature. He also is alone, which is his continuing plaint: "Being alone is hard to bear." "All I ask is to be allowed to love, to have some friends - and I always live alone." "I am poor, without friends, without luggage." Etc.

Aside from a prologue and an epilogue of sorts, the novel consists of five chapters, each dedicated to the fleeting, flickering acquaintance Victor makes with a different person. They are "Mes Amis" - a poignant and pathetic irony.

Victor has a fascination with women's breasts. He fantasizes about respectable marriage and sudden good fortune. One moment he is distrustful and misanthropic; the next he is credulous and magnanimous. Always he is self-pitying and lonely. He tells the tale of his existence in short, simple, straightforward sentences. The novel is only 150 pages in length. It contains many nicely observed details of impoverished urban life, circa 1920 - a life Bove knew well.

A blurb on the back of my paperback published by Carcanet is so apt I will close with it: "If Marcel Marceau's eternally yearning little man could remove his mask and find a voice, he might look and sound like this one."
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You are my friend! Aug. 29 2001
By "haskeller" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a very nice book! It is almost a five (but I have reserved five for books like "Crime and punishment", "Third policeman", "Master and margarita", "The overcoat" and so on).
The book is about loneliness. It is written with a lot of humor and melancholy.
The main character is walking the streets alone searching for friends. It is so desperate that it becomes ironic. You get the feeling he likes to be alone feeling sorry for himself....
I don't want to say more than that about the story. I guess that's about what the cover lets you know. I would say it is in Beckett style but I don't know if an expert would agree...
If you are a person inclined to feel you are all alone in this world. This book will definately cheer you up....making you feel you are not the only one!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I agree with the review below Dec 2 2007
By Craig Bowers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Except that I think this deserves to be in the same category as the novels he mentioned as five-stars. Perhaps it was just the setting I was in in my life at the time though. This novel is perfect for someone who is stuck in thought and wonder at existence, but still wants to be entertained.

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