Sunday, 25 July 2010

Le roi des fougères (Jean Anglade)

--The blurb--
"How did the young Antilles boy, Zébédée Lhasard, son of Pamphile Lhasard, tramway driver from Clermont-Ferrand, become Prince of the Ferns? How did he come to share the cave of a forger of Roman antiquities on the slopes of the Puys? Jean Anglade unveils, with humour and poetry in equal measure, this strange destiny, and traces a beguiling portrait of the Auvergne at the edge of the 1950s."

--The review--
The King of the Ferns, by Jean Anglade (not to be confused with actor Jean-Hugues Anglade!), is not available in English, and the author himself is virtually unknown outside of France (which is perhaps not helped by his reclusive nature even in France, with him rarely if ever appearing on television, and with him not having won any literary prizes in nearly 50 years). However, in France his output at least is extremely prolific, with him having released 40-50 novels and novellas, as well as multiple history books, plays, poems, translations and essays, among other projects. At the age of 95, he's still writing, with his most recent attempt having been released just a few months ago. But is what he's writing any good?

While imperfect, it thankfully appears that quantity is not being prized over quality. Anglade has produced a lovely readable little novella (just 96 pages in all) that is concise, compelling, and carries the reader along with its imagery. It peters out a bit due to its predictable ending, but this is compensated for by the vivid setting of Clermont-Ferrand and the eccentric and minimal cast with which we are presented.

Although only available in French, those who are not fluent in the language should still easily be able to handle The King of the Ferns: if anything it makes good practice for those who are in the process of learning it.

The only other difficulty - apart from the ending - is perhaps determining this story's target audience. While fairytale-ish (due to its light style and happy ending), it is absolutely not for children, as proved by one fairly sombre and horrible scene - teens and up might be a better target.

Selection of other works by Jean Anglade
L'Immeuble Taub (1957)
La Foi et La Montagne (1961)
Une pomme oublié (1974)
La Noël aux prunes (1983)
La soupe à la fourchette (1999)
Les délices d'Alexandrine (2009)
Des chiens vivants (2010)

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