"The French Art of War": the new "Prix Goncourt" waits for you at Dibuka

As you might have read in a previous article, seasonal awards are a distinctive feature of French literature. Apart for (usually) being an enjoyable book, a novel which was awarded the prestigious “Prix Goncourt” is also a must-read in Paris, something you cannot skip if you want to hold your rank in dinners and parties. Nevertheless, Alexis Jenni's “The French Art of War” is everything except a mundane event. A rich, dense novel that reviews the “two decades of uninterrupted war in France” between WWII and the end of the Algerian “events”, it is also a daring book that dares to address one of the greatest challenges French contemporary society faces today: immigration.

 

In a classical, sometimes lyrical prose, Jenni intermingles adventures from the past and episode from today. The reader travels among the reminiscences of Vicotrien Salagnon, a retired French paratrooper, that go from the great tales of the “résistance” – where young French took arms against the German invader during WWII – to the squalid horror of the Algerian prisons, where those same heroes became invaders and tortured their opponents. Fast-paced and full of adrenaline, these souvenirs are balanced by slower, more contemplative episodes of France's today situation. Worn-out and impoverished, Salagnon has retired in a “banlieue”, a city periphery where migrants from all over the world – and especially from these same places where French used to fight – settle. A deep, emotional reflexion on war, its roots and its consequences inevitably arouse that leaves its reader sore and admiring altogether. “The French Art of War” is highly recommendable, and not only for the pleasure to tell you read the last Goncourt at the next cocktail.