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BRODECK By: Philippe Claudel August 6, 2010

Posted by lycan librarian in book reviews, Books and reading.

     You may have already heard of Philippe Claudel — he is the writer and director of I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG, an amazing film starring Kristen Scott Thomas. I saw and enjoyed the man’s movie very much, but I was absolutely floored by his book.
     This cannot quite be called a Holocaust book, because it happens in an unnamed time and place, but the situations clearly mirror those that occurred in Europe during WWII. Not only must the author be applauded for his story and for gifting us with dear Brodeck, but John Cullen, who translated this book into English from French must also be lauded for perfectly maintaining the beauty of both the words and the tone of the author. This novel wraps horrific situations up in the lethargy of etherial sentences that lift the reader up to watch breathlessly as the plot unfolds and Brodeck tells his gruesome tale. The voice is timeless and the book is peppered with numerous interesting phrases and references to ancient, haunting  folklore that appear, to this ignorant American, to be of German origin.
     There is a literal sea of books that deal with this subject, but this novel will rise to the surface and bob along for generations, telling the story of a man who survived a death camp by swallowing all pride and allowing himself to be led about and treated like a dog. Literally. Brodeck slept with the dogs, ate from their dishes, and followed his “master” about on all fours, entertaining the soldiers with his barking and prancing. But, as Brodeck points out, he lived, and those who refused to play a faithful canine did not. When he returns, finally, to his village, he faces more inhumanity among those he had known all his life, and learns it was by the hand of his own people that he had been sent away. And these same people charge him with the task of writing a report to explain away the death of an eccentric traveler who had the misfortune to land in the little village whose ancient name means Kindly Halt.  Brodeck does the job, but is compelled to also write his own, secret, version of the true story for himself. He is not one to wonder about a human being’s ability to perform cruel acts, for he believes that “if the creature is capable of producing horror, it’s solely because his Creator has slipped him the recipe for it.”
     This story is positively gripping. The Lycan Librarian’s copy is littered with yellow highlighted phrases that sing with loveliness and grace and will be reread time and time again. Claudel describes perfectly those feelings deep within us: the happiness, amusement, melancholy, sorrow, shame and grief that we all, as human beings, know so well. I have also seen listings for this book under the title BRODECK’S REPORT. By either title, I cannot recommend this book enough.



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