Seven Houses in France
The year is 1903, and the garrison of Yangambi on the banks of the River Congo is under the command of Captain Lalande Biran. The captain is also a poet whose ambition is to amass a fortune and return to the literary cafes of Paris. His glamorous wife Christine has a further ambition: to own seven houses in France, a house for every year he has been abroad. At Lalande Biran's side are the ex-legionnaire van Thiegel, a brutal womaniser, and the servile, treacherous Donatien, who dreams of running a brothel. The officers spend their days guarding enslaved rubber-tappers and kidnapping young girls, and at their hands the jungle is transformed into a wild circus of human ambition and absurdity. But everything changes with the arrival of a new officer and brilliant marksman: the enigmatic Chrysostome Liege. This is an outstanding new novel from the critically acclaimed and prizewinning author Bernardo Atxaga, "Seven Houses in France" is a blackly comic tale which reveals the darkest sides of human desire.
- Hardback | 256 pages
- 144.78 x 218.44 x 27.94mm | 385.55g
- 12 Dec 2011
- Vintage Publishing
- HARVILL SECKER
- London, United Kingdom
"Seven Houses in France is an enjoyable, somewhat frightening novel by one of Europe's best novelists... Atxaga is still the master of a complex story, told with deceptive simplicity." -- Michael Eaude Independent "With his sixth novel, Basque writer Atxaga puts us squarely in Heart of Darkness territory, although his is a more blackly absurd version of the world than that of Joseph Conrad. Unsettling, often unpleasant, but undeniably compelling." -- Amber Pearson Daily Mail "Bizarrely funny and beautifully crafted...His gift for interesting, unusual syntax, his wonderful pacing and surprising, vibrant language give one the feeling of being in safe hands." -- Mira Mattar Times Literary Supplement "Atxaga tackles the excesses of colonialism with an assured touch; his humour is dark, the silenced voices of the natives are pointed, and his evocation of how reality becomes distorted when men are trapped in suffocating tedium is fascinatingly rigorous." Metro "A dark comedy about the vanity of human desires which deftly balances compassion and cynicism" -- Adrian Turpin Financial Times
About Bernardo Atxaga
Bernardo Atxaga was born in Gipuzkoa in Spain in 1951 and lives in the Basque Country, writing in Basque and Spanish. He is a prizewinning novelist and poet, whose books, including Obabakoak and The Accordionist's Son, have won critical acclaim in Spain and abroad. His works have been translated into twenty-five languages.
Our customer reviews
The book opens with a rather dour new officer arriving by boat on his first posting abroad. The officer, Chrysostome, doesn't attempt to fit in with his fellow officers and they, in turn, despise his puritan upbringing, not only is he blatantly religious to a fundamental degree, but he refuses the usual soldierly fun of gambling, getting drunk and raping the native womenfolk . They also fear him. This man could shoot the eyebrows of a mosquito at five hundred paces. The setting for this novel is the garrison of Yagambi, on the banks of the River Congo and the year is 1903. The senior officer is Captain Lalande Biran, who would prefer to be back in Paris frequenting the lounges of the Literati with his wife (more of her later), & releasing the odd book of poetry than commanding eighteen white officers of the Force Publique and the Askaris - native soldiers recruited to help quell the other natives who have the audacity to rebel intermittently. Time goes really slow here, with very little to do beyond overseeing the slaves as they work, producing rubber and mahogany and keeping the natives in order. So time is spent drinking, gambling & consorting/raping the natives, there are dangers even here as STD's* seems to be everywhere, although most of the officers are not particularly worried. Except the Captain, he is so terrified of catching syphilis, that he has an officer pick & test girls for their virginity & then keep them caged until he's ready. Captain Lalande Biran's wife, Christine, is a stunner and the reason he is out here. It would appear that she is addicted to the TV programme Location, location, location because although they have six houses purchased by smuggling Ivory and Mahogany, she wants another, in fact she has her eyes set on a seventh in glamorous St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. Into this world of relaxed cruelty and debauchery steps our puritan officer and just by being who he is, slowly upsets the applecart. This is a book that should offend our sensibilities, there is not a single character here that's likeable, their attitude stinks, their behaviour would have most of them up on crimes against humanity charges and even the saintly Chrysostome is so po-faced righteous and arrogant that you can understand why no-one likes him. And yet? what Axtaga has managed to do is create a dark, horrible, nasty and yet wonderfully comic world that will offend and delight in almost equal measure. Not everyone will enjoy it, but those that do, will find a fantastic absurd world within the pages of this book.show moreby parrish lantern