1 December 2023

Eight novels including one for youth, two collections of poetry, three sociology essays, three biographies… Here are brief reviews of sixteen notable works in this twelfth week of the year.

Poetry. “The Song of the Birds”, by Farid od-din Attar

In The Little Jewel (Gallimard, 2001), Patrick Modiano invented the “grassland persian”a language that makes you hear “the caress of the wind in the grass and the rustling of the waterfalls”. Farid od-din Attar is the master of the “Persian of birds”. Born around 1158 in Nichapur, in what is now Iran, and died in 1221, Attar is one of the foremost Sufi poets. In his most famous verse novel, Manteq ot-teyrtranslated by The Bird Conference, The Language of Birds or here The Song of the Birds, he tells that one day all the birds of the world come together to go in search of their king, their Supreme Being, under the direction of a hoopoe. They have to abandon everything and cross seven successive valleys. The birds hesitate. The hoopoe responds to their objections with edifying stories, fables, parables. The journey is indeed strewn with pitfalls and suffering. Only thirty birds arrive at the goal… and only find themselves: the real journey is interior. “It’s all just a tale, a vain narrative / And the work of real men is to erase their selves”, concludes Attar. From this ample and beautiful text of 4,724 couplets, Leili Anvar offers a sumptuous translation into verse, more or less strict alexandrines which render the music, the rhythm of Attar. A richly illustrated first edition was published in 2012. This new revised and enriched version, without illustration but more accessible, allows you to immerse yourself with happiness in the “Persian of birds”. Dec.

“The Song of the Birds” (Manteq ot-teyr), by Farid od-din Attar, translated from Persian by Leili Anvar, Diane de Selliers, 400 p., €29.

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Novel. “A real change of scenery”, by Clément Bénech

At 22, the young Roman has not finished with his teenage crisis. Him whom his mother has long called his “little miracle”because he arrived late, waves his ugly duck feathers and asks himself big questions: “Why did I have to be born in Bordeaux from France? » He has just passed the French capes (especially not the pretentious aggregation!) and has asked to practice in Guyana. There, he will be able to implement the revolutionary pedagogies of a deconstructed teaching. Except that an error in the administrative software affects him in a college in the depths of Auvergne. In this fair of lost illusions, Clément Bénech indulges in hazy educational theories and their jargon. He laughs with joyful talent at those, so many, who want to make others happy in spite of themselves… Everyone, on one side or the other, takes it for their rank. It might be cynical, but as we move forward in what becomes a preposterous story, we discover the affectionate relationship that the author has with his characters. And mockingly, we become moved. X.H.

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