Lack of specificity can read, in other words, as sentimentality: sentimentality about Indochina, and about war, from which the protagonist, an old man named Monsieur Linh, has fled; sentimentality about refugee voyages and the reception of asylum seekers in Europe; and astonishing sentimentality — or so it seems at first — about looking after a young baby. But swallow any irritation you may feel in the early chapters: this is not, ultimately, a sentimental book. Most importantly, there is nothing sentimental about the prose, which is as restrained and delicate as a piece of Indochinese artwork. This combination of controlled prose and mythic universality, tinged with menace, is reminiscent of Disquiet, the novella by Australian writer and film-maker Julia Leigh, in which a mother clutches the bundled body of her stillborn baby as if it were alive.

Author:Kazratilar Tohn
Country:South Africa
Language:English (Spanish)
Published (Last):22 October 2005
PDF File Size:10.85 Mb
ePub File Size:20.71 Mb
Price:Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]

No, they are not the same, although both are about an old man and a child. But both are short, both are very moving, and there is a childlike wonder to the writing in both books that makes me think of them in the same breath.

He holds a small suitcase and an even smaller child, a baby girl. His name is Monsieur Linh, but he is the only one to know that, since everybody else who knows him is dead.

Monsieur Linh comes to a big Western city where he is put into a dormitory for refugees. At first, this new city seems neutral and forbidding to Monsieur Linh, lacking the warmth, the scents, the colors of his tropical home.

But resting on a bench one day, he is joined by a big man who introduces himself as Monsieur Bark. A widower grieving for his wife who used to operate a carousel in the park, Monsieur Bark is glad of somebody to talk to, even though the only phrases the men can exchange with mutual comprehension are the expressions for "Good day" in their respective languages. But just as one is beginning to think that the book is in danger of getting sappy and over-optimistic, other people—social workers—intervene who have other ideas of proper homes for the two of them.

The story passes into disturbing shadow, making us think of the inadvertent cruelty with which, albeit with the best of intentions, we often treat old people, orphans, and aliens. But Monsieur Linh has not survived the desolation of his country for nothing, and his determination to be reunited with his friend brings this brief tale to a climax that is both inevitable and surprising. One assumes that Monsieur Linh comes from Vietnam, though Claudel never says.

Indeed, having now read four books by the author, I realize that one of his central techniques is to give no more information than is absolutely necessary. It explains his latest [as of ], The Investigation , a surreal nightmare in which neither the setting nor any of the characters are given proper names.

It explains his two most famous novels, Grey Souls and especially his masterpiece Brodeck , in which the vagueness of some details and the precision of others, in the shadow respectively of the First and Second World Wars, gives a nightmare quality, as though everything is taking place in a confined space by half light.


Monsieur Linh and His Child

Monsieur Linh is an elderly refugee from Vietnam. His son and daughter-in-law have died in the war. They set off one morning to work in the paddy fields, with the child, and by evening they had not returned. The old man ran. He was out of breath when he arrived at the rice field. It was nothing but a vast hole, bubbling with water, with the corpse of a disembowelled buffalo lying on one side of the crater, its yoke broken in two like a bit of straw. The little girl was ten days old.


Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel – review

This book is a gem. Easily one of the most affecting reads of the year for me, it tells the tale of Monsieur Linh and surprise surprise, his child. Monsieur Linh finds himself in a strange country, unable to speak the language, unable to relate to anyone except this child who he clings to ceaselessly. Much like The Small Hand , it was the back of the book and the excerpt it offered, which told me straight off all I needed to know. In his arms he clasps a flimsy suitcase and a newborn baby, even lighter than the suitcase. He is the only person who knows this is his name because all those who once knew it are dead. This book is near-perfect in every way.


monsieur linh and his child

Share via Email Philippe Claudel Its first part, Grey Souls , was a metaphysical whodunit reaching back to the first world war — and, for me, the most brilliantly accomplished of the three. In a French town once riven between unlucky conscripts and the fortunate few in the armaments factory, an investigator reviews the murder of a young girl, for which a deserter was executed, and possibly framed. As one character says, "Bastards, saints. Sandwiched between novels in the first person, this is a third-person narrative. Yet as with the others, its plot hinges on a relationship between a parent or grandparent and a young child, an innocent reminder or embodiment of adult grief who may yet offer the means of overcoming it. Monsieur Linh is an elderly refugee who arrives in France with other "boat people", clutching a flimsy suitcase and a newborn baby.

Related Articles