Traveller, acclaimed writer and grand reporteur, Jean Rolin (b. 1949) is one of France’s best-known writers, with a long backlist establishing his distinctive ‘Rolinian’ territory: ‘psychogeography,’ real-life journeying and self-mapping; a fictionalised blend of memoir and classic travel writing; ruthless but deeply compassionate dissections of people’s schemes, personal and public destinies, ambitions and dreams.
Many of his books from the 1980s and early 1990s have been republished in recent years, and his writing has been compared to W.G. Sebald, Paul Theroux, and Bruce Chatwin… He writes with wry wit and tremendous empathy, but is also often laugh-out-loud funny.
Featured Reading Group title:
L’organisation is Rolin’s fictionalised account of his involvement in a sect-like, revolutionary Maoist organisation intent on radicalising French factory workers post-1968, and the long shadow cast across his later life, including a spell underground with the IRA. The class struggle re-cast as the often hilarious attempt of a group of young Parisian bourgeois radical intellectuals to ‘proletarise’ themselves for the cause…
- This title features as part of our Spring 2013 French reading group in Paris.
- Download Louise Rogers Lalaurie’s sample translation, translated extract from Chapter 1
- Download Cécile Menon’s sample translation, translated extract from Chapter 4
I started translating a passage as agreed, from the middle of the book where the protagonists go to Ireland at the beginning of the troubles (in 1971), the internment law etc. I did 3 pages then stopped. I don’t think English readers will take very much to a French writer writing about the subject using it as a semi-comical political backdrop to the trials and tribulations of his characters.
Also, although I absolutely loved L’Explosion de la durite, I never finished reading L’Organisation, I stopped, strange as it may sound, three quarters of the way. I enjoyed it till I was just suddenly sick with the irony of the tone. I have no doubt it’s a great book. It’s funny, it’s smart, extremely well-written. But it’s got this Flaubertian cool irony and venom.
However, I think L’Organisation may work for an English audience. It’s really savagely funny in places too and unforgiving about the history of the far-left in the seventies, and encompasses other countries than France.