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Eight novels to offer at Christmas, for your feminist cousin, your geek son, your nerd grandma...

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- 22 reads.

Eight novels to offer at Christmas, for your feminist cousin, your geek son, your nerd grandma...

1. For the brother-in-law who dreams of playing solitary cowboy and confronting nature:

We were wolves, By Sandrine Collette. JC Lattes, 208 p., €19.90.

Survivor of a planetary apocalypse (And always the Forests), gaucho in the steppes of Argentine Patagonia (There remains the dust), adept of trekking struggling with a monster storm in the Albanian mountains (Six white ants)... 52 years old, the wise student from Nanterre (master's degree in philosophy and doctorate in political science) and "specialist" in unknown and inhospitable lands has already had a thousand lives. This time, the novelist slips into the skin and head of Liam, a hunter tracker in the mountains of a northern country, and it is truly amazing. She is this wild and bloodthirsty thirtysomething who prefers the company of animals to that of men, is one with her horses, sings with wolves and hunts deer. Until the day he finds his wife torn apart by a bear and under her body, Aru, their 5-year-old son, alive! Entangled by this child, he decides to take him to the city _ six days on horseback _ to get rid of him, not with his "old people", alcoholics and violent, but with a more lenient uncle. The latter flatly refuses. So what to do with this "kid who is useless"?

First, go discover this great distant lake ("the most beautiful place in the world" in the eyes of his late wife), and then we'll see. The road is sinister, father and son, mute, make the mouth, the first, corroded by the sorrow and the anger, and the second, one imagines it, by the fear and the incomprehension. A series of _ dramatic _ events later appear, finally, some flashes of paternal love. We remain flabbergasted by the mastery of Sandrine Collette, as adept at portraying nature as at deciphering the complexity of human relationships. The jury for the Jean Giono prize, who adored this "raw" novel, has just awarded him its 2022 laurels. The same should be true for your brother-in-law. Marianne Payot

2. For your grandmother who has never "missed" a Goncourt in her life and who never stops discussing chance and fate:

Live fast, by Brigitte Giraud. Flammarion, 208 pages, €20.

A part of Brigitte Giraud will always remain blocked on June 22, 1999: that day, while she is traveling in Paris and her husband Claude, at home in Lyon, he dies in a motorcycle accident. Brigitte Giraud is still only a quasi-beginner, who is about to release her second novel, Nico. She has since published a dozen books and obtained wide critical recognition, with the added bonus of the Goncourt short story for Love is very overestimated. But during all these years, a piece was missing, which she gives here with Vivre vite. She highlighted this sentence from Patrick Autréaux: "Writing is being led to this place that we would like to avoid." This place, or this date. What chain of circumstances made June 22, 1999 possible? With the distance offered by time, Brigitte Giraud dissects the events. The suicide of his grandfather, which gives him the means to move. The whim that takes her to buy a house. In which there is a garage. Where her brother could store his motorcycle, a Honda 900 CBR Fireblade which reaches 270 kilometers per hour and can only tempt an adventurous spirit... Ah, if she hadn't gone to Paris, she would have told Claude to be more careful. If the weather had been bad, he wouldn't have borrowed his brother-in-law's bike.

Yes, yes, yes... The study of chance or fate leads the writer to sensitive, modest, and sometimes almost funny digressions, when she attacks Tadao Baba, the Japanese engineer who designed the Honda 900 CBR Fireblade, this "rolling coffin". This infernal machine was banned in Japan, reserved for export to Europe. How many accidents has it caused? It ended up being withdrawn from sale in 2004 ¬ too late, alas. More than twenty years after the tragedy, Claude is still alive in the eyes of his wife, who talks about it as if he were there, beside her. Why did she finally write Living Fast? Because she had to sell their house, which is going to be razed. All will not be lost: there will remain this moving book, which no one can ever expropriate and which the Goncourt jury crowned on November 3 in the 14th round. To believe that this was the destiny of Brigitte Giraud. And that her husband, Claude, would live forever in all hearts, especially in that of your grandmother... Louis-Henri de La Rochefoucauld.

3. For your cousin in the Alps, who dreams of reaching the high peaks:

The Edge of the World is Vertical, by Simon Parcot. The word and the rest, 160 p., 18 €.

"Say, why are you climbing? says Solal (...)" "If I climb, it's to go down (...) to experience the joy of returning to the bottom of the valley, where the animals, the flowers and the people I love", replies Gaspard, who, further on, confides to this same Solal, nicknamed the Kid in this formidable first novel, "in short, it's not death I'm looking for, it's life Because the mountain is a flavor enhancer, a life enhancer!" Just as Le Bord du monde is vertical, condensed with adventures, friendships, vertiginous altitudes, conquests of the useless, poetry and metaphysics. Under the pen of its author, Simon Parcot, philosopher, organizer of hiking-philo or even "peddler of thought", the mountain becomes magical and the man extravagant.

Gaspard, rope leader, takes his team _ two dogs, a dog handler, a sled puller and Solal, sled helper_ through the Valley of Ice to a ghost hamlet, the last village before the Edge of the World, legendary mountain deemed inaccessible , to repair a power line damaged by an avalanche. It was Father Solomon, priest and crystal maker, who called him to help. The rope set off. On his way, the cold, the snow, the storm and a welcome stopover, at Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, where Masha the Elder awaits them in front of a pot of boiled chamois. But very quickly, we discover the pot of roses: it is also a question of helping Father Solomon to get his hands on a vein of soul quartz, the purest in the world, which would also have the power magic to uninhibit the climber in his ascent of the Grande (another nickname of the edge of the world), "metaphor of our inner quest". But let's leave the mystery to the sole reader of this "dizzying" first novel already acquired by Le Livre de poche. Marianne Payot

4. For your daughter who has faith in progress but is still reluctant to become a doctor:

The Sleeping Children, by Anthony Passeron. Globe, 288 pages, €20.

He had to mature it for a long time, this first novel, Anthony Passeron. "My brother and I were barely eleven years old and we already felt miserable," he writes today, remembering their refusal to go see their hospitalized cousin in Nice. That year, in 1994, the sleeping virus in the body of Emilie, ten years old, woke up. Shortly before, Anthony had been told that his little cousin had AIDS, whose parents, Désiré and Brigitte, drug addicts, had died of the disease. "In three sentences, my mother had just given me my share of the inheritance of the family burden", notes the author, history and geography teacher, who, further, punctuates Emilie's funeral with these simple words: "AIDS had finished with us. It went to ransack other bodies, spoil other dreams of simple lives." _ in 2014, there were more than 36 million victims worldwide.

It is this double story, of family tragedy and global cataclysm, that feeds this gut-wrenching novel, which won the favor of the Première Plume and Wepler prize juries. The oldest remember the emergence, in the early 1980s, of what was awkwardly called "the gay syndrome". Despite the first alerts from infectious disease specialist Willy Rozembaum and immunologist Jacques Leibowitch, mistrust is setting in even in the medical community, so imagine the disarray of a family of traders from a small town in the hinterland Nice. With these prosperous butchers, we have acquired, through hard work, a great respectability, so, in the face of drug addiction and then the illness of Désiré, the favorite son, it is denial that prevails, shame that overwhelms. With delicacy and science, Anthony recounts the parallel struggles of a family and French researchers. To remember... Marianne Payot

5. For your uncle from America, who is reluctant to drop finance to take up the pen

Lincoln Highway, by Amor Towles, trans. from English by Nathalie Cunnington. Fayard, 634 p., €25.

Amor Towles would be annoying. This double graduate of Yale and Stanford made his fortune in finance. Convinced that one has not succeeded in life if one has not published before his fifties, the analyst has converted into a successful novelist. New jackpot with the elegant Rules of the Game and A Gentleman in Moscow. Praised by Barack Obama and Bill Gates, Lincoln Highway is no exception to the rule. But now, the golden-boy is above all an incredible storyteller. After placing himself under the patronage of Fitzgerald and the great Russian novelists for his first two novels, Amor Towles offers us a social downgrading by venturing on the side of Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac and all these American writers who are followers of runaway powder.

In the America of the 1950s, teenagers released from a detention center for minors take, aboard a Studebaker, the Lincoln Highway, the oldest road to cross the United States from coast to coast. Leaving from Nebraska, their objective is California. But we can trust Amor Towles to surprise his reader with many breakdowns, bifurcations and detours, up to the Empire State Building. A marvelous tribute to Americana folklore (from Steinbeck-style farmers to the hobos of Jack London), this choral novel also summons the Odyssey, Moses or The Count of Monte Cristo. As young Sally sums it up, "Any 10-year-old child will tell you that getting up and walking is the main subject of human adventure stories". Amor Towles adds a few thousand kilometers of bitumen (and rail) to these epics. His journey lasts only ten days, but it has the magnitude of legends. Thomas Mahler

6. For your husband who loathes mushy novels and loves chilling dystopias

Dog 51, by Laurent Gaudé. Actes Sud, 304 p., €22.

For Laurent Gaudé, the time is not yet for comedy. Playwright at heart, bathed in Greek tragedy, the author of Le Soleil des Scorta and Listen to our defeats continues to stir up evil in all latitudes and across the centuries. Past, present and... future. For the first time, our master of darkness is trying his hand at science fiction mixed with thrillers. A pure happiness ! Hand-stitched, this chilling dystopia with refined suspense, as if Laurent Gaudé had spent his life inventing frightening futures, totalitarian worlds hyperconnected to well-oiled hierarchy and deadly innovations. "Dog 51 is a possible version of tomorrow. A grimacing reflection of our face", writes the author, as a warning...

It all starts in Greece. A breathless Greece, bought, despite an insurrection, by GoldTex, one of the multinationals that will soon share the world. Its hero, Zem Sparak (alias Sparakos), a traitor "in spite of himself", manages to flee Athens at the age of 24. We find him thirty years later "dog", that is to say cop, in zone 3 of Magnapole, that of all despair with its dilapidated buildings and its gigantic dumps, and which no climatic dome protects from the acid rain. Called to the scene of an atrocious crime, he learns that he will have to investigate with a cop from zone 2. Once past the checkpoint, he meets his "superior", Salia Malberg, a young woman with no respect. This ill-matched tandem will soon be confronted with power... Let the reader be reassured: behind the all-black parable, there are also, at the end of this relentless story, some glimmers of hope. No dog, Laurent Gaudé! Marianne Payot

7. For your younger son, who swears by social media and the metaverse

The Artificial Links, by Nathan Devers. Albin Michel, 328 pages, €19.90.

This novel opens with a suicide, which is always a fun way to grab the reader's attention. Julien Libérat, a failed pianist, throws himself out of the window while broadcasting the images on social networks ¬ or how to reconcile Icarus and Narcissus. What led him to commit such a gesture? In The Artificial Links, a clever post-Facebook Balzacian novel, Nathan Devers stages another character, the Mephistophelic Adrien Sterner. This Sterner is a kind of French Mark Zuckerberg, smarter than the original, influenced by The Apocalypse of Saint John and The City of God by Saint Augustine, ¬ everything happens. He created the Antiworld, a metaverse uniting a billion followers across the planet. Disgusted by his fate in reality, Julien Libérat becomes under the avatar of Vangel a provocative poet in the wind. Sterner starts sponsoring and pushing him, until things get out of hand...

We have already said in these pages the greatest good of the two previous books by Devers, a precocious 24-year-old author. With Les Liens artificials, he was selected on the first list of the Goncourt and Renaudot prizes. As inventive as he is funny, he has just written the first good novel on the metaverse, and proves that French literature can keep up with the times with a critical spirit and formal modernity. Social satire still manages to clear new territories, and Houellebecq should hail Devers as a worthy heir. It's time to unsubscribe from all social networks and read this book in real life. Louis-Henri de La Rochefoucauld

8. For your cousin, a hard-core feminist and avid newsreader

My Dear Husband, by Rumena Buzarovska, trans. from Macedonian by Maria Bejanovska. Gallimard, 176 pages, €18.50.

My dear husband, it is under this ironic title that the bubbly and pretty Macedonian Rumena Bu,arovska, professor of American literature at the Faculty of Philology in Skopje, publishes a delicious collection of sarcastic short stories about the couple. The eleven wives and narrators of My Dear Husband are all Macedonian and sail between Skopje, the capital, and the hinterland. Their common point? Their submission to husbands, often grotesque or fat. There's the big-nosed, earthy-complexioned Goran, who roams festivals with his "execrable" poetry; Zoran, whom his wife rightly suspects of adultery and who follows him; the husband, a gynecologist, who tries to pass himself off as an artist and whose oil paintings, veritable smears, are most depressing... Jovan, who prevents his young wife from going to see her mother, poor and very sick, for fear of contagion... An exaggerated picture of a backward society? "Macedonia is very patriarchal, the forty-something recently confided to us, and I wanted to evoke all the sneaky and harmful ways in which women are still treated today. However, the book has been successful almost everywhere, especially in Germany, in Italy and all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the issues I raise are universal I think."

Rumena Buzarovska the feminist does not content herself with mocking the dominating male or highlighting the weariness of couples, she also addresses, here and there, the lack of maternal instinct of some women, the wickedness and insolence of children , the greed of siblings during successions, the pangs of old age, anti-Albanian racism and ends with a sensational and funny story (titled "March 8") featuring an unfaithful wife grappling with food poisoning. In short, my dear husband is confined to bowling. Carnage, yes, but most hilarious. Marianne Payot

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