I try to read authors in their original language. As my favorite books are mostly Anglo-Saxon, Flemish and French that is not an issue. Books in Switzerland are at least 10 % more expensive and my shop there Payot does not offer me the inspiration I need. So each time I visit Brussels I buy a stack at my preferred bookshop PassaPorta.
Last time I was lucky with the offer on the shelves : Marnix Peeters on his mother and her struggle with Alzheimer; Rebecca Solnit on identity (what does it mean to be American, Korean, Belgian or Flemish ?); travel author Cees Notteboom on Japan, which my partner and I want to visit; Jhumpa Lahiri’s notes on Rome (in her newly adopted “mother tongue” Italian) and the best selling Buddhist monk Shoukei Matsumoto on cleaning house and mind. And then there was “Lie with me” by the French author Philippe Besson. I checked if the French version was available but couldn’t find it. And the book couldn’t wait to be read, so I opted for the English translation by Molly Ringwood, an actress I remember from that 80’s film “The Breakfast Club”. That made me feel less guilty not reading it in the original language.
To be honest, I don’t mind reading in English. Although this is not my native language, it is my preferred one. I love it’s flow with a grammar so rigid and a vocabulary yet so rich.
“Lie with me” (“Arrête avec tes mensonges”) is another (gay) coming of age story. Two boys, preparing for their baccalaureate in 1984, discover homosexuality. It feels natural to the two of them in that attic room. One becomes a successful writer (like Besson himself ?); the other marries … with a fatal ending. Spoiler alert : it ends very badly. I am sometimes puzzled why these choices always have to turn out so bad in gay literature. E.M. Foster’s “Maurice” (the book and the film); Andre Aciman’s “Call me by your name” (the book and the film) … and now this great book : the ones not making the gay choice, are somehow punished. Is this just novel plot building, or do these gay authors punish the fictional characters that doesn’t dare to live “the love that doesn’t dare to speak its name” ?
Philippe Besson’s is a must read. Can’t way to reread it in the language of Voltaire.