Posts filed under 'personal'

A Book of 50 Square Meters: Thomas Clerc’s Interior In Review

This book will not sit comfortably on any genre shelf.

Interior by Thomas Clerc, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2018

“The doorbell rings. I go. Peephole. Nobody. I grab my keys. I open the door. The 3rd-floor hallway. Empty. A glance.” Interior is an elaborate, three-hundred-page description of the experimental writer Thomas Clerc’s Paris apartment, a modest 50 square meters on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin. The reader begins at the doorstep and is taken on a room-by-room tour of all of Clerc’s furniture and possessions, guided by a narrator—Thomas—as he leaves no nook or cranny unexplained.

Published in French in 2013 and translated into English by Jeffrey Zuckerman, Interior is not Clerc’s first meticulous endeavor. In a previous book (Paris, musée du XXIe siècle, le dixième arrondissement; or Paris, Museum of the 21st Century, the Tenth Arrondissement), the writer walked along all the streets in his neighborhood and documented everything he saw over the course of three years, the same amount of time it took to construct this literary blueprint of his apartment.

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The Story of an Expat

“…the hybrid International school accent. It doesn’t sound American. Nor English. It sounds like nothing.”

I come from a family of ruthless, rootless, French expatriates. But papa isn’t a diplomat; papa is a CFO at a French car company. He’s spent his whole life working. They send him to factories and to selling points abroad, where he’s given three-year contracts. Papa usually doesn’t know where he’ll be sent next.

Papa’s papa was a baker, and he too spent his whole life working. Papa’s papa would wake up early in the morning to knead the dough and bake the bread. Then papa’s maman would go to the shop and set it all. My papa went to school, and now here we are.

Growing up, I followed my parents abroad. I went to international schools in the countries where we lived and I developed the hybrid International school accent. It doesn’t sound American. Nor English. It sounds like nothing. It’s neutral. Like a tepid glass of water.

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