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Apenas ha transcurrido un año desde el final de la guerra cuando una muerte rompe la tranuilidad de un peueño pueblo perdido en las montañas El único extranjero del lugar a uien llaman Der Anderer —el Otro en alemán— ha sido asesinado y todos los hombres de la localidad se confiesan autores del crimen Todos menos Brodeck el encargado de redactar un informe sobre lo sucedido «para ue uienes lo lean puedan comprender y perdonar» Así pues Brodeck entrevista a los hombres más importantes del pueblo el cura el dueño de la fonda el alcalde Y cuando este último le advierte de ue «no busue lo ue no existe; o lo ue existió pero ya no existe» Brodeck comprende ue no le conviene saber demasiado Sin embargo la redacción del informe lo obliga a interrogar y a interrogarse lo ue a la postre puede suponer una amenaza para él y su familiaAutor de Almas grises La nieta del señor Lihn y Aromas Philippe Claudel está considerado uno de los mejores novelistas franceses de su generación Con esta novela —ganadora del Premio Goncourt des Lycéens— Claudel renueva su exploración de los recodos más sombríos del ser humano y sus complejos mecanismos


10 thoughts on “Le Rapport de Brodeck

  1. says:

    Brodeck is a very gloomy and bleak parable of conformity Conformity is dangerous “The truth is that the crowd itself is a monster” Conformity can become deadlySometimes when I looked at him the figure of a saint crossed my mind Saintliness is very odd When people encounter it they often take it for something else something completely unlike it indifference mockery scheming coldness insolence perhaps even contempt But they’re mistaken and that makes them furious They commit an awful crime This is doubtless the reason why most saints end up as martyrsConformity makes people gather in herds and those who are different; who don’t belong in their herd must be destroyed Conformity makes nations hate other nations and wage warsThe war maybe the peoples of the world need such nightmares They lay waste to what they’ve taken centuries to build They destroy today what they praised yesterday They authorize what was forbidden They give preferential treatment to what they used to condemn War is a great broom that sweeps the world It’s the place where the mediocre triumphs and the criminal receives a saint’s halo; people prostrate themselves before him and acclaim him and fawn upon him Must men find life so gloomy and monotonous that they long for massacre and ruin? I’ve seen them jump up and down on the edge of the abyss walk along its crest and look with fascination upon the horror of the void where the vilest passions hold sway Destroy Defile Rape SlashIf one manages to discover a true self of one’s fellowman then one becomes a fellowman’s deadly enemy


  2. says:

    Near the end of this book Brodeck the narrator mentions a fable he remembers hearing as a child a strange little story about a poor tailor who makes three suits for the king only to be rewarded by having first his mother then his wife then his daughter taken from him as if by magic Brodeck says that the story used to make him feel as if the ground had been pulled from under him as if there was nothing left to hold on to nothing he could trust When I read about Brodeck's reaction I had to pause and take stock Philippe Claudel had given his narrator an experience that seemed to mirror my own experience as I read his novel the novel in turn mirroring the childhood tale in an odd way though there is no tailor in the main story nor is there a king But there is definitely a fable like uality to the events that are played out in Claudel's book and they left me confused and disoriented And just as in Brodeck's childhood fable the moral of Claudel's novel is very elusive I wasn't sure what he was really saying — in the little story or in the larger one But now that I've typed that sentence I realise it isn't accurate because Claudel has constructed his main story set near the FrenchGerman border during and after WWII in such a way that we can't not understand that it is about people's inherent xenophobia about how their fear for their own safety can drive them to carry out atrocities and about the dangers posed by mobs But in spite of all those well developed themes I'm still feeling confused about what I've just read and I don't know whyCoincidently alongside this book I've been reading Giorgio Bassani's novels about the experience of an Italian Jewish community during WWII There's a scene in one of Bassani's stories where a man returns from a concentration camp at the end of the war to find his name carved on the local memorial monument to the dead In Claudel's book there is a similar scene At the end of the war Brodeck returns to his French border village from a concentration camp and he too finds his name on the local memorial monument The way the two authors deal with the concentration camp experience is very different however Bassani begins his character's story at the moment he returns and doesn't attempt to fill in the missing years Other characters in Bassani's stories are sent to the camps too but he never tries to write about their time there I took that to mean that he was unwilling to try to render a concentration camp experience in fiction since he had no experience of such a thing himself having been lucky enough to have escaped to a safe placeClaudel on the other hand though writing fifty years after Bassani tries to gives us every detail of his main character's time in the camp He doesn't give it all in one go however Instead he makes Brodeck reveal his back story little by little This drip feed revelation of events from the past some of them uite dramatic combined with the gradual revelation of eually dramatic events in the present time of the story make the novel uite a page turner But every now and again Claudel drops some well phrased words of wisdom into the text which make us halt in our page turning haste and take time out to think Speaking of taking time out to think I've just realised that in writing down my thoughts about this book as they came to me I may have worked out why I felt so destabilized while reading it I think it was the combination on the one hand of those alternating dramatic and reflective passages and on the other of the melding of very grim reality with the fable like elements I mentioned earlier the entire narrative making me feel as if I were on uneven ground and unsure about what I was really reading Unsettling the reader to this extent may have been Claudel's intention If so he succeeded very well


  3. says:

    There are many reasons we read for enlightenment escape education and in some rare instances to confront ourselves with truths and insights we never would have encountered otherwiseBrodeck is one of those rare instances It is uite simply one of the best contemporary books I have ever read And I have read a lotThe book – which reads like an allegory or dark adult fairy tale – transcends those genres by strongly tethering itself to recognizable events and images Brodeck by many indications appears to be Jewish yet he served as an acolyte to a priest in his youth implying that he isn’t The locale appears to be in France’s Alsace Lorraine yet many of the geographical features do not fit And the Nazis have wrecked havoc in the region yet they are never mentioned by nameWhat we DO know is this Brodeck has been taken prisoner of war and has scratched and scraped his way to survival serving as “Broderick the Dog” to sadistic camp officials Against all odds he has returned to his insular village where he is greeted with less than 100% enthusiasmAnd now an elusive stranger referred to as the Anderer – the Other – has appeared in the village with his horse and donkey and sketch pads serving as a mirror to the truth of the village’s betrayalsits cowardice dishonorable conduct spinelessness and moral stain Early on we learn that the village participated in a mass murder of the Anderer and it falls upon Brodeck – a low level bureaucrat who now makes his living cataloguing the area’s flora and fauna – to write a whitewashing report about the eventBrodeck himself is “the other”; he is an orphan with only the sketchiest recollections of where he comes from and how he got to where he is He knows that “each of us was a nothing A nothing handed over to death Its slave Its toy Waiting and resigned” His survival has not changed that fact “The others the ones who came out of it alive like me – all of us still carry a part of it deep down inside like a stain We can never again meet the eyes of other people without wondering whether they harbor the desire to hunt us down to torture us to kill us”His uest to discover what really happened to the Anderer is also a personal uest; to find out his own back story At the start the reader knows little we know he has a mute wife Amelie and a young baby daughter and that he is merely tolerated by the village As the book progresses the picture begins to fall and into focusAs he interacts with the various members of the community he at one point meets with the village priest In one of the most harrowing passages the priest says “Men are strange They commit the worst crimes without uestion but later they can’t live any with the memory of what they’ve done They have to get rid of it And so they come to me because they know I’m the only person who can give them relief and they tell me everything I’m the sewer Brodeck I’m not the priest; I’m the sewer man”This book achieves something I thought would be impossible in literature it universalizes the Holocaust It offers up Brodeck as “every man” and his tormenters as “every man” as well It reveals mankind’s ability to perpetrate the worst deeds and to turn its collective eye elsewhere when heinous deeds are being perpetrated It displays our fervent struggle to forget and to absolve ourselves in the worst of timesThe prose is luminous and masterful For that I must partially give credit to the incredible translator John Cullen In reading international books I’ve learned that a good translator can make or break a work of literature and Cullen does Philippe Claudel proud As for Claudel his insights are astounding and his words are transformational Some of the scenes are exuisitely painful to read; I gasped and shed tears on some of the horrific Some evocations to works such as Camus’ The Stranger and Ibsen’s Enemy of the People come to mind but make no mistake this is a highly original work In the end I knew that I had read something fiercely important – a modern masterpiece


  4. says:

    Read this as part of 2018 Ultimate Reading Challenge Category A book translated from another language45 starsThis book was originally written in French and I read the English Translation of itThis is one of those books that has a soul to it It's not just words written on paper but every single thing here is soo much deeperThe beauty of the story it it does not specify the time line it takes place in but certain references made me think of WW2 But the scary thing is it can be some place where this is happening right now or it can be a place where this may happen in future Makes one realize that the world has evolved in certain areas but in some cases the world is stagnant as a pool of dirty waterBrodeck is our main protagonist and we see the world through his eyes He has suffered a lot and still suffers Looking at his suffering made me wonder how life can be this unjust and cruel to one person in particular? God? Well in that case if He exists if He really exists let Him hide his face Let Him put His two hands on His head and let Him bow down It may be as Peiper used to teach us that many men were unworthy of Him but now I know that He too is unworthy of most of us and that if the creature is capable of producing horror it's solely because his Creator has slipped him the recipe for it Really the things that Brodeck went through one after the other made my heart hurt a lotThis story also deals with Herd mentality which is one of the dangerous things to be caught up in I thought about what those men had just done I had known them all for years They weren't monsters; they were peasants craftsmen farmworkers foresters minor government officials; in short men like you and me This story shows that sometimes there is strength in just surviving and not fighting back There are lots of angles to this story that I loved but also broke my heart By the end of it all all I wanted was Brodeck to find peace


  5. says:

    It's an unnamed village in an unnamed country The people there speak a kind of German but they are not German There is an unnamed war Troops from the aggressor nation come to the village The people do not resist There is a Cleansing SCHMUTZ FREMDËR Brodeck is one of the dirty foreigners delivered But that was then Brodeck survives the camp and returns to the village though a kind of oracle advises him not toThen the Anderer comes to the village The other He too refuses to be namedIt will not be plot spoiling to tell you about the Ereigniës The thing that happened is that the villagers kill the Anderer But who or what was the Anderer? And why was he killed? That turns the pages We think we recognize the story of Nazis and concentration camps of appeasers and collaborators But that the people and places are unnamed gives the story a universal uality; or at least it makes a fable of history And thus lessons I've seen how men act when they know they're not alone when they know they can melt into a crowd and be absorbed into a mass that encompasses and transcends them a mass comprising thousands of faces fashioned like theirs One can always tell himself that the fault lies with whoever trains them exhorts them makes them dance a slowworm around a stick and that the crowds are unconscious of their acts of their future and of their course This is all false The truth is that the crowd itself is a monster It begets itself an enormous body composed of other conscious bodies Further I know that there are no happy crowds There are no peaceful crowds either Even when there's laughter smiles music choruses behind all that there's blood vexed overheated inflamed blood stirred and maddened in its own vortexAnd I think about this when I watch political rallies and not just one side or see votes or policies determined by any us versus any them Fables are timeless This book has a wonderful construct to it There is a constant shifting of time and place but it's seamless and worksAlso I would be remiss if I didn't mention the wonderful use of symbolism In particular there is a monument in the middle of the village with the names of those that perished in the war Brodeck's name was on it No one comes back from the camp But Brodeck did return A craftsman sets to work erasing Brodeck's name from the stone a task he never uite completesThere is also the Zeilenesseniss A beautiful elegant woman She came every morning to the camp where ritualistically one of the FREMDËR would be hung The soldiers waited for her sign a simple nod of her elegant head I will always remember that image That and when she was swallowed by the crowd An addendum If you like this one maybe try Schopenhauer's Telescope


  6. says:

     The StrangerImagine a region on the border between two powers its nominal sovereignty shuffled between them with the ebb and flow of history Imagine a place whose personal and place names belong to one country but whose official language is that of the other and whose local dialect is a hybrid known only to its inhabitants Imagine a land of mountains and forests where individual villages are isolated like eggs in nests and where even somebody arriving from three hours' walk away will seem a stranger Philippe Claudel was born in Lorraine parts of which have shifted between France and Germany but the setting of his novel is left deliberately vague The country borders on Germany of that there is no doubt but the mountains seem a lot higher than the Vosges and the isolation is completeI read the book in French as Le rapport de Brodeck to find that Claudel does something similar with language The French sometimes elevated sometimes down to earth always brilliant is sewn with numerous German words in italics But they are German with a French accent German in a dialect words which may mean one thing but suggest others The word for their neighbors over the border for instance Fratergekeime with its suggestion of both brother and stranger Added to the mostly Germanic proper names and the vagueness about place and time Claudel creates a kind of fog with his writing despite the clarity of his actual descriptions It made a doubly interesting experience for me to add that extra layer of a foreign language not my own to a book where foreignness is a major subjectFor Claudel's fog parallels a moral miasma where nothing is as it seems There is absolute evil certainly and at least one radiant touch of absolute good but for the most part the moral lines are not so clearly drawn Brodeck who admits to being a nobody stumbles into the village inn to find all the men of the village there following the murder of a visitor from outside a man known only as the Anderer the Other This stranger oddly dressed smiling but saying little came to them three months earlier riding a horse and leading a donkey and has stayed to make sketches of people and places around the village We know nothing else about him and only gradually realize that he is dead Brodeck who has had some university education is asked to write a report that will exculpate them all for their actions As the period appears to be just after the Second World War there are obviously many reasons why the villagers might decide to take justice into their own hands Brodeck writes his report at the behest of the mayor a huge pig farmer named Orschwir but he feels increasingly uneasy in doing so and simultaneously tells his own story in a separate documentBrodeck apologizes for telling his story out of seuence but really this is one of Claudel's greatest technical achievements It soon becomes clear that we are dealing with a Holocaust narrative and that Brodeck is one of the very few who have survived the camp and returned The horror is simply there as a fact a touchstone of absolute evil among so much moral uncertainty Much as Styron did in Sophie's Choice Claudel takes us there then pulls away only to return with further details later So Brodeck's story is layered like sheets of paper cut up and folded together It is also compressed in time; we recognize the events but they do not fit the normal timeline Similarly Claudel avoids any facile type casting Brodeck for instance might be Jewish but he might eually be Romany; at any rate he was brought to the village as an orphan child a stranger from far away And the confused nationality of the villagers themselves also precludes easy classification as friends collaborators or even enemiesClaudel has a way of introducing major plot points in almost casual throwaways but with each revelation we learn about the other people in the story whether these be Brodeck's immediate family his wife Emélia his infant daughter Poupchette—an especially tender creation—or his adopted mother Fédorine or the various inhabitants of the village One by one we meet the drunken priest the old schoolmaster the frightened innkeeper the nosy neighbor Göbbler another wonderfully evocative name and many others We also get many different views of the Anderer who says little but seems to have the power to reflect each person's character back on themselves like a mirror The curious thing is that the we see the villagers as individuals the they seem to coalesce into a group joining forces against all outsiders They are shut in as much by the narrowness of their own minds as by their mountains Much evil in those years was the result of group pathology yet Claudel also shows us why in certain circumstances group solidarity is necessaryGrim though this story is Claudel lightens it with almost ecstatic descriptions of the mountain countryside Its harsh facts are offset by rays of unexpected grace unexplained events and persistent Biblical overtones As a novel it is impossible to pin down and deliberately so It is all too easy to take a Holocaust story and tell it in the past; it happened but it is over and the people responsible were not ourselves By refusing to pin people down with places dates and nationalities Claudel avoids the easy distinction of Them and Us and suggests that something very similar might happen now Focusing on what happens when the survivors come home is a brave and powerful approach I can think of only two other examples Dawn by Elie Wiesel and Wandering Star by JMG LeClézio Both these authors are winners of the Nobel Prize; from the evidence of this novel Philippe Claudel might well enter their company


  7. says:

    Description Forced into a brutal concentration camp during a great war Brodeck returns to his village at the war’s end and takes up his old job of writing reports for a governmental bureau One day a stranger comes to live in the village His odd manner and habits arouse suspicions His speech is formal he takes long solitary walks and although he is unfailingly friendly and polite he reveals nothing about himself When the stranger produces drawings of the village and its inhabitants that are both unflattering and insightful the villagers murder him The authorities who witnessed the killing tell Brodeck to write a report that is essentially a whitewash of the incidentAs Brodeck writes the official account he sets down his version of the truth in a separate parallel narrative In measured evocative prose he weaves into the story of the stranger his own painful history and the dark secrets the villagers have fiercely kept hiddenSet in an unnamed time and place Brodeck blends the familiar and unfamiliar myth and history into a work of extraordinary power and resonance Opening My name is Brodeck and I had nothing to do with itI insist on that I want everyone to knowI had no part in it and once I learned what happened I would have preferred never to have spoken of it again I would have liked to bind my memory fast and keep it that way as subdued and still as a weasel in an iron trapA parable of the illusionary rex flammae papillon4 Brodeck's Report4 Grey Souls


  8. says:

    Given the profusion of five star reviews it seems I'm one of the very few people who have not fallen under the spell of Claudel's 'Brodeck' Indeed it seems to me Claudel set himself a hugely ambitious task in which he or less failedOne element of that ambition is to want to write a book on the Holocaust which is I think always a very tricky proposition Because how to speak of it without becoming crude or corny? How to cast a fresh light on this darkest of episodes? A tremendous amount has been told and shown about the Shoah By now we as citizens of the 21st century have an inkling of the abysmal atrocities that have been committed And looking at what has been happening for years in the Sudan the Congo and other places on this tormented planet one might indeed say that cold blooded extermination is not a thing of the pastIt seems to me Claudel uses Brodeck's camp experience and the war as a pretext to make his point that humans are a beastly species governed by cowardice and fear The worldview in 'Brodeck' is clad in a uniform dark grey There is no innocence and heroism in his world It's nowhere to be found Even 'dog Brodeck' can't be absolved Literally everyone is soiled We all know it so we might as well forget about it Frankly that's a crude message I'm not able to buy into There are many important uestions swirling around this moral indictment that Claudel evades or dismisses with an irritating sleight of handThe other element where Claudel overstretches is in his literary approach This is not a novel but an allegory There are no genuine human beings in this tale but all characters including most conspicuously the 'Anderer' stand for some kind of archetype Their emotional and behavioral bandwith is very limitedIt's obvious Claudel wanted to adapt his writing style to the exigencies of the genre his language is rather plain stilted almost; the book has or less the same rhythm throughout; the metaphors and similes refer to very earthy natural phenomena It's almost like looking at a woodcut or one of those traditional papercuts 'scherenschnitte' I think as a writer you are making your life very difficult by wanting to keep this interesting and lively for over 300 pages At a certain point in time it tilts towards the sentimentalThis combination of sentimentality on the one hand and crudeness on the other is what gave me such a hard time when reading the book I'd recommend Ernst Juenger's On the Marble Cliffs as an alternative another dark and violent allegory on the rise of brutal nazism but subtle and as a result powerful


  9. says:

    I am Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it So begins Philippe Claudel's brilliant novel about xenophobia narrated by the eponymous Brodeck Of an ambiguous national identity living in an unspecified country just on the heels of World War II Brodeck is the outsider par excellence a man who has spent time in the concentration camps to return home to the same villagers to find their attitudes toward him altered his position always uncertain and unclear This is also underscored by his changed familial relations upon returning from the camps Brodeck begins post de facto The it with which Brodeck claims emphatically that he has had nothing to do only becomes clear by the end of the text An incident has occurred and the villagers have unanimously enlisted Brodeck to write a report of the events leading up to it an act of rhetorical self defense for the village The collective guilt and shame the villagers feel to make such a report necessary are juxtaposed in liuid prose with Brodeck's own individualized feelings of guilt and shame a conflict between knowledge and ignorance between solitude and numbersAs he undertakes to write this report a cross which was not made for my shoulders and which didn't concern me Claudel allows Brodeck to tap into uestions of reality versus fiction what makes something true or false depending on the amount of people who claim something is true despite it being far from it and also a kind of Freudian analysis of group psychology the group's word is gospel and Brodeck is being forced to write for a group of which he is not truly a part How can a person speak for another or for a group of others when one's subjective truth is at variance with the account expected of those who hold and wield power?I thought about History capitalized and about my history our history Do those who write the first know anything about the second? Why do some people retain in their memory what others have forgotten or never seen? Which is right he who can't reconcile himself to leaving the past in obscurity or he who thrusts into darkness everything that doesn't suit him? Brodeck's work on the report dredges up memories of his past—not only are we privy to his pre war memories but we also experience along with him a resurgence of violence as his horrific piecing together of events at the camp which cause him to realize that he has been lying to himself of all dangers memory's one of the most terrible As such we see made manifest the latent and repressed content of an individual's life brought to the level of consciousness a task that is related to his vocation as a writer and one that reuires Brodeck's narrative to follow no logical in the way of temporality but one that also involved a kind of subterfuge even from oneselfI keep going backward and forward jumping over time like a hurdle getting lost on tangents and maybe even without wishing to concealing what's essentialWhile Brodeck becomes conscious of his own life narrative and his complicity this is a self awareness that Claudel develops alongside a group of others who are asking him to do the exact opposite—namely to repress to document falsities to erase to render into nothingness Claudel's prose is fluid brisk and lucid as he allows the reader by way of Brodeck to experience revelation and annihilation individual growth and group oppressionI think we've become and will remain until the day we die the memory of humanity destroyed We're wounds that will never healI cannot recommend this book highly enough it will stay with you long after you've finished journeying along with Brodeck haunting you making you ponder the nature of subjective truth as unwaveringly and as bravely as Brodeck does here reconciling the horrific with the sublime Sometimes you love your own scars


  10. says:

    End of the Second World War in a village a foreigner is murdered Brodeck writes nature notes for his administration Asked by the villagers he agrees to write a report on the facts that led to this tragedy Meticulous orderly in search of truth he embarks on this writing after having obtained the agreement of these fellow citizens to appear the truth even if this one disturbs The grey souls have become black very black Claudel builds his novel as a puzzle from one character to another from one period to another he does not judge he describes what Brodeck discovers No need to 'to bring judgment the facts justify themselves' the Anderer 'has paid with his life cowardice the fear of the unknown intolerance in what he has most abject The story in the end is timeless; the human stupidity brings its share of horrors at any time Claudel succeeds in a novel that haunts that ice His writing is clear precise no frills and it's simply overwhelming It also serves that literature5 STARS