A Year In The Merde

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9780552772969: A Year In The Merde
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Paul West, a young Englishman, arrives in Paris to start a new job - and finds out what the French are really like. They do eat a lot of cheese, some of which smells like pigs' droppings. They don't wash their armpits with garlic soap. Going on strike really is the second national participation sport after petanque. And, yes, they do use suppositories. In his first novel, Stephen Clarke gives a laugh-out-loud account of the pleasures and perils of being a Brit in France. Less quaint than A Year in Provence, less chocolatey than Chocolat, A Year in the Merde will tell you how to get served by the grumpiest Parisian waiter; how to make perfect vinaigrette every time; how to make amour - not war; and how not to buy a house in the French countryside.

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About the Author:

Stephen Clarke lives in Paris, where he divides his time between writing and not writing. His Merde novels have been bestsellers all over the world, including France. His non-fiction books include Talk to the Snail, an insider's guide to understanding the French; How the French Won Waterloo (or Think They Did), an amused look at France's continuing obsession with Napoleon; Dirty Bertie: An English King Made in France, a biography of Edward VII; and 1000 Years of Annoying the French, which was a number one bestseller in Britain. Research for The French Revolution and What Went Wrong took him deep into French archives in search of the actual words, thoughts and deeds of the revolutionaries and royalists of 1789. He has now re-emerged to ask modern Parisians why they have forgotten some of the true democratic heroes of the period, and opted to idolize certain maniacs. Follow Stephen on @SClarkeWriter and www.stephenclarkewriter.com

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The year does not begin in January. Every French person knows that. Only awkward English-speakers think it starts in January.

The year really begins on the first Monday of September.

This is when Parisians get back to their desks after their month-long holiday and begin working out where they’ll go for the mid-term break in November.

It’s also when every French project, from a new hairdo to a nuclear power station, gets under way, which is why at 9 a.m. on the first Monday of September, I was standing a hundred yards from the Champs-Élysées watching people kissing.

My good friend Chris told me not to come to France. Great lifestyle, he said, great food, and totally un-politically correct women with great underwear.

But, he warned me, the French are hell to live with. He worked in the London office of a French bank for three years.

"They made all us Brits redundant the day after the French football team got knocked out of the World Cup. No way was that a coincidence," he told me.

His theory was that the French are like the woman scorned. Back in 1940 they tried to tell us they loved us, but we just laughed at their accents and their big-nosed Général de Gaulle, and ever since we’ve done nothing but poison them with our disgusting food and try to wipe the French language off the face of the earth. That’s why they build refugee camps yards from the Eurotunnel entrance and refuse to eat our beef years after it was declared safe. It’s permanent payback time, he said. Don’t go there.

Sorry, I told him, I’ve got to go and check out that underwear.

Normally, I suppose you would be heading for disaster if the main motivation for your job mobility was the local lingerie, but my one-year contract started very promisingly.

I found my new employer’s offices—a grand-looking 19th-century building sculpted out of milky-gold stone—and walked straight into an orgy.

There were people kissing while waiting for the lift. People kissing in front of a drinks machine. Even the receptionist was leaning across her counter to smooch with someone—a woman, too—who’d entered the building just ahead of me.

Wow, I thought, if there’s ever a serious epidemic of facial herpes, they’ll have to get condoms for their heads.

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