An urban antidote to A Year in Provence, Stephen Clarke's book is a laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of an expat in Paris-for Francophiles and Francophobes alike.
A Year in the Merde is the almost-true account of the author's adventures as an expat in Paris. Based on his own experiences and with names changed to "avoid embarrassment, possible legal action-and to prevent the author's legs being broken by someone in a Yves Saint Laurent suit", the book is narrated by Paul West, a twenty-seven-year-old Brit who is brought to Paris by a French company to open a chain of British "tea rooms." He must manage of a group of lazy, grumbling French employees, maneuver around a treacherous Parisian boss, while lucking into a succession of lusty girlfriends (one of whom happens to be the boss's morally challenged daughter). He soon becomes immersed in the contradictions of French culture: the French are not all cheese-eating surrender monkeys, though they do eat a lot of smelly cheese, and they are still in shock at being stupid enough to sell Louisiana, thus losing the chance to make French the global language. The book will also tell you how to get the best out of the grumpiest Parisian waiter, how to survive a French business meeting, and how not to buy a house in the French countryside.
The author originally wrote A Year in the Merde just for fun and self-published it in France in an English-language edition. Weeks later, it had become a word-of-mouth hit for expats and the French alike. With translation rights now sold in eleven countries and already a bestseller in the UK and France, Stephen Clarke is clearly a Bill Bryson (or a Peter Mayle...) for a whole new generation of readers who can never quite decide whether they love-or love to hate-the French.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Stephen Clarke is a British writer working for a French press group in Paris. He has previously written comedy for BBC Radio. He is currently working on the next volume of Paul West's adventures.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
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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