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[ download books ] MadameAuthor Antoni Libera –

The Comic Sentimental Education Of A Schoolboy Who Falls In Love With His French Teacher Madame Is An Unexpected Gem A Novel About Poland During The Grim Years Of Soviet Controlled Mediocrity, Which Nonetheless Sparkles With Light And WarmthOur Young Narrator Hero Is Suffering Through The Regulated Boredom Of High School When He Is Transfixed By A New Teacher An Elegant Older Woman She Is Thirty Two Who Bewitches Him With Her Glacial Beauty And Her Strict Intelligence He Resolves To Learn Everything He Can About Her And To Win Her HeartIn A Sequence Of Marvelously Funny But Sobering Maneuvers, He Learns Much Than He Expected To About Politics, Poland, The Spanish Civil War, And His Own Passion For Theater And Art All While His Loved One Continues To Elude Him Yet Without His Realizing It, His Efforts Largely Bookish And Literary To Close In On Madame Are His First Steps To Liberation As An Artist Later, During A Stint As A Teacher In Training In His Old School, He Discovers That He Himself Has Become A Legendary Figure To A New Generation Of Students, And He Begins To Understand The Deceits And Blessings Of Myth, And Its Redemptive PowerA Winning Portrait Of An Artist As A Young Man, Madame Is At The Same Time A Moving, Engaging Novel About Strength And Weakness, First Love, And The Efforts We Make To Reconcile, In Art, The Opposing Forces Of Reason And Passion The protagonist is a very precocious 18 year old Polish student Madame is an intriguing, if icy, headmistress and French teacher new to his school He becomes intoxicated with her and makes it his mission to find out everything he can about her and her history The story is told in the first person and is surely semi autobiographical There are wonderful exchanges between the two in class, often in French but easy enough to follow Along the way our protagonist stages and watches plays, sees movies, reads books and these are related in sometimes excruciating detail Not without some reward though The young man plays sleuth, too, and this is not always believable Through these various tangents, however, we learn a great deal of Polish history and, importantly for me, we get a sense of where we are.This book, perhaps, filled a hole in my knowledge of 20th century Poland While the author clearly chafed at the Communist system and was embittered by it, I think he nevertheless and perhaps unintentionally painted an academic life that was freer than I imagined The occupation of the protagonist s father is never mentioned, although they clearly are not Party members yet they seemed to have decent enough living conditions Yes, travel and exposure to the West were circumscribed And true also was the fact that teachers and their superintendents had to toe the Party line How is that different from American universities Our protagonist had to finesse and finangle to obtain books and other things for his largely autodidactic education, but he mostly got them Try and get a form from an American governmental clerk without feeling like you are asking them to give blood Why do we need a Right to know law I m not defending the Soviet system On the contrary I m only saying a this book paints 1960 Polish education in a shade different from what I imagined and b there are shades here as well if we d only look Some last thoughts this was an excellent translation the cover of the hardbound U.S edition is god awful I m really only guessing at a rating here and the vignette wherein our protagonist does an ad lib rendition of Ray Charles Hit the Road, Jack is priceless. It s probably the best book I ve read over the past six months, and I have quite a lot of disparate thoughts to share, so I ll organize this review in bullet points, but will try to give it some semblance of order.1 I ve read this book in Polish, and what a pleasure it was But from what I ve read, the English translation by Agnieszka Ko akowska is really good you can read the sample chapter here It doesn t make me as blissed out as the original, but it seems to have received high praise see this piece from Washington Post so please don t abandon the idea of reading it in translation.2 The teenage narrator plays a sleuth, trying to discover as much as possible about his French teacher and madame la directrice, and while doing so, learns the implication of being an adult in post Stalinist Poland The question Don t you know where you live is repeated throughout the novel as a peculiar refrain It s not a love story, but an exploration of class issues in a supposedly class less society 3 The narrator and the convention in which the story is told might require getting used to The first edition of Madame was subtitled an educational romance , and it is very obviously a Bildungsroman, in which I see some similarities to examples of the genre from the first three decades of the 20th century It is, simply, quite traditional including trademark naivet , schoolgirl like descriptions of the way characters are dressed, and character s firm belief in being a special snowflake , but it s a pleasure to read once you get the convention The narrator redefines precociousness yet I found him scaringly easy to identify with Interestingly, he seems to be completely uninterested in his parents, and is mentored by their friend, a fine specimen of Polish intelligentsia 4 The book touches on subjects such as inner emigration, the survival of intelligentsia in the Communist regime, and determinism to what degree we are formed by the place where we were born It also nails what it means to be a foreign philologist in a hostile arrogant suffering from inferiority posterity complex milieu 5 My only real issue with the book, and what makes it less than truly great, is that it is too overwrought It s very tightly planned, very allusive, very structured the author, to some degree, relies on crutches vignettes illustrating the autodidactic education of the young narrator in history, literature, visual arts Formulating remarks on Racine, Picasso, Lelouch, Beckett, Hoerderlin allows the narrator to distance himself from his feelings and understand the world of adults, their motives and passions 6 It is so refreshing to read a novel about the plight of the Polish intelligentsia which doesn t mention Katy , the Warsaw Uprising or even concentration camps all too familiar Stations of the Cross of Polish martyrology Instead, we get an insight into Spanish Civil War, and since I knew nothing about Polish involvement in it, I can t judge the book s historical accuracy, but found the subject interesting Libera says he was informed by Orwell s writings The main portion of the novel precedes March 1968.7 It is, above all, an exploration of language The language of students, communist propaganda, post Stalinist era education, and pre war intelligentsia.8 I love how Libera shows how the seeds of our interest and adult achievements are planted when we are in our teens 9 I found some scenes unrealistic I can understand the narrator had access to all the non mainstream books he needed, but in my experience, educators rarely share their thoughts on inner workings of their schools institutions with high school students on the second thought, I knew some bitter librarians 10 If you read Polish, consider reading these reviews and interviews with Libera Combines the wit of Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, the savage political satire of The Joke, and the dazzling wordplay of the The Seventh Function of Language Really, a mesmerising read and the experience is heightened if you read it sitting in Warsaw A Polish The Graduate, this story takes place in the time of Communist Poland The narrator is a precocious student, well versed in French and literature, and the tale of his relationship with his French teacher and headmistress of the high school he attends I found it fascinating and have already put it on my re read sometime bucket list The author has translated Samuel Beckett s works into Polish The quibble with the book might be that the narrator s brilliance is not believable I might agree, but was willing to make that leap of faith much like one must be willing to do in reading a thriller It s my Polish friend she is a former literature teacher in Poland favorite book, and I can understand why. Beautifully written, sold as a love story, but indeed painting Polish society, their fears, aspirations longing for freedom of speech in the Soviet controlled country. The best book I have ever read I started reading it in the evening and finished a couple of hours later, I simply could not put this book away I love the form, language, plot and characters Also I think that if a young boy had his Madame in his life an ideal woman , he might have unrealistic standards and may be looking for her in other women Will he be ever happy I hope so A wonderful book Bravo Did not adhere to my expectations Pretentious. I came upon the book Madame in a thread on the Chicklit message boards It was probably some desert island books kind of list, because there was no discussion of the book, only a mention from a reader that Madame was her favorite Polish language book and further probably her favorite any language book Something about the way she said it made me make note of the title, and I borrowed it from the library last time I went.From the beginning I was smitten The book is intelligent and demanding, and yet reads deliciously even in translation I can t tell you the last book I could sit down with on the train and become completely unaware of anything else around me, looking up with surprise to realize I d already reached my station and needed to get off the train Madame was like this every day for the past week I would stand on the platform after disembarking and finish reading the chapter because I couldn t bring myself to put it down.The story is told by a precocious high school student who, like everyone else in his class, becomes fascinated and enad with the new French teacher, who is beautiful, intelligent, and exotic, but also cold and mysterious The narrator, wanting to believe himself better than his classmates, refuses to be openly fawning, but channels his fascination into an in depth study of the mysterious Madame s history and life While he starts innocently and eagerly, interested in solving a puzzle than in making a romantic conquest, the things he learns about Madame cause him to become sober and compassionate toward her In his pursuit of knowledge, his whole life is shaped by the places he visits and the things he discovers The story itself is interesting and wonderfully executed, but Libera weaves in threads about chess, literature, language, history, and politics, making the book a nearly nonstop educational experience Somehow Libera manages to couch his erudition in such delightful language and storytelling that the intelligence of the book is invigorating rather than intimidating It is almost certainly the best book I have read this year I will concede that it has its flaws the narrator is too intelligent and literate to make for a convincing high school student, and the dialogue is very formal, too much like the prose of the book itself, but these flaws I can overlook for the sheer joy and excitement I found in reading the text Highly recommended. This work by Polish critic Libera tells a wonderfully evocative tale about school life and the grim reality of living under Communist rule Above all though, it is a heart warming tale of amour fou.Set in 1960s Warsaw it follows our protagonist narrator, a precocious sixth form student equivalent to a Grade 12 student in our system , as he attempts to woo his new headmistress and French teacher whilst surviving the torments of school life under a strict ideological regime where conformity is the rule and any diversions from the Party line can be detrimental to one s career prospects Despite this setting the book is very funny Our hero never named but one assumes the novel is semi autobiographical is an intellectual, as well as a talented musician thanks to this novel I discovered the music of Ray Charles and the 400 pages that follow his intellectual adventures are a delight as he begins his hopeless quest to try and conquer the ice cold and unapproachable Madame Francophiles will especially like this novel as will fans of literary works and those who enjoy great prose and hopeless romantics and also fans of political sagas, theatre, Greek tragedies, and budding young intellectuals The most enjoyable and well written novel I ve read in many a year in fact, I ve re read it thrice