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The Agenda (L’ordre du jour)

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Original Language: French | 160 pp. | May 2017

2 Seas Represents: Dutch, Nordic, and North American rights.

Rights sold: Italy (Editions E/O), Germany (Matthes & Seitz), Greece (Polis), UK (MacMillan), USA (Other Press, at auction), Spain (Tusquets), Catalan (Kalandraka), Portugal (Dom Quixote), the Netherlands (Meulenhoff, at auction), Vietnam (Nha Nam), Serbia (Akademska), Romania (Litera), China (Genesis Culture), Israel (Hakibbutz Hameuchad – Sifriat Poalim Publishing), Korea (offer received)

Awarded the Prix Alexandre Vialatte 2017 for his oeuvre

Winner of the Prix Goncourt

Shortlisted for the Prix Femina. Longlisted for the Prix François-Mauriac 2017, Prix du Livre européen

Over 285,000 copies sold

LITERARY FICTION

The writer is percussive, a relentless historian. We rarely read pages in which irony, anger, contempt, and bitterness are summoned in turn, as the storyteller simultaneously and masterfully portrays characters in this tragicomedy. Young people should read this little book to understand the nature and operation of Nazism: its brutality, bluffing, intimidation, and improbable staging to humiliate and force to yield. – Bernard Pivot, LE JOURNAL DU DIMANCHE

A short and striking narration. If ‘The Agenda’ proves to be as exciting as the latest samples, it is because the facts seem animated, incarnated, without ever sacrificing precision. – Baptiste Liger, LIRE

Exceptional story – Marianne Payot, L’ EXPRESS

‘The Agenda’ is a brief masterpiece in which Eric Vuillard dissects, with a scalpel, what allowed the Nazis to annex Austria in 1938. Vuillard is a demystifying master who leaves nothing to sleep in shadows. His only courtesy is that he keeps it for the French language, which he uses with a stripping irony and a grace that one does not read often. – Grégoire Leménage, L’OBS

A brief and tense text in which the author examines in a vacuum the role of the writer to represent and consider the past as reality. At the time of on-board cameras, continuous news, and constant image, Eric Vuillard allows us to see and hear the crucial episodes of a past in which the relationship with time and media coverage was otherwise. Today, May 4, 2017, in France, this book will also allow us to recall how undefined logic and insidious, woven interests often directed the installation of an authoritarian regime in history. – Sabine Audrerie, LA CROIX

[The author], served by the impetus of a nervous and ardent style, knows brilliantly how to put moments of history that illuminate our present under his magnifying glass. After July 14, Éric Vuillard offers a story that flies again. – Marie Chaudey, LA VIE

‘The Agenda’ is neither a manual nor an essay, but a narrative. Even if the facts and chronology are rigorously respected, Vuillard acts as a writer through his working of remarkable language and style. The formula is even stronger and Eric Vuillard masters it to perfection. – Stephane Vernay, OUEST FRANCE

Eric Vuillard chooses his angles. ‘Congo,’ ‘La bataille d’Occident,’ or ‘Tristesse de la terre,’ already showed that, not to speak of ’14 juillet,’ which gave to the crowd of revolutionary days all its place and splendor. Here, he stands behind the scene, looking for details, what seems insignificant and what has been forgotten or ignored. – Norbert Czarny, EN ATTENDANT NADEAU

The whole book is full of true facts, anecdotes, and etched portraits. Eric Vuillard explores without fear what a great story hides under the carpet with a fierce verve, recalling that the greatest catastrophes advance with small steps. – Muriel Steinmetz, L’HUMANITÉ

This indefinable but necessary book is also a work devoted to language, the true weight of words. – LE CANARD ENCHAINÉ

Eric Vuillard loves miniature epics that speak volumes about the madness of men. – Emily Barnett, GRAZIA

Eric Vuillard desacralizes the facts in order to bring history back to history, as what men decide. – Fanny del Volta, POINT DE VUE

‘The Agenda’ does not pretend to exalt the powers of literature in a grandiloquent way in the face of threatening peril: literature has never prevented it from happening, but it can revive the past and remind us how close it is. – Lise Wajeman, MEDIAPART

One of the most ambitious and exciting writers of our time – Arnaud Laporte, La Dispute sur France CULTURE

A real piece of literature – Laurent Nunez, La Dispute sur France CULTURE

It’s rough, a brute writing. He posits something very important. – Daniel Martin, La Dispute sur France CULTURE

These are scenes stolen from oblivion that sprout in our minds like boxed devils in faces of children… Some scenes, recounted in an ornate language, shatter established perspectives and refresh the collective consciousness. — Françoise Dargent, LE FIGARO LITTERAIRE

Eric Vuillard, after “14th July,” is obsessed with brilliance on this particular day when German capitalism moved to the cash register. — Gérard Lefort, LES INROCKUPTIBLES

20 February 1933: on an unremarkable day during a harsh Berlin winter, a meeting of twenty-four German captains of industry and senior Nazi dignitaries is being held in secret in the plush lounges of the Reichstag. They are there to ‘stump up’ the funding for the accession to power of the National Socialist Party and its fearful Chancellor. The cream of industry and finance are present, among them Krupp, Opel, Siemens, Telefunken, Agfa and IG Farben. ‘They are our cars, our washing machines, our cleaning products, our clock radios, our home insurance, our watch batteries. They are everywhere in the form of things. They make up our daily lives.”

This inaugural scene sets the tone of consent which will lead to the worst possible repercussions.

12 March 1938: the annexation of Austria is on the agenda and a grotesque day ensues which is intended to be go down in history: the newsreels capture for eternity a motorised army, a terrible power and a modern version of fate being enacted. But behind Goebbels’ glorious propaganda, it is an ersatz Blitzkrieg which unfolds, the Panzers breaking down in mass on the roads of Austria; it is a world away from the concocted myth.

The true behind-the-scenes story of the Anschluss – a patchwork of minor shows of strength and fine words, a string of febrile telephone calls and vulgar threats – reveals a very different, and less glorious, picture: no longer is it the resolve of character or the determination of a people which wins the day, but rather a combination of intimidation and bluff.

The myth is convincingly and ironically dismantled in this intense and eye-opening account, Éric Vuillard’s style pointing up the risible undertow to this pathetic chain of events as well as the fragility of the present moment. This is an indispensable warning against the perils of over-willing acquiescence and an essential reminder that, more often than not, what seems irresistible is not the circumstances themselves but our own concessions and the compromises entered into by the powerful. For ultimately, the worst is not inevitable.

A writer and filmmaker born in Lyon in 1968, Éric Vuillard won the Prix Ignatius J. Reilly in 2010 for Conquistadors (Léo Scheer 2009), the Prix Franz-Hessel in 2012 and the Prix Valery-Larbaud in 2013 for Congo and La bataille d’Occident (Actes Sud, 2012). Actes Sud has also published his Tristesse de la terre (Prix Joseph Kessel 2015) and 14 juillet (2016, Prix Alexandre Vialatte 2017, shortlisted for the Prix du Livre Inter 2017).