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The Insomniacs (Les Insomniaques)

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Original Language: French | 608 pp. | 2009

2 Seas Represents: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, and Swedish Rights.

Depending on the publisher and the quality of the translation, translations from the French can be funded by the Centre national du livre.

Nominated for the Prix Medicis 2009.

LITERARY FICTION

You like the British TV series “Downton Abbey”? You’ll love this book!

When it came out in 2009 this debut novel was lauded by the critics, it sold more than 14,000 copies and was nominated for the Prix Medicis. It is a remarkable portrait of the nobility mired in its out-moded traditions.  It charts the last 50 years and tries to answer the universal questions: How to carry the weight of history and how can one free oneself from it?

After the death of the Marquis d’Argentières in 1946, his heirs face up to the need to give up a way of life that was theirs for centuries. They knuckle down and seek to safeguard the essentials – a château in Anjou and a Parisian townhouse. For the next half a century France experiences huge changes: wars in Indochina and Algeria, the student demonstrations of May 1968, the legalisation of abortion, AIDS, the economic crisis, etc.

The Argentières have to deal with these events as they are unable to let themselves be carried along by the flow of an ordinary existence.

Believing that they are protected by the grand history of their ancestors these proud but fragile characters try, throughout this sweeping novel, to keep their family secrets safe while refusing to acknowledge that the wheel of history is indeed turning. With a spiky eye the author highlights their weaknesses but without moralising or judging.