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The Travels of Daniel Ascher

The Travels of Daniel Ascher

The Travels of Daniel Ascher
(Les voyages de Daniel Ascher)
by
Déborah Lévy-Bertherat

Translator
Adriana Hunter


Publisher:  Other Press
ISBN: 9781590517079

Pages: 189
US publication date: 26th May 2015

Genre:  Literary fiction
Source: Received from the publisher

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I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.

This book counts for the
following Reading Challenges

2015 Translation  New Authors 2015

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MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK

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I just received this beautiful literary novel from Other Press, the first book they send me, thank you! The Travels of Daniel Ascher addresses a very important page of French history. But it’s much more than that. It’s also a book within a book. Open to new literary horizons, try something new right now!

Hélène, 20, goes to study archeology in Paris. She rents a small bedroom from her great-uncle, Daniel Ascher, who has been used to disappearing to exotic places and bring back mysterious gifts for his nephews and nieces. When Guillaume, a friend of hers, visits her one day, he sees the weird picture hanging on the wall and recognizes it as described in a book of the series he loved so much as a kid, The Black Insigna, written by H. R. Sanders. Well, Sanders is none other than Hélène’s great-uncle.
After Daniel and Guillaume meet, Hélène gets more intrigued about the man she thought she knew, about his books, his travels, and she tries to discover more about his past. She knows that a Jewish orphan, he was adopted by her family. But as she starts meeting his friends, she discovers there are many layers of mysteries in the man’s life and in her own family.

I enjoyed this small novel. Introducing a novel inside the novel, it deals with literature, reality and fiction: what part can fiction play in your life, in your survival, in your way of copying with difficulties, with your past? What do you do with your memories? What’s true in our life? Or what is a necessary façade we build to protect ourselves?
This was a unique way of looking back at France’s darkest page of history: the time it was under the German Occupation, and the ordeal the Jewish population had to go through. It addresses these topics in a very delicate manner, little vignettes or gentle touches, also with beautiful writing bordering on lyricism. Because looking straight into the eyes of that reality could still hurt.

The plane rose about the clouds, the ocean disappeared. Perhaps that was what becoming an adult was, emerging from the clouds, leaving behind the sweet half-light of childhood, coming out into the blinding clarity of a truth you haven’t asked to know. And now for the first time, this girl who’d never been afraid of heights was aware of all 30 thousands feet of emptiness beneath her.
p.133

EN DEUX MOTS: Façon très intéressante de traiter le sujet de la famille, des mystères de famille, de la souffrance, et du rôle que peuvent jouer la fiction et la littérature pour au fond nous aider à survivre

VERDICT: A literary novel dealing with the place and importance of fiction to help you cope with your past, it is also a unique way of reconsidering the German Occupation in Paris. Highly recommended if you enjoy discovering new promising authors.

WHAT IS IT ABOUT

A sensation in France, this is a story about literary deceptions, family secrets, and a thrilling quest for the truth

Who is the real author of The Black Insignia? Is it H. R. Sanders, whose name is printed on the cover of every installment of the wildly successful young adult adventure series? Or is it Daniel Roche, the enigmatic world traveler who disappears for months at a time? When Daniel’s great-niece, Hélène, moves to Paris to study archeology, she does not expect to be searching for answers to these questions. As rumors circulate, however, that the twenty-fourth volume of The Black Insignia series will be the last, Hélène and her friend Guillaume, a devoted fan of her great-uncle’s books, set out to discover more about the man whose life eludes her. In so doing, she uncovers an explosive secret dating back to the darkest days of the Occupation.

In recounting the moment when one history began and another ended, The Travels of Daniel Ascher explores the true nature of fiction: is it a refuge, a lie, or a stand-in for mourning?

[from the publisher]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Levy-Bertherat

DEBORAH LEVY
TINA MERANDON
MAI 2013
PARIS

Déborah Lévy-Bertherat lives in Paris,
where she teaches comparative literature
at the École Normale Supérieure.
She has translated Lermontov’s A Hero of Our Time and Gogol’s Petersburg Stories into French.
The Travels of Daniel Ascher is her first novel.

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