x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Conflict and relationships

First published in French in 2005 and now translated into English for the first time, Philippe Claudel's Monsieur Linh and His Child unwinds the story of an elderly man transplanted to Europe from his war-torn homeland.

Monsieur Linh and His Child Philippe Claudel Translated by Euan Cameron Maclehose Press Dh72

First published in French in 2005 and now translated into English for the first time, Philippe Claudel's Monsieur Linh and His Child unwinds the story of an elderly man transplanted to Europe from his war-torn homeland. Neither nation is named here, although Claudel must be reaching at the plight of the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese "boat people" who fled to all points of the globe (including France) in the years after American forces were chased out of Saigon in 1975.

Linh is ill-prepared for his new life - "Old and weary, the strange land exhausts him" - or, indeed, the second chance fatherhood unexpectedly foisted upon him. His son and daughter-in-law perished in the unnamed conflict, leaving him holding Sang Diu, their 10-day-old baby. Now Linh's days are split between the claustrophobic surroundings of an overcrowded detention centre and a park bench, where he can snatch a few moments of solitude with his grand-daughter. Here he meets the recently widowed Monsieur Bark and Claudel begins a warm tale of two men bound together by grief and extraordinary circumstance.