Stephen Clarke is a British journalist and writer working for a French press group in Paris. A Year in the Merde is an almost-true account of things that may or may not have happened to him in the ten years he has lived in France, depending on who is asking the question. He originally published the book in an edition of 200 copies, with the intention of selling them through his website, giving them away to friends or offering them as fuel for his neighbour’s Bastille Day barbecue. However, after a reading in a Canadian bookshop in Paris and a write-up in a French newspaper, the book turned into a surprise hit. He has previously written comedy sketches for BBC Radio 4 and jokes for a stand-up comedian. He is currently working on the next volume of Paul West’s adventures.
Stephen would like to thank the French government for introducing the 35-hour week and giving him time to do more interesting on a Friday afternoon than work. Merci.
The book in one sentence: A probably fictitious, but nonetheless hilarious, account of an Englishman’s experience living in Paris.
Who would you recommend it to: Anglophiles, or Francophiles with a sense of humour. In fact, if you’re looking for a book that will make you laugh out loud, you should give this book a try.
OK bits: Chapter Fevrier is very funny to me, particularly the bit where the protagonist dances with a transsexual and does not have a clue!
Boring bits: There are the yawn-inducing bits, but I forgot which.
Random funny bit:
“Pessimist,” I said. “Merci.”
This last word was said not to my guidebook but to the waiter who’d brought me a coffee. Well, not so much a coffee as a punch bowl of off-white stew. My “merci” turned sour as I said it.
I’d asked for a café au lait and been served the combined annual production of Colombia’s coffee fields and the dairy herds of Normandy. I looked at the bill – wow, the price included first-class rail fare for the cows.
Random review quote:
“This is the season’s word-of-mouth must-have book” — Daily Mail
Verdict: If you need a light read yet not too bimbotic, this is a nice combination of wit in a casual topic.