A Year in the Merde – Stephen Clarke


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.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lovelyloey
    Sep 10, 2007 @ 08:27:34

    I love this book! Is the coffee thing the one he wondered how to get a smaller size that didn’t break his wrist trying to lift the cup? Hoho.
    Sadly, the sequel isn’t half as good as this one. And then there’s apparently a part 3 that I haven’t got my hands on yet.

    nylusmilk: me too! i bought it during a book warehouse sale yesterday, but i read it with my library copy first. i don’t remember that coffee cup part, though he drove himself crazy wondering why his cup of coffee is always a larger size than other people’s! 😆 it isn’t? but i was thinking of getting it… if you’re talking about talk to the snail, it’s more of a guidebook of key phrases to remember in french and stuff like that.

    this book had me laughing almost as much as bridget jones’s diary!


  2. lovelyloey
    Sep 10, 2007 @ 19:43:36

    Nope, the sequel is Merde Actually. He becomes this male chauvinist pig. 😦 But it’s still kinda funny. And then part 3 is Merde Happens (apparently this one is not set in France, so am not remotely interested). The part about his coffee… hm, maybe I dreamed of it 😛


  3. Trackback: Another One Of Those Things Called Memes « The Literary Pursuit
  4. Nadine
    Sep 14, 2008 @ 19:49:33

    I’ve not read “A year in the merde yet”, unfortunately…but I’ve read “Merde actually” and “Merde happens”, weird I always start with part 2 or 3 concerning books and films, but I’ve got to say that I loved those books, and can’t wait to get “A year in the merde”…
    I love Stephen Clarke’s writing, and I can only recommend his books 🙂

    nylusmilk: i know, he’s awesome for that dry, witty sort of writing. i’ve just bought the second book and can’t wait to read it! 🙂


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