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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Première Ligne

Jean-Marie Laclavetine

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Pour acheter Première Ligne

Title: Première Ligne
Author: Jean-Marie Laclavetine
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 242 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Première ligne
  • Awarded Le prix Goncourt des lycéens, 1999
  • Première Ligne has not been translated into English

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Our Assessment:

B+ : enjoyable literary novel about writing (and publishing)

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Libération B- 14/10/99 Pierre Marcelle
The Spectator A- 1/1/2000 Anita Brookner

  From the Reviews:
  • "Première Ligne est tout autant une fable qu'un roman à clefs, un manuel d'apprentissage qu'un manifeste romanesque. Vaste programme, et forcément suicidaire, du funambule schizophrène qui, sur son fil, fait alternativement un pas réel et un pas fictif en tenant ferme son balancier: entre drame et farce, l'écriture, dit notre éditeur-auteur, constitue à la fois la plus haute des ambitions et la plus dérisoire des vanités. " - Pierre Marcelle, Libération

  • "(A)n excellent idea wrapped up in an amusing novel. (...) Written with furious impetus and a well-nourished sense of exasperation, Première Ligne deserves a prize all on its own, for subversion, defiance and, finally, solidarity." - Anita Brookner, The Spectator

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Jean-Marie Laclavetine, editor at Gallimard (publishers of this novel), translator from the Italian, and himself a prolific author sets this fiction in the publishing milieu. His hapless hero is editor Cyril Cordouan whose publishing house, Fulmen, is deluged daily with second-rate, third-rate, and unratable manuscripts. Fulmen has had no great sales successes, but is a literary house of some repute, its 200 titles solid though not especially popular literary titles.
       Endlessly Cordouan wades through the manuscripts and, horrified by their complete lack of quality, rejects them. All in a day's (indeed, every day's) work for an editor. The aspiring authors -- and everyone, apparently, is one -- don't take quite so well to their life's work not being embraced by such a noted publisher. One author drinks all her bottles of ink (reds, blues, greens !). More dramatically, Martin Réal, author of the promisingly titled Zoroastre et les maîtres nageurs, blows his brains out when Cyril turns down the manuscript.
       Shocked by this senseless act, and generally frustrated by the many hacks who are out there scribbling away (and submitting their drivel to him) Cyril rounds up some of his rejectees and founds an Authors Anonymous organization where they can share stories about their terrible obsessions. It is a success -- of sorts. The misguided come and stand up before those suffering from the same disease and admit:

Je m'appelle XXX, et j'ai un problème avec l'écriture.
       It seems to help.
       Cyril's problems, however, do not solve themselves quite so readily. From Réal's widow who vows to get back at him to his own crises of faith and conscience Cyril continues to suffer. He publishes two of the horrible manuscripts that he considers unworthy of Fulmen and naturally they become the publisher's greatest successes. Worse yet, he himself turns pen to paper, writing a work that is, naturally, titled Première Ligne .....
       Laclavetine's insider perspective on the publishing industry comes to good use in this enjoyable send-up of literary hopefuls and pompous publishers. No one is completely safe, from literary theoreticians, publishers, literary schools (including the OuLiPo), to all those poor souls scribbling away eager to get into print.
       Laclavetine writes with assurance and humour, making for an entertaining read. A fun literary romp.

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Première Ligne:
  • An interview with Laclavetine (French)
  • Le Monde article re. the awarding of the prix Goncourt des lycéens (French)
Reviews: Other books under review of interest:

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About the Author:

       French author Jean-Marie Laclavetine was born in 1954. He is the author of numerous prize-winning novels.

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