Summary and book reviews of Brodeck by Phillipe Claudel

Brodeck

A Novel

By Phillipe Claudel

Brodeck
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Jun 2009,
    336 pages.
    Paperback: Jul 2010,
    336 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Micah Gell-Redman

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Forced into a brutal concentration camp during a great war, Brodeck returns to his village at the war’s end and takes up his old job of writing reports for a governmental bureau. One day a stranger comes to live in the village. His odd manner and habits arouse suspicions: His speech is formal, he takes long, solitary walks, and although he is unfailingly friendly and polite, he reveals nothing about himself. When the stranger produces drawings of the village and its inhabitants that are both unflattering and insightful, the villagers murder him. The authorities who witnessed the killing tell Brodeck to write a report that is essentially a whitewash of the incident.

As Brodeck writes the official account, he sets down his version of the truth in a separate, parallel narrative. In measured, evocative prose, he weaves into the story of the stranger his own painful history and the dark secrets the villagers have fiercely kept hidden.

Set in an unnamed time and place, Brodeck blends the familiar and unfamiliar, myth and history into a work of extraordinary power and resonance. Readers of J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Kafka will be captivated by Brodeck.

I

I'm Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it.
I insist on that. I want everyone to know.

I had no part in it, and once I learned what had happened, I would have preferred never to mention it again, I would have liked to bind my memory fast and keep it that way, as subdued and still as a weasel in an iron trap.

But the others forced me. "You know how to write," they said. "You've been to the University." I replied that my studies hadn't amounted to much--I hadn't even finished my courses and didn't remember much about them. They didn't want to hear it. "You know how to write, you know about words and how to use them, you know how they can say things. That's what we need. We can't do it ourselves. We'd get into a muddle, but you, you'll say it right, and people will believe you. Besides, you've got the typewriter."

It's very old, the typewriter. Several of its keys are broken, and I have nothing to repair it with. It's capricious. It's worn out. Sometimes, for no apparent ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel is set in an unidentified place and time. Why do you think the author chose to make the setting anonymous? Do you think he had a specific historical event in mind? Was this device effective or not? Can you think of another novel in which this is done?

  2. The first lines of the novel are, "I'm Brodeck and I had nothing to do with it. I insist on that. I want everyone to know." How do you interpret Brodeck's tone? Why is he so adamant about this point? Is it true that he's innocent?

  3. Brodeck takes it upon himself to assign names to the significant events in his life. Kazerskwir, or "the crater," refers to his two years in the death camp and the Ereigniës, or "the thing that happened," refers to the murder at Schloss's Inn. ...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
  • award image

Reviews

BookBrowse

In the final passage of Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, a man narrowly escapes starvation by feeding at the breast of a woman whose infant child has died. It is a punishingly beautiful combination of despair and hope with few peers in contemporary fiction. Brodeck, the prescient new novel by French author Phillipe Claudel, culminates in an equally moving but far darker scene that will haunt readers even as the book enchants them... A deep and wide ocean of a story, with transcendent crests and despairing troughs. Get up your courage before you set sail.   (Reviewed by Micah Gell-Redman).

Full Review Members Only (975 words).

Media Reviews
San Francisco Chronicle

I admire its hypnotic atmosphere and moral seriousness, but for me the narrative too strongly bears the stamp of its literary antecedents, Kafka above all.

Kirkus Reviews

Consistently involving but ultimately unsatisfying.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Claudel's style is very visual and evocative .... this novel ... is full of terror, horror, and beauty and wonder.

Library Journal

Claudel...offers up an engrossing tale of collective guilt and redemption, smoothly translated by Cullen, that should appeal to those concerned with issues of good and evil.

The Daily Telegraph

I feel nervous describing this extraordinary novel as 'an adult fairy tale', because I'd generally run a mile from any book described in that way. ... Brodeck's Report won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens in the original French and John Cullen's English translation is as clear as a mountain stream. It is a modern masterpiece.

The Scotsman

This is a remarkable novel, all the more so because this account of man's inhumanity to man, of coarse and brutal stupidity, of fear and surrender to evil, is nevertheless not without hope. Brodeck survives because, despite all he has experienced, he remains capable of love. It is also beautifully written, and well translated… I mentioned Kafka earlier, and the novel is as compelling as anything he wrote

The Times

[O]riginal, brilliant and disturbing… It is a relentless, uncomfortable book that achieves a beauty of its own through Claudel's deft writing and passionate commitment to truth. Claudel is a novelist of ideas, in the French tradition. He deals skillfully in archetypes and abstractions. His characters and their village are sparsely sketched, just like the De Anderer portraits and landscapes that cause such fatal offense.

Le Parisien

….a meditation upon the hatred of the foreigner, the rejection of difference, the blindness of crowds, group stupidity, collective cowardice. Once again, Philippe Claudel plumbs the black depths of the human heart, with contained fury and deliberate humility….In the end, this is simply very great literature.

Reader Reviews
donna nueva,

the other
An extremely good and well-written book, Brodeck explores the theme of "the other". villagers in an isolated town show their suspicions about a newly arrived person fron"the outside" and how these initial suspicions lead to ...   Read More

Ernie Urvater

Brodeck: a stunning masterpiece
Very good doesn't do this novel justice. It has been called a modern masterpiece by another reviewer, and that is exactly what it is. I read Brodeck in one day--I couldn't put it down. At once chilling and disturbing, it leaves the reader with a ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Kristallnacht
While Philppe Claudel makes no explicit references to any historical event, a number of them clearly influenced his novel. A particularly poignant example comes when Brodeck is forced to flee the city where he attends university because nationalist thugs respond to a popular protest by smashing store fronts and savagely beating anyone who looks like they don't belong. There is an obvious parallel to the infamous events of Kristallnacht, a touchstone in the progression toward the Nazi murder of the Jews.

When Hitler occupied the chancellorship of Germany in 1933, he did so as head of a National Socialist party that shared anti-communist and anti-Semitic rhetoric with a number of other political movements in Europe. ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked Brodeck, try these:

  • Best European Fiction 2010 jacket

    Best European Fiction 2010

    by Aleksandar Hemon

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The inaugural installment of what will become an annual anthology of stories from across Europe.

  • By a Slow River jacket

    By a Slow River

    by Phillipe Claudel

    Published Feb 2013

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The daily life of a small town is hardly disturbed by the First World War raging nearby. But this illusion is shattered by the deaths of three innocents. Twenty years on, a policeman still struggles to make sense of the deaths which both torment and sustain him.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Take This Man
    Take This Man
    by Brando Skyhorse
    "A chorus of six men calling me Son might sound ludicrous to you, but to me it's the sound of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Hundred-Year House
    The Hundred-Year House
    by Rebecca Makkai
    Rebecca Makkai's sophomore novel The Hundred-Year House could just have easily been titled ...
  • Book Jacket
    The Valley of Amazement
    by Amy Tan
    "Mirror, Mirror on the wall
    I am my mother after all!"


    In my pre-retirement days as a professor ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

Tomlinson Hill
by Chris Tomlinson

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.