Summary and book reviews of The Patagonian Hare by Claude Lanzmann

The Patagonian Hare

A Memoir

By Claude Lanzmann

The Patagonian Hare

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Book Summary

"Even if I lived a hundred lives, I still wouldn't be exhausted." These words capture the intensity of the experiences of Claude Lanzmann, a man whose acts have always been a negation of resignation: a member of the Resistance at sixteen, a friend to Jean-Paul Sartre and a lover to Simone de Beauvoir, and the director of one of the most important films in the history of cinema, Shoah.

In these pages, Lanzmann composes a hymn to life that flows from memory yet has the rhythm of a novel, as tumultuous as it is energetic. The Patagonian Hare is the story of a man who has searched at every moment for existential adventure, who has committed himself deeply to what he believes in, and who has made his life a battle.

The Patagonian Hare, a number-one bestseller in France, has been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Polish, Dutch, and Portuguese. Claude Lanzmann's brilliant memoir has been widely acclaimed as a masterpiece, was hailed as "a true literary and historic event" in the pages of Le Monde, and was awarded the prestigious Welt-Literaturpreis in Germany.

Chapter 1

The guillotine - more generally, capital punishment and the various methods of meting out death - has been the abiding obsession of my life. It began very early. I must have been about ten years old, and the memory of that cinema on the rue Legendre in the 17th arrondissement in Paris, with its red velvet seats and its faded gilt, remains astonishingly vivid. A nanny, making the most of my parents' absence, had taken me, and the film that day was L'Affaire du courrier de Lyon [The Courier of Lyons], with Pierre Blanchar and Dita Parlo. I have never known or tried to discover the name of the director, but he must have been very proficient, for there are certain scenes that I have never forgotten: the attack on the Lyon courier's stagecoach in a dark forest, the trial of Lesurques, innocent but condemned to death, the scaffold erected in the middle of a public square, white, as I remember it, the blade swooping down. Back then, as during the Revolution, people were still ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Besides having been a brave soldier, a tireless traveler and mountain climber, and a lover to many women, [Lanzmann] was - and continues to be - a consummate writer. His energy and passions literally leap from the page. Never is this a memoir about overcoming adversity, though he has suffered many sorrows and hardships. It is a joyous, sobering, and relentless testament to Sartre's statement, "Man is condemned to be free... because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does."   (Reviewed by Judy Krueger).

Full Review Members Only (945 words).

Media Reviews
Le Monde (France)

A work of art... [Lanzmann] has lived every moment the way one writes a story or directs a film: completely, intensely... [The Patagonian Hare is] a true literary and historic event.

Le Point (France)

This book isn't a compendium of memories... It's a great, epic work, heartbreaking and full of enthusiasm. The writing dances, shudders, trembles and melts voluptuously. It has that quality of changing your life.

Die Welt (Germany)

Without a doubt, one of the masterpieces of world literature.

Israel Hayom (Israel Today)

Instead of going to the beach, putting on a bathing suit and going swimming, or going to the movies, I stay in my room and read a book, and I swim in the sea of wisdom. Right now, I am reading a magnificent book by Claude Lanzmann... Reading [The Patagonian Hare] gives me the greatest pleasure in life.

Le Figaro (France)

We follow Lanzmann's adventures as if they came from a novel by London, Hemingway or Kessel.

L'Express (France)

Half a century of fury, tears and hopes related by one of the most important witnesses of our time.

Le Magazine Littéraire (France)

Claude Lanzmann recounts our age with a vitality and virtuosity rarely seen.

The Independent (UK)

As the 21st century takes a new and frightening shape, it is well to remember the strange heroism of men like Lanzmann, who opposed the darkest forces of the 20th century with an unmitigated belief in freedom, and not just freedom of belief.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. [A] beautifully written memoir driven by both the writer's passion for living and his memories of lost friends... 'I am neither indifferent to, nor weary of, this world; had I a hundred lives, I know I would not tire of it,' he writes. Intelligent readers will find it hard to argue.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This captivating and inspiring memoir attests to the fact that Lanzmann unyieldingly remains an individual dedicated to telling stories that matter, including his own.

Literary Review

His is an extraordinary life... it is a rumbustious, engaging, frustrating, joyous rampage through some of the most significant chapters of postwar history in the company of an unforgettable man.

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Shoah

In 1974, Claude Lanzmann took a leave from journalism to begin work on his landmark, nine-and-a-half hour long film about the Holocaust, Shoah (1985). As he explains in an interview with NPR (March 2012), he chose the title Shoah (Hebrew for "catastrophe") because he dislikes the word "holocaust," which translates as "a burnt religious sacrifice." He couldn't see for which Gods so many innocent people had been killed. The word shoah was less familiar, inexplicit, and not as easily understood. It more accurately depicted his feelings about such a terrible event. He reflects that, "...the truth is that there is no name for what happened."

movie poster for Shoah In contrast with many other works concerning the Holocaust, Shoah contains no historical ...

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