The Sermon on the Fall of Rome
By Jérôme Ferrari
A wise and sprightly epic of ruin and renewal in rural Corsica - winner of the Prix Goncourt.
The mysterious disappearance of Hayet, the manageress of the village bar, presents a conundrum for its owner, who cannot face a return to the days of late nights, lewd customers and greasy dishwater.
A succession of would-be hosts and hostesses descend, with disastrous results, before Matthieu and Libero, childhood friends disillusioned with their philosophical studies, return to take up the reins. Initially they are successful, but as lustful, avaricious reality rudely intrudes on their idyll, they too are forced to concede, their senses befuddled by easy women and plentiful liquor, that all empires must inevitably crumble.
Meanwhile, Matthieu's grandfather Marcel, who funded their enterprise, perhaps out of spite, still lingers on the island, his memories of the collapse of France's colonial empire still as fresh and bitter as the cancerous ulcers that must one day claim his life.
By turns wise, comic, dramatic, tragic and absurd, Ferrari's Goncourt-winning masterpiece reads like a Corsican One Hundred Years of Solitude, covering a century of intimate history with a dazzling, skewering precision even Flaubert would be proud to applaud.
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- Publication date:
04 Sep 2014
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Astute, cunning, brilliant . . . Prepare for wonders . . . Blackly playful and serious, this is an earthy, philosophical tract drawing on history and human experience; the tiny hopes, the immense failures and, above all, the ambivalence. Ferrari pursues his story with the delicacy and skill of a musician reaching the final note — Eileen Battersby, Irish Times
A novelist whose concern with how we should live and what we can believe puts him in the tradition of Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus — Allan Massie, Scotsman
Ferrari writes with power and perceptive humour — David Platzer, Tablet
Focusing on Corsica, but taking in Paris, Algeria and French colonies in Africa, its portrayal of the many accommodations we make with "circumstance" is both humorous and poignant — Catriona Graham, Guardian
More admirable even than his previous works . . . The best novel of the year — Le Monde, Raphaëlle Leyris
'Extraordinarily compelling' Daily Mail. — Daily Mail