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Littérature contemporaine

Une sélection de la Clé des langues

Voici un échantillon de la production littéraire d'expression anglaise du 21ème siècle. Les fiches de lecture ont été rédigées par des élèves anglicistes de l'ENS LSH.


Wish You Were Here
Graham Swift
La guerre est un thème récurrent chez Graham Swift. La seconde guerre mondiale est par exemple évoquée dans Last Orders (1996) ou encore dans Shuttlecock (1981), où le récit du père du narrateur, retenu prisonnier, constitue le cœur du texte. Wish You Were Here (2011) semble s’inscrire dans la lignée de ces romans puisque le récit est notamment marqué par les allusions aux commémorations annuelles de la première Guerre mondiale. Cependant, Swift donne ici à son texte une résonnance contemporaine particulière, car la guerre d’Irak est l’autre conflit central du roman, dont l’intrigue se déroule en 2006, alors que Tom Luxton, jeune Anglais de dix-huit ans, a quitté sa campagne du Devon pour s’engager dans l’armée. Lorsqu’il meurt au combat, sa dépouille est ramenée en Grande-Bretagne. Son frère Jack, sa seule famille, doit également revenir sur leur terre natale pour dire adieu à Tom : Wish You Were Here raconte l’histoire de ce retour endeuillé.

  • Arthur & George Julian Barnes

    The novel is based on an actual story, known as the "Great Wyrley Outrages". At the end of the 19th century, George Edalji, a solicitor from Great Wyrley, a village near Birmingham, was wrongly found guilty of slaying a number of farm animals. He was sentenced to seven years in jail. In 1906, Edalji was released but he was not pardoned. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was involved in the case. Indeed, he tried to prove the man's innocence and was at the source of what was considered as an English Dreyfus Case. Lire la suite

  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close Jonathan Safran Foer

    The novel narrates the story of Oskar Schell, a precocious nine-year-old inventor, pacifist, percussionist, and Francophile, whose father died during the attacks of 9/11. A couple of years after his father’s death, he finds a mysterious key in an envelope with the name “Black” on it, in a vase in a closet. Sure that the key belonged to his father, he decides to visit everyone named “Black” in the five boroughs of New York to discover what it opens. Intertwined with Oskar’s quest are letters written by his grandparents, who went through the bombings of Dresden in the Second World War. Lire la suite

  • On Beauty Zadie Smith

    The Belseys have always claimed to be liberal and atheist, but when their eldest son Jerome goes to work as an intern in England with his father Howard’s enemy the, ultra-conservative Christian Monty Kipps, there are bound to be a few mishaps. When Jerome finally returns home, the Kipps in turn move to Wellington, the town where the Belseys live. Working at the same university, Howard and Monty develop a rivalry, while their wives become friends. The novel hinges on the mirror effects and the interactions between the two families. Their relationship is a complex one which includes friendship, rivalry, lust and envy. Each family will have problems to solve, both personal and professional. Lire la suite

  • The Bear Boy Cynthia Ozick

    The story is set in the outskirts of the Bronx in 1935. Rose Meadows, orphaned at the age of 18, becomes an assistant to Professor Mitwisser, a specialist of a 9th-century heretic Jewish sect. Professor Mitwisser, his wife (a renowned physicist but now a near-madwoman) and their five children are German refugees who survive thanks to their young benefactor James A’Bair. James is heir to the fortune amassed by his father, who took him as a model for a very popular series of children’s books called The Bear Boy. James is extremely wealthy but troubled, dispossessed of his identity. He leads a nomadic life and his latest whim is to support the Mitwisser family. Rose enters into this chaotic household, which becomes even more unstable with the arrival of James. Very soon this little precarious world verges on disaster. Lire la suite

  • The Body Hanif Kureishi

    The narrator of Hanif Kureishi’s novella is a British playwright in his mid-sixties called Adam who experiences the difficulty of living as an aging man. His struggle to maintain his self-esteem and joie de vivre prompts him to give a very cynical account of the old people’s situation in a society ruled by beauty, youth and desire. Adam’s gloomy life takes a favorable turn – or so he thinks … - when he meets Ralph, a handsome and young admirer of his, who secretly informs him he can look just as healthy and fit as he: he may be operated on to have his mind transferred from his old, decaying body to a New Body. Adam decides to give up his old body and life for six months, and sets off for a series of new travels, adventures and encounters. By doing so, he once again enjoys the privileges of being young and beautiful, the object of men and women’s desires. However, it is not long before he misses his previous life, his wife and son’s presence as well as people’s more respectful, deferent attitude towards his work and person. In the end, our hero comes to understand his new life is endangered when he meets a New Body looking for an attractive and young body exactly like his for his dying brother. Adam manages to escape but realizes he will not be able to come back to his former self: the secret hospital facility where he was given his new body has been burned down, along with the old bodies which were kept there. Adam is thus condemned to immortal life as a body, a soulless body. Lire la suite

  • The Brooklyn Follies Paul Auster

    « I was looking for a quiet place to die. Someone recommended Brooklyn, and so the next morning I traveled down there from Westchester to scope out the terrain. » Lire la suite

  • The Discomfort Zone Jonathan Franzen

    Thirty years after the colorful 1970’s, hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration’s failure, social inequalities are proof that America is sinking into the Discomfort Zone, along with the narrator who gives way to his discrete feeling of helplessness and invites us to live with it the way he does in a disenchanted but yet humourous way. Lire la suite

  • The Good Life Jay McInerney

    "The Good Life" is a story about many things: it deals with love and loss, with life and death, with contradictory feelings that, in the end, are all but one. Lire la suite


  • Blackbird David Harrower

    An unmanned canteen, food leftovers are spilt over the floor. Una, a young woman in her late twenties, pays a visit to Ray at his workplace; a photo of him in a trade magazine has put her on his track. The last time she saw him, she was twelve and he was over forty, they haven’t set eyes on each other since. Ray happens to be her former lover, the man who took her virginity when she was not even pubescent. Together they go over grievous memories: the disgrace that followed the disclosure of their affair for both Una whose parents refused to quit the neighbourhood exposing her to public humiliation, and Ray who spent six years in prison. Gradually, bygone feelings resurface questioning the morally unacceptable nature of their relationship. Lire la suite

  • Celebration Harold Pinter

    In a posh restaurant, two couples of friends, Matt and Prue, and Lambert and Julie, are having lunch. They are together to celebrate Lambert and Julie's wedding anniversary, but the mood is not proper to celebration. At an adjacent table, another couple is having a talk. Revelations are fusing on both sides: the man had an affair, and the woman reveals the dark side of her past. Before the six characters meet and make the general atmosphere even tenser, three characters come and go between the tables: the owner of the restaurant, a waitress, and a mythomaniac waiter. Lire la suite


  • The Book of Longing Leonard Cohen

    Cohen's poetry – the title of the book makes no mystery of it – deals essentially with longing: longing for women, for God, or simply truth. What emerges from the whole book is the idea of an irretrievable loss. From the beginning, we learn that in spite of the author's retreat on Mount Baldy, enlightenment has hardly touched him: he has found neither God nor any essential truth. The reader is then at a loss and enters a world he did not expect to find, a world inhabited by people he has never heard of, among whom a certain Roshi, whose identity is only disclosed in the very last pages: Roshi was Cohen's mentor during his retreat. The development of the book seems therefore to be a reversed one, as for instance with “A Note to the Chinese Reader”, which although it is one of the last poems, takes the form of an address to the reader that we would normally expect at the very beginning of such a book. Lire la suite

Coup de cœur
Notre collègue Christine Bini, responsable du volet espagnol de La Clé, s'est éprise d'A.S. Byatt. Elle nous livre ici ses notes de lecture sur Possession.
Mise à jour le 15 décembre 2016
Créé le 3 mai 2008
ISSN 2107-7029
DGESCO Clé des Langues