From the winner of the Prix Goncourt
Timely and provocative, Hear Our Defeats is a novel about the battles that define us. The battles lost, won, and those still being fought.
A French intelligence officer, Assem, is tasked with tracking down a former member of the U.S. Special Forces suspected of drug trafficking during the War in Afghanistan. En route to Beirut he shares a night with Miriam, an Iraqi archaeologist, who is in a race against time to save ancient artifacts across the Middle East from the destruction wreaked by ISIS.
Woven into these two forceful, gripping storylines are stylish meditations on humankind’s bellicose history: Hannibal’s failed march on Rome and the burning of his fleet on the waters of the Mediterranean; Grant’s pursuit of the Confederates into rural Virginia; Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; and Emperor Haile Selassie’s swift retreat from Ethiopia. All turning points in world history, each showing a different facet of how nations and individuals face defeat.
Gaudé writes with a riveting immediacy, seamlessly taking the reader across the battlefields of our past to reflect upon the implications of conflicts being waged today.
|Publisher:||Europa Editions, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)|
About the Author
Laurent Gaudé is a French novelist and playwright. After being nominated for the 2002 Prix Concourt with The Death of King Tsongor, he won the award in 2004 for his novel The Sun of the Scorta.
Alison Anderson’s translations for Europa Editions include novels by Sélim Nassib, Amélie Nothomb, and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. She is the translator of The Elegance of the Hedgehog (Europa, 2008) and The Life of Elves (Europa, 2016) by Muriel Barbery.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Laurent Gaudé’s Hear our Defeats reads like a canticle. The novel is bookended by the primary stories of Assem, a French intelligence officer sent to “neutralize” a US Special Forces agent gone rogue. Assem spends an unforgettable night before he receives this assignment with Mariam, an Iraqi archaeologist committed to saving artifacts being destroyed by ISIS, one of which she secretly gifts to Assem. Assem and Mariam’s threads are punctuated by stories of Hannibal’s battle against ancient Rome, Haile Selassie’s rise and fall, and Grant’s bloody victories during the American civil war. Each chapter is named by a setting in which most of the action takes place, although not at the same time. For example, in the chapter Addis Ababa, Assem meets with Job, the Special Forces agent, post-2011, and Selassie returns from exile, 1941. The chapter also includes bits of narrative from Hannibal, who, like Selassie plans his next move into a new era, circa 218 BC. Given that these dates are not in the text, this fluid back and forth acts as a mellifluous conversation transcending time and place. The lack of dates and frequent switching of contexts also makes the book a little confusing. History plays a personified role in the story. It is often capitalized, like it is a force of its own, a decider of fates. Assem feels “sucked in” by History, by what it's put him through. He feels his words have been taken from him by History. Mariam helps him regain some control with her relic, a concrete sign that all is not lost. So, too, Assem helps Mariam regain delight in her withering body. To History, Assem says “hear our defeats.” Prayer-like, the phrase is an invitation to become one of “our,” to add to his and Mariam's ongoing story of victory and defeat in the face of indifferent History. A hopeful and probing literary gem by Goncourt Prize-winner, Laurent Gaudé, Hear Our Defeats is a dignified plea to engage with History.