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Year in the Merde

Year in the Merde

4.1 28
by Stephen Clarke, Gerard Doyle (Read by)

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An urban antidote to A Year in Provence, Stephen Clarke’s book is a laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of an expat in Paris— for Francophiles and Francophobes alike

A YEAR IN THE MERDE is the almost-true account of the author’s adventures as an expat in Paris. Based loosely on his own experiences and with names changed to


An urban antidote to A Year in Provence, Stephen Clarke’s book is a laugh-out-loud account of a year in the life of an expat in Paris— for Francophiles and Francophobes alike

A YEAR IN THE MERDE is the almost-true account of the author’s adventures as an expat in Paris. Based loosely on his own experiences and with names changed to “avoid embarrassment, possible legal action and to prevent the author’s legs being broken by someone in a Yves Saint Laurent suit (or quite possibly, a Christian Dior skirt), ” A YEAR IN THE MERDE is the story of a Paul West, a 27-year-old Brit who is brought to Paris by a French company to open a chain of British “tea rooms.” He soon becomes immersed in the contradictions of French culture: the French are not all cheese-eating surrender monkeys, though they do eat a lot of smelly cheese; they are still in shock at being stupid enough to sell Louisiana, thus losing the chance to make French the global language, while going on strike is the second national participation sport after pétanque. He also illuminates how to get the best out of the grumpiest Parisian waiter, how to survive a French business meeting, and how not to buy a house in the French countryside.

The author originally wrote A YEAR IN THE MERDE just for fun and self-published it in France in an English language edition. Weeks later, it had become a word-of-mouth hit for expats and the French alike, even outselling Bill Clinton’s memoir at Paris’s fabled American bookstore Brentano’s. With translation rights now sold in eleven countries, Stephen Clarke is clearly a Bill Bryson (or a Peter Mayle...) for a whole new generation of readers who can never quite decide whether they love—or love to hate—the French.

Editorial Reviews

This book carries a cautionary cover note: "There are lots of French people who are not at all hypocritical, inefficient, treacherous, intolerant, adulterous or incredibly sexy.... They just didn't make it into my book." That tongue-in-cheek warning sets the tone of this lighthearted, "almost true" expat confession. The narrator captures the contradictions of French culture and the strong French aversion to the American work ethic. A delight for Francophiles and Francophobes alike.
Publishers Weekly
Take a self-assured Brit with an eye for the ladies, drop him in the middle of Paris with a tenuous grasp of the language and you have Clarke's alter ego, Paul West, who combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond. Hired to oversee the creation of a French chain of British tearooms, Clarke, aka West, spends nine months-the equivalent of a French business year-stumbling his way through office politics a la francaise. Clarke's sharp eye for detail and relentless wit make even the most quotidian task seem surreal, from ordering a cup of coffee to picking up a loaf of bread at the boulangerie. Luck is by West's side as he moves into a stunning apartment (with his boss's attractive daughter), but he has to be careful where he steps, as he finds he "began to branch out from literal to metaphorical encounters of the turd kind." Between conspiring colleagues, numerous sexual escapades (he deems French porn "unsexy" since "Being French, they had to talk endlessly before they got down to action") and simply trying to order a normal-sized glass of beer, West quickly learns essential tricks to help him keep his head above the Seine. Originally self-published in Paris, Clarke's first book in a soon-to-be-series is funny and well-written enough to appeal to an audience beyond just Francophiles. Agent, Susanna Lea at Susanna Lea Associates. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The caustic tale of getting a French education the hard way. British journalist Clarke has camouflaged the particulars, but the gist of this work (originally self-published in France) is apparently drawn directly from his own experience. Here, "Paul West," his 27-year-old narrator, is hired by a French firm to open British tearooms in Paris, improbable as that sounds. And doomed, too, as Paul goes merrily about poking fun at France's farcically inefficient businesses, home to the most coddled workers in the universe and plagued by strikes seemingly every day. Paul is the object of some impressive snootery for his woeful French, though he soon learns that living in Paris requires much more than the right accent. The ville lumiere is for sharks; you mustn't worry about people liking you, "you've got to show them that you don't give a shit what they think." This isn't difficult when it comes to his co-workers, who "don't give a shit" either. Paul does, however, feel some loyalty to his boss, until he discovers that Jean-Marie is a marauding opportunist with a soupcon of his venality aimed at the new guy. (He tries to sell Paul a bijou cottage in Normandy, undeterred by the fact that a nuclear power station will be built next door.) With much time on his hands, thanks to the French lack of work ethic, Paul spends much of it in the comical pursuit of women. They bring some fresh air into the narrative, allowing Paul to laugh at himself for a change. Despite the country's economic and political self-absorption, he does fall for France, its style and especially its food. His affection radiates here, a comforting balance to the wicked mordancy. The publisher promises a second volume of PaulWest's adventures, which is good news. For Clarke's sake, let's hope he doesn't have to live it to write it. Author tour
From the Publisher

“Highly entertaining…Clarke renders the flavor of life in Paris impeccably.” —Washington Post

“Call him the anti-Mayle. Stephen Clarke is acerbic, insulting, un-PC and mostly hilarious.” —San Francisco Chronicle.

“The antidote to Peter Mayle, this ‘almost-true memoir' will appeal equally to Francophobes and Francophiles.” —New York Post (4 stars)

“The book is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like the best of British comedy, Merde is a comedy of errors…[with] great interlingual puns, a vivacious spirit and a playful attitude about the absurdities of a foreign culture.” —Rocky Mountain News

“Combines the gaffes of Bridget Jones with the boldness of James Bond… Clarke's sharp eye for detail and relentless wit make even the most quotidian task seem surreal.” —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

Macmillan Audio
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 5.66(h) x 0.58(d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN CLARKE is a British writer working for a French press group in Paris. He has previously written comedy for BBC Radio. He is currently working on the next volume of Paul West’s adventures.

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Year in the Merde 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 28 reviews.
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
A Year in the Merde by Stephen Clarke Paul West, a British citizen, is offered a one year contract at the Vian Difussion (VD) company by Frenchman Jean-Marie Martin. Paul is to open a chain of tea houses in Paris. As he tries to assemble the team to start the process, Paul encounters resistance and inefficiencies built into the French system. As he copes with life as an ex-pat in Paris, he relates many funny stories about his life, most of which have to do with getting women in bed. There are also stories about finding an apartment - date a woman and move in; how to order coffee or beer - "creme" will get you a normal size coffee and "demi" a normal size beer; and how to (or not) buy a house in the country. This is a fluffy, light read narrated from Paul's first person point of view. It reads in a day or two. You should read it only if you want to be entertained; it has no other value. It made me laugh because I could recognize typical French reactions to what I consider to be rude and arrogant American/British behavior. But most French people wouldn't act like that; although at times, I thought the French were justified, because the character was such an ass.
mike100274 More than 1 year ago
Mr. Clark has incredible insight into France; this book shows that. It is filled with humor and fascinating situations that make you cringe as you read. You will definitely have a good time reading... especially if you've been to France.
Rania More than 1 year ago
The best travel book ever written... Smart Humor
Guest More than 1 year ago
Clarke has mastered the art of capturing what makes us all look comical, but he really skewers the French (and English)as he shows how much work it takes to assimilate into another culture -- and the foibles of each culture. The hero's exploits are hilarious. I couldn't put it down and can't wait to read the sequel.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's full of dry, British humour, which, as an American, is just as funny as his quips about the French. While he sets out to make the reader laugh about the French, there are some good funny things about English speakers, too. I read the book while in France, and I actually experienced some of the things that he describes, because the French actually do these things! I suppose it might not be as funny for people who don't know anything about French culture, but the cultural misunderstandings are universal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
merde is about right.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is shallow, relying of stereotypes of the French, British, and others. The few comedic moments that merit a smile or a smirk at best do not justify the simplistic characterizations.
lesliejay63 More than 1 year ago
Great book. Funny. Gives you a good feel for French culture. Loved it!
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AFineFoodie More than 1 year ago
I love Paris, but know there are many things I'll never figure out about Parisians. This book helped dispel some of them. At the end of the read, however, I didn't feel very satisfied. I just purchased "Talk to the Snail," Clarke's book about what makes the French tick. This is a much better book. Clarke is funny, but not exceptionally so. On the other hand, Pete McCarthy, another Brit comic travel writer, had me rollling with side-splitting laughter.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
A YEAR IN THE MERDE. Is, well truthfully, very yo the point when it comes to the french people. I've been to FRANCE dozens of times, but for short 2 to 4 week periods. I KNOW THAT THIS IS A BOOK (appropriate for about 14 year olds and up) MUST BE READ BY ANYONE WHO HAS GONE TO FRANCE OR WILL BE GOING TO FRANCE. Jess
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿The chief beauty of this book lies not so much in its literary style or in the extent and usefulness of the information it conveys, as in its simple truthfulness. Its pages form the record of events that really happened. All that has been done is to colour them¿ is a quote by Jerome K. Jerome that Stephen Clarke, the author of A Year in the Merde, placed on the first page of his novel. The quote is ideal for the beginning of this novel since it describes the way Stephen Clarke chose to describe his story of the time he spent as an expat in Paris, France. The central character of A Year in the Merde is Paul West, an Englishman living as an expat in Paris, France. Initially, he moves to France in order to work as a manager for a new chain of tea rooms that will be opening all around Paris. At first the transition from living in England to France is a bit shocking for Paul. From stepping in poop on the sidewalk more than once to dealing with rude waiters at café¿s, he encounters a great amount of difficulty becoming accustomed to a Parisian lifestyle. From the minute he walks into his office, Paul has an encounter with a rude receptionist and has trouble with the difficult language barrier. Paul begins noticing the major differences between having a job in England and having a job in France after meeting his boss and eccentric co-workers. After a while, it seems like opening tea rooms all around Paris is the last thing on many of his colleague¿s minds. After several months Paul begins blending into the French culture and even meets other expats at a local pub. He soon realizes that work is not the most important thing in Paris and starts enjoying all of the pleasures of life. Going to café¿s, meeting women, and exploring are among the many things Paul begins to do. A Year in the Merde, literally meaning ¿A Year in the Shit,¿ is brilliantly written. Stephen Clarke¿s ability to incorporate comedy into the novel through clever ways keeps the reader laughing throughout most of its pages. The novel is written by month, beginning in September, when according to Paul West, life begins for all Parisians and ending in May, when work ends and vacationing begins. I would recommend this novel for Francophiles or people who love traveling and learning about different cultures. Stephen Clarke¿s account of Paul West¿s year in France is not only entertaining but highly educational. It inspires one to learn about different cultures and even contemplate living in another country for a period of time. I am currently reading Clarke¿s follow-up novel of Paul West¿s life in Paris entitled For Love in the Merde and am having trouble putting it down. I recommend both novels to anyone who appreciates different cultures and would love to learn about France. I hope Clarke is working on a third novel that is just as original and entertaining as A Year in the Merde and For Love in the Merde.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With the bright yellow color and oddly-shaped form of France wearing a smiley face and beret slapped on to the cover, A Year in the Merde is one of those books that I'm happy to have randomly picked up. Stephen Clarke is able to transport you to experience Parisian life through the seemingly droll Paul West. Paul's experience (or naivete if you like), of French culture is a whirlwind affair of language barriers, women and sex, two-faced bosses, strikes, and of course merde (humans and animals alike, both metaphorically and literally speaking.) Stephen Clarke is an artist of words and his book is a unique, great change from all the French politic books I had been forced to read and write about in college.