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The fruit thief : or, One-way journey into the interior
2022
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Library Journal Review
Narrated by an elderly man who steps on a bee, this latest from Nobel laureate Handke (A Sorrow Beyond Dreams) takes readers on an intimate journey through the cities, towns, and rural expanses of north-central France. The incident compels the man to ruminate at great length on the insect's life cycle, and he soon sets off from his home near Versailles to the Picardian highlands of the Vexin region. Along the way, he details his encounters with neighbors, townsfolk, and other travelers. The novel then shifts to his relating the adventures of the lovely young Alexia, the eponymous fruit thief. Walking from Paris to Picardy during three hot days in August, Alexia acquires traveling companions, saves a lost cat, spends a night in an almost abandoned hotel, and steals fruit and vegetables. Every experience here becomes part of Handke's gorgeous, multilayered tapestry. VERDICT Handke's work was first published in 2017 in German, and this excellent English translation highlights the picaresque nature of the story. Alexia is an appealing vagabond as she moves from one episode to another, and Handke is a marvel at capturing and digging deeply into the history, sights, sounds, smells, and feel of France, which comes alive in his masterly hands.--Jacqueline Snider
Publishers Weekly Review
Nobel laureate Handke (The Moravian Night) delivers a glacially slow but erudite journey through the northern French countryside. It begins on an August day when the narrator, an unnamed older gentleman, sets out from Paris to follow a young woman he calls the "fruit thief" on her trip to Picardy. The fruit thief, whose name is Alexia (a reference to the patron saint of travelers) meanders, spirals, and walks backward through the outer suburbs of Paris on her way toward the Vectin plateau, at times in the company of a delivery boy, a dog, a raven, and a dying cat. But who she is, why she steals fruit, and the purpose of her pilgrimage remains unclear. The author is a savvy explorer of the minutiae of human experience, and makes every hour of his wanderer's sojourn "dramatic, even if nothing happened," as the narrator notes. Handke's descriptions of the landscape's sights and sounds, such as how the peal of church bells bends into the roar of a confluence of rivers, offer much to savor. It adds up to a powerful anthem for "the eternally daunted undaunted," as the narrator calls those "detour-takers" who might relate to the fruit thief, the "bitterness-lovers," and "lost cause defenders." Admirers of the stylistically cavalier Handke will be rewarded for taking in the scenery of this story. (Mar.)
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