MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: Philippe Delerm, La Première Gorgée de Bière – February 2018
Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, now’s your chance… Welcome to the MyFrenchLife™ 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018! Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of in our specially chosen French books! In February we’re reading Philippe Delerm.
So, why take part in the MyFrenchLife™ book club?
Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature experts to bring you a new and exciting French book review. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same!
Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.
Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.
Whatever your reason, we challenge you to join us in our 2018 literary crusade – every opinion matters, especially yours.
This February, we’re continuing the challenge with one of our favourite feel-good novels – Philippe Delerm’s ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière et autres plaisirs minuscules’.
So, let’s all pick up our books and let the reading commence!
Join our online book club, join the reading, join the fun – and have your voice heard.
Philippe Delerm’s ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière et autres plaisirs minuscules’
Buy here: en français.
Feel-good reading: life’s simple pleasures
‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’ is a book that will instantly make you feel good. Philippe Delerm takes us through 34 small pleasures of everyday life, focusing on delights that most people overlook or do not seem to appreciate.
Each chapter is centred around a simple pleasure in the author’s life:
- a mobile bus
- a pocket knife
- a beautiful box of cakes
- the smell of apples
- the phrase “On pourrait presque manger dehors”
- the motorway at night, being spontaneously invited to dinner
- the first sip of beer – to name only a few!
These pleasures allow us to truly enter Delerm’s world and appreciate his positive outlook on life – and it’s very hard to not to be swept along with his optimism.
What strikes me first about these small pleasures that Delerm pinpoints in his book, is their huge significance. A box of cakes is, in fact, not just a box of cakes, but a moment in which
le temps balance en encensoir au bout d’une ficelle brune. 
The cinema isn’t merely a dark room, but a place where
on va flotter, poisson de l’air, oiseau de l’eau. Le corps va s’engourdir, et l’on devient campagne anglaise, avenue de New York, ou pluie de Brest. 
You will instantly feel swept into a world of Delerm’s poetic imagination, as he enhances the most banal and trivial moments of our daily lives and transforms them into art.
Philippe Delerm: an escape from modernity
Technology rarely appears in ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’. Philippe Delerm takes us back to a more pastoral life; shelling peas, living amongst friends and family, spending time in the countryside or the beach – it almost feels like an escape from modernity.
Although Delerm had not experienced Facebook or the iPhone, earlier inventions like the car are contemplated from a completely poetic and idealistic outlook – a sort of family house, an almost cosmic type of boat,
un vaisseau sidéral. 
Yet, the reader doesn’t regret the absence of commonplace technology in the book. In fact, Delerm almost gives us an appreciation for the things we may forget that we are lucky to have in life – from the spontaneous suggestion to stop for dinner, to the relaxing Sunday evening bath.
Philippe Delerm: engaging the reader
The book is extremely short – around 90 pages in length. It almost feels as if it’s mimicking Delerm’s intention to present life’s “plaisirs minuscules”.
The chapters are condensed into manageable, bite-size chunks, ranging from between two to three pages on average. The structure is ideal for anyone who finds reading in French challenging or time-consuming.
Delerm’s narrative feels like a small slice of his life that he’s inviting us to share with him. He often addresses the reader as “vous” and involves us fully in his experiences.
There are no main characters in this book. Rather, the pleasures become the reader’s focus. This may confuse a reader of classic literature, who is waiting to be introduced to the narrator or other characters.
Yet, this post-modernist novel is broken into fragments and avoids the traditional protagonist such as you would expect to find in a classic Balzacian novel. Instead, the reader is made to feel like the main character and the narrator at the same time – joined in the unity of exploring the pleasures of life together.
You may miss the intricate description of classic French literature, or you may thrive in the simplicity of Delerm’s novel. We’d love to know your thoughts!
For me, Philippe Delerm’s ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’ is definitely an 8/10. I wished it was longer. I wanted more pleasures and more time with the narrator – maybe it’s because I’m greedy!
 Philippe Delerm, La Première Gorgée de Bière (Paris: Gallimard, 1997) p.12
 Philippe Delerm, La Première Gorgée de Bière (Paris: Gallimard, 1997) p.56
 Philippe Delerm, La Première Gorgée de Bière (Paris: Gallimard, 1997) p.33
Now it’s your turn – get involved here.
Let the challenge begin!
In true book club fashion, we’re eager to get together – if only virtually – and compare literary notes. Leave your reviews in the comments box and complete the questions in the reading guidance form linked below.
READING GUIDANCE: Book 1
– EN FRANÇAIS CI-DESSOUS:
Welcome to our My French Life™ French Book Club!! #ReadinginFrench
After the launch of our SECOND BOOK challenge of 2018: Philippe Delerm ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’…
we would love to hear all of your opinions to kickstart our literary discussion!
– Please feel free to comment as honestly as possible – there are no right or wrong answers to these questions! Let’s go!
(En français ou en anglais – ) QUESTIONNAIRE: Please complete
Bienvenu à toutes et à tous à notre club de lecture ‘My French Life™ French Book Club!!
Après le lancement du deuxième défi de 2018: Philippe Delerm ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’… nous souhaiterions recueillir vos avis sur le roman afin de discuter la littérature française!
– Merci de répondre le plus franchement possible car il y a une infinité de réponses possible pour chaque question! C’est parti!
(En français ou en anglais – ) QUESTIONNAIRE: Please complete
Did you enjoy Philippe Delerm’s ‘La Première Gorgée de Bière’? How did the descriptions of life’s simple pleasures make you feel? Get the discussion started in the comments box below – here’s where you GET INVOLVED.
1. Images 1 & 2, via © Jessica Rushton
2. Philippe Delerm, via Wikipedia