Lie with me – Arrete avec tes mensonges by Philippe Besson – member discussion

Lie with me – Arrête avec tes mensonges by Philippe Besson
Member discussion from #bookclub [ return to article ]

Here are a few grabbers before or while reading – BEWARE #SpoilerAlert!

· It’s, in fact, a novella rather than a novel since it’s only 150 pages long on the kindle edition. A very French contemporary genre?
· Surprisingly, The English title is better than the French one.
· It’s a coming of age story and a coming out as it’s often presented but I found it was more than that.
· The story takes place almost entirely in 1984. If you were born then, do you remember the music, the novels, the movies, the politics in your country at this time? there are lots of references in the story.
· The narrative is peppered with many French cultural references, expressions of the ‘school’ lexical field which are not necessarily translated.
What’s your opinion about that?
Should the translator add a footnote?
Lynn D
Wow, Molly Ringwald translator…such talent!

Jacqueline D
I read it in 2 days, it’s short but it’s a page-turner too!

I chose recently-translated books because the purpose at the start was to give members who could not read in French the opportunity to discover best selling contemporary French authors. It goes without saying that you can read in the language of your choice!

Anne B
I have managed to buy Lie with me. I couldn’t find the other one on Google Play. I think I like the French title ‘Arrete avec tes Mensonges’. I am guessing from that title it is about a deceitful relationship or relationships. The English title is ambiguous.

Jacqueline D
Exactly Anne, and I find that the translated title is much better as the play on word with LIE cannot work with MENSONGES and makes sense as regards the story.

Robbi R
Almost through reading while traveling. I find the narrator’s tone quite authentic and engaging. Good translation or just an honest and moving coming of age story about learning how to love and be loved. Timeless. Evocative. 1980’s references add some depth for fleshing out the characters’ experience. Almost done and thoroughly enjoying it

Robbi R
Finished. Poignant. I felt poetry in the many times the narrator mentions the silences between the characters. There is an invisible language within the silences between all our interactions. So familiar and universal yet ultimately private and unknown for most of us. Unless we reveal these private pauses as does Besson; processing his feelings through the watchful eyes of an audience. I’m still under the spell, hoping Phillipe in the book and in life finds solace and understanding of his past experiences. I think he has found both processing his feelings through the watchful eyes of an audience. I’m still under the spell, hoping Phillipe in the book and in life finds solace and understanding of his past experiences. I think he has found both.

Judy M
I’ve just started and am really enjoying the (translated) writing. It flows beautifully.
I’m now reading (Philippe Besson) in English as I haven’t been able to access in French (yet-never give up)
Amazon FR has what I want but won’t sell to me Cos my kindle is licensed elsewhere grrrr anyway back to my book.

Judy M
I have just this moment finished ‘Lie with me’ and to avoid spoiler alerts all I have to say is wow. It took me a few sittings to get toward the end of chapter 1 but after that, I was turning pages at a huge rate of knots. Beautiful writing and probably (?) beautiful translation. Clearly I read in English. Unusually I will now seek out the original French.
Thank you, Jacqueline, this is not what I expected. It was more! Without your direction, I would not have read this book.
As a francophile, I’ve made a decision to stop reading ‘francophile’ books and read what the French are reading to gain deeper cultural insight. Although this book could have been set anywhere the author is French – it is definitely French!
Merci mille fois.

Fidelma O
I’m only 20 pages in, cried a lot.

Michael D
I read Lie With Me as did a few friends my age (75). We are all gay and the story was heartbreaking because gay people my age had, for the most part, a lost youth with respect to falling in love. We were too closeted, afraid and lonely to chance connecting with another young gay person to date even if we had known where to find one. Even if a first love doesn’t last, we all crave that magic which sometimes only comes once in a lifetime but to have never been allowed to have that makes me, at times, mourn that loss of youthful opportunity.

Tomi S
I just finished Lie with Me by Philippe Besson. Learning a bit about the author I understand better why France is reading the book. This is not a comment to be taken one way or another. I have just never heard of him previously. Yes, I was impressed. Please advise when you would like our comments on the book. Thanks, and do keep us up on what’s being read in France and Europe.

Elisabeth S
Finished reading the book in French a couple of days ago, and reading it in English now.
And yes, the English title is wonderful.
Lots in here about the notion of lying – to the world and to oneself. And I took notes on all of the references to writing, and to whether a writer always makes things up.
More deeper thoughts on all of this later, and I may have a very personal perspective on this narrative, since I was married to a closeted gay man for over twenty years (he is still around, we are divorced, and good friends, he’s out of the closet, but I’d say, only halfway.)

Oh, and it reminded me, once more, of those lyrics from Elvis Costello’s song, “Accidents Will Happen”: “It’s the words that we don’t say that scare me so.”

Jacqueline D
I was so afraid this book would not get such positive and heartfelt feedback from the members -readers because of its description as a ‘coming out ‘ story and that it might not be of particular interest. And it’s the complete opposite that is happening. I’m extremely touched and enthused by the comments and can’t particularly wait for yours to come. Thanks a lot Elisabeth.

Alisa L #spoileralert
I just finished the book in French and here are my thoughts, for what they are worth. (Spoiler alert!) First, I think that the French title is much better and really sets the tone for what the book is: a lie, and a lie of exactly the sort that his mother told him <just stop with your lies> when he would tell stories. The word <mensonge> in the French title has nothing to do with the reclining kind of lying and for good reason.

Second, although the language is excellent, I sort of lost interest toward the end of the first section when it became rather Proustian – many words about very little. I would have stopped but I had peeked ahead and thought the next section might pick up the pace, so I continued. (Also, I had just finished another of his books, ‘Dîner en Montréal’ which I absolutely loved, so I gave him another chance.) I do think that the writing here is a bit self-indulgent in places, but that is just me.

Third, I cried rivers at the end before I realized that IT WAS ALL A LIE! and then I was angry at him and at myself for having fallen for it. The first section, the relationship with Thomas, may have been true, at least en gros.

But, given the rest of the story, I suspect that at least some of even that was fantasy, and it is worth considering what might have been real and what might have been false about that part. But the rest? The magical meeting with Lucas? Really?!?!? That never happened, IMHO. Besson tells us over and over in the book that he is really good at lying. That he loves to make up stories about strangers that he sees in public. That he loves to imagine these stories. And the second two sections are his imagination. He has no idea what happened to his first love, and this book is his way of tying up that loose end with … a lie. A story. To himself and to us. So, a beautifully written book (mostly), but for me, the interest is in wondering why he chose this particular lie to imagine the end of Thomas’ life. He imagined that he committed suicide after many years of marriage to a woman. And a particularly violent suicide, a hanging. (And there were also other details, of course.) Compare this to the Dîner à Montréal where he meets up with an old lover who deserted him to go back to a woman with whom he has since had a good but… life. And remember that Besson is insistent in all his books that they are fiction, that he is a romancier… and yet here is this very unusual link between these two books that I think is worth thinking about.

I am off to the librairie today to buy another of his books. If this one had been longer and I had more investment in it, I would feel over-manipulated. But for a short novella, I shrugged my shoulders and got over my indignation.

Jacqueline D #spoileralert
Wow, your comment is triggering thoughts and opens to debating. I am not so categorical about the title, as I like the pun in English that is misleading but the whole book is ! we can discuss reality vs appearances, what is a lie, what is memory, what is a confession; in the end it’s the story/narrative that counts, not the truth of it. It’s not journalism. It reminds me of The Confessions by Rousseau, at the beginning, he warns the reader that all is true and that nobody else had already tried to embark on this journey … when in fact he lied a lot. ‘Je forme une entreprise qui n’eut jamais d’exemple et dont l’exécution n’aura point d’imitateur. Je veux montrer à mes semblables un homme dans toute la vérité de la nature; et cet homme, ce sera moi.‘ There is currently a violent controversy on the French literary scene on this topic surrounding publication of Yann Moix new book, a childhood memoir ‘Orleans’ , his family claiming he lied about them beating him. However, critics agree it might be his best book. I think that Philippe Besson has a bigger than life that needs to be loved and that whoever fails to, is doomed and dies (in his imagination!).

Alisa L
Jacqueline Dubois And yet…this one is presented to us as autobiography…or do we just assume that, because the subject matter, in the first person, leads us to believe that? Why would someone write a fake memoir about first homosexual love? (Well, why would they not?) And, the dedication to Thomas Andrieu with years/dates, but why are those dates or names necessarily anything but fiction also? I read a few reviews before reading the novella and the reviewers assumed it was a memoir. But nowhere does Besson claim that it is a true story. In fact, the prefatory pages indicate just the opposite. When I re-read those pages, struck (as intended) by the repetition later in the book when he meets Lucas, it became obvious.

Jacqueline D
Alisa Bearov Landrum So did Rousseau, that’s why in the end it’s the narrative which is important not the search for truth. I agree that in this case, it’s very confusing. At the beginning I thought that giving so much information (name etc) on another person was quite unethical, this could have been an indication of the first lie!

Alisa L
Jacqueline D, Except that Thomas is dead (we know that from the dedication at the beginning), and his son has given permission – that is stated clearly. Besson covered his tracks well to avoid our suspicions!

Alisa L
Jacqueline D, I think also of the English books that are presented as a memoir but are not: Tristram Shandy, Robinson Crusoe…really any first-person narrative. The difference is that these are fanciful and no one could reasonably take them for truth. I think that it is the subject matter – and knowing that Besson is a homosexual – that leads us to believe the truth of his story. It is only after the reading that reflection leads us to the understanding that it was a mensonge. And for such an emotionally wrenching story…that is my indignation. The tears I shed were for a person who I believed existed, not the sort of tears one sheds for a good story.

Jacqueline D
You’re right but it still seems awkward to me, especially as regards the topic re- coming out.

Jacqueline D
Alisa L, All the more interesting, we can be made to believe anything and particularly by politics …

Alisa L
Jacqueline D, exactly.

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About the Contributor

Jacqueline Dubois Pasquier

After teaching for 20 years abroad, I mostly live now in Paris, where I feel both like a native and an expat. I enjoy being part of My French Life™ as it makes my life in Paris even more meaningful and special. I have a passion for literature and movies. I share my thoughts in my blog and on twitter.”

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