Category Archives: Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

The Carousel of Desire by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt

the-carousel-of-desire-by-eric-emmanuel-schmitt Title: The Carousel of Desire
Author: Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt
Translated by: Howard Curtis, Katherine Gregor
Publisher: Europa Editions
ISBN: 9781609453466
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 672
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars

I knew the minute I started reading this book, I knew that it would be something different and I wouldn’t mind the fact that it was a tome and kinda tough to get by to initially. “The Carousel of Desire” is about desire – it is sometimes about misplaced eroticism, emotions which are all over the place, relationships that are not long-lasting and those that are have too many cracks in them and above all, it is about romance – free of any moral judgement and yet the kind that looks at human relationships intricately and without making them seem frivolous.

“The Carouse of Desire” is about regular people, stuck in situations beyond their control and how Eros plays its own tricks on their unassuming lives. At the heart of the story are human emotions and experiences and how humans, while being so flawed are the only ones sometimes who have all the chances at redemption – sometimes more than one as well. The human psyche when it comes down to class, love, race and community are brilliantly brought out by Schmitt and just for that I would recommend you read this book.

So, what is this book all about? A love note, that’s what it is about. A love note is delivered anonymously to each inhabitant of Piazza Guy d’Arezzo in Brussels one morning and that’s where it all begins. To me it was the characters, the plot and most of all the dialogues (which have a great blend of love and philosophy) that did it all to love this book. The telling of the story is visual – it is almost like watching a movie and you can see it all happening. To me that is also great storytelling by Schmitt and some great translation by Howard Curtis and Katherine Gregor. I think when reading a translation, you somehow know if a job is well-done or not or when it becomes more than a job and the passion is conveyed on paper. I could feel that while reading “The Carousel of Desire”.

Running between the major characters such as the powerful E.U. commissioner, a confused (almost) book publicist, a banker who is seemingly happily married, and a parrot loving strange woman amongst others, you will also meet some brilliant secondary characters that make for the heart of the story. Like I said earlier, there are no judgements in this story – there is no right or wrong, immoral or morals, something that should be done or should not be done. Schmitt lets his people be and more so makes them live their lives to the fullest, always questioning and always wanting to push themselves more.

As I age, I look out for books that are more fulfilling or those that will bring some comfort and not disappoint. I mean, honestly, you cannot go about reading bad books and pretend that they never happened. So when great books such as “The Carousel of Desire” happen, you take them with both arms and not let go.

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The Most Beautiful Book in the World: 8 Novellas by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt

The Most Beautiful Book in the World: 8 Novellas is a collection of eight modern fairy tales. In each of the novellas, a sense of the fantastic intertwines with the mundane, sometimes enchantingly, sometimes crudely but still beguilingly.

The title story, for instance, transports the reader into the midst of a women’s gulag during Soviet rule. Tatyana and others who bunk together are determined to smuggle out messages to their children — all daughters, coincidentally or not. The women naturally worry about what they should write their children who are now most likely wards of the State. With a limit on the precious amount they may write, they agonize over what is most important. Then, the prisoner considered by the others to be “the most scatter-brained of them all, the most sentimental, the least headstrong” stuns everyone by being the first to get her message down. She is at utter peace with her choice of words. The others can’t help feeling jealous and very curious. What did she write?

“The Most Beautiful Book in the World” packs a nice emotional punch. The conclusion, in its Epilogue in the year 2005, imparts a fitting epiphany about how we human beings can communicate immensities with but a few choice words. It is a lovely comedy in the classic definition of the term: there is a triumph over adverse circumstances.

Immediately before the gulag folktale, the collection’s longest selection (thirty pages) has its turn. The title character in “Odette Toulemonde” has “a talent: joy.” Odette excitedly goes to a bookstore to buy the new book of her favorite author, Balthazar Balsan, and to have him autograph it for her. Odette, a lower middle class widow with two jobs gets so tongue-tied when she meets him that she can’t even speak her own name properly. Balsan’s books, she believes, showed her that ” ‘ in every life, no matter how miserable, there are reasons to be happy, to laugh, to love.’ ” Balthazar, a wealthy man with a troubled marriage and young son who is taking too much after his old man, goes through his own identity crisis soon after this book signing. In true fairy tale form, he and Odette meet again. But when their attachment may be going too far, Odette tells Balthazar, ” ‘Our paths may cross, but we can no longer meet each other.” Will that be the end of them, or are they destined for more?


“Odette Toulemonde” tries to point the way to balanced living. In “Every Reason to be Happy” a woman discovers her husband isn’t the man she thought and she has to decide how she will handle the startling revelations. In “The Forgery” the ability to trust is tested by two women with very different results. And what would any set of fairy tales be without “A Barefoot Princess” who may not be what she seems?

The leitmotif being forwarded in THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK IN THE WORLD by the author, Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, is, arguably, that regardless of our histories, regardless of our economic status, regardless of our pettiness and self-centeredness, life often hands out teachable moments that can either make or break us. Truth, beauty, and especially happiness are ours if we possess the strength to see them everywhere.

Playwright, novelist, and short story/novella writer Schmitt, informs the reader in his Postscript, dated August 15, 2006, that he used free minutes between directing the screen version, Odette Toulemonde (original French ONLY Version No English Options)(for which he had also penned the screenplay), to write these stories. He explains that he’d been carrying them around in his “mind for a long time.” So, Schmitt didn’t have the luxury of endless hours in which to fine-tune his pacing or his prose. Although the plot ideas were pre-thought, his execution was impromptu. This unfinished quality accents each of the eight stories, and this insight about how these stories were written adds an intrinsic value to their recurrent “draft” feeling.

The back cover lauds Schmitt as “one of Europe’s most popular and best-selling authors.” Europa Editions is the first to publish short stories/novellas of his, translated by Alison Anderson. Schmitt’is fables — his fairy tales — give a tantalizing taste, but leave this reader wanting more. Some of his plays are available in English (Schmitt Plays: One (Contemporary Dramatists) (v. 1)), as is one other collection of novellas (Monsieur Ibrahim and the Flowers of the Koran & Oscar and the Lady in Pink) but what about his novels and other short stories? Perhaps we’ll see more of this author very soon…

Most Beautiful Book in the World The: 8 Novellas; Schmitt, Eric-Emmanuel; Europa Editions; $15.00