Ici commence un amour by Simon Johannin

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Ici commence un amour is a story about love, but it is also a story about grief and class and growing up, about trying to be a writer and a man and a person. It’s tender and restless and vicious at times. It reminded me of Sheila Heti in certain ways and of Edouard Louis in others. Like his protagonist, Théo, Johannin is from Marseille, and the book feels steeped in the city, exposing its contradictions and hypocrisies, its particular brand of politics, its staggering wealth inequality, its thriving culture, and brutish repression. 

Violence threads through the novel. For a story about a young writer navigating the foibles of the literary scene, it is startlingly raw and sharp and in tune with the world. Gloria, the love of the title, is less a muse than a woman. The story is narrated in second person at times, like a letter addressed to her, which I found jarring at first but which is woven neatly into the narrative fabric. Johannin writes in clear language, which is often colloquial, but which easily shifts registers from affectless to emotive. 

Johannin is young and immensely talented. An exciting writer to watch for the future. 

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Miriam Gordis is a bookseller and English language buyer at Albertine. She previously worked in book publishing, most recently as a literary scout. She has served as a reader for the Whiting Award for Nonfiction and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award. Originally from California, she has worked as a legal translator in Paris and as a copyeditor in Moscow. She is a lover of non-fiction, visual art, pilates, and sunshine.
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