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Persian edition of the book released  by Beh-Sokhan
Art And Culture

New Persian Edition of ‘ The Great Swindle’

The Great Swindle (in original French: ‘Au revoir la-haut’), a novel by globally known French crime writer Pierre Lemaitre, 66, is rendered in Persian by  translator Parviz Shahdi and released by the Tehran-based publishing house  Beh-Sokhan.

It is the second Persian translation of the book released in Iran; the first was  by Iranian poet and literary translator Mahasti Bahreyni, 79, which was released last year by Mahi Publication, Mehr News Agency reported.

Shahdi, 81, studied comparative literature at Sorbonne University, spent 10 years in France and returned to Iran in 1984. After retirement, he was free to start professional translation from literary masterpieces mostly in French.

From among over 40 translations, the Great Swindle is Shahdi’s latest work. It is said to be a hallmark of WWI novels in which Germans are not the most immediate enemy.  The story is about a Machiavellian struggle between a corrupt French officer class and the browbeaten infantrymen under their command.

The engrossing novel was the 2013 winner of French top literature award Prix Goncourt. It focuses on the immediate aftermath of the war.

Heavy on extravagant characterization, kaleidoscopic description, third-person omniscient analysis, occasional first-person authorial digression, moral accounting and dissections of motivations, thoughts and prejudices of its protagonists, the book is rich in detail immersing the reader in its elaborately bleak world, The New York Times said in a review of the book.

 Plot

Most front-line soldiers long to go home, but some commanders seize a last chance to enhance their reputations by advancing a bit farther on the battlefield.

So Pradelle, as everyone calls the lieutenant, sends two of his men out toward enemy lines.

Albert Maillard, a bank teller turned soldier, sees that the men have been shot in the back and realizes that Pradelle killed them to goad the troops into battle.

Pradelle tries to bury his crime by pushing Albert into a deep pit; Albert nearly suffocates; but another soldier, Edouard Pericourt, rescues him and is hit in the face by a chunk of shrapnel. Then the war ends.

Now Edouard lacks a lower jaw, smokes cigarettes through his nostrils and survives on morphine and heroin. Albert, after being buried alive with a putrefying horse, copes with flashbacks by donning a mask of the horse.

Edouard, creator of the therapeutic horse’s head, also designs masks for his own mutilated face. The purpose is not to hide his gaping wound, but to express an idealized self: a pretty pink mouth set in a slightly condescending sneer, with two faded autumn leaves glued high up on the cheeks that looked like tears.

Pradelle, as pompous and ambitious as he is evil, embarks on a cynical plan to marry Edouard’s well-connected sister and carry out a business scheme involving wartime graves and the reburial of soldiers’ remains.

“The whole country was gripped by a frenzied desire to commemorate those who had died that was directly proportional to its revulsion for those who survived,” Lemaitre wrote about the book.

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