Book 10/196: France
“The reader on the 6.27” by Jean Paul Didier-Laurent is the French contribution to my project: Reading the World and is thus the 10th book in this context. I picked it up in an English small-town bookshop, because I liked the cover and found the plot interesting – it was also compared to Amelie, which is a form of storytelling that I enjoy.
“The reader on the 6.27” is about a man who commutes to work and every morning, he brings with him scraps of paper with writing on it. Scraps he has saved from the big monster machine at his workplace, where books are shredded, dismembered and incinerated. It doesn’t matter to him whether or not he has an audience and it also does not matter what he reads and that it is only parts of things like recipes, diaries, fiction, poetry and schoolbooks etc.
One day he finds a memory stick containing journal entries and he proceeds to read a part of the journal, written by a young lady, and he suddenly finds himself with a new purpose, on a mission to find her. She works at a shopping center, tending the public bathrooms. Her existence is much like his and he finds comfort in reading about her daily life. With the help of his, limited, friends the search begins and new hope for a more diverse and exciting life is born.
We learn of the struggles of the people he encounters, and I shall not spoil it all here, as some of the stories are indeed moving.
The characters in this book are some of the most well-rounded I have encountered in literature. At first they seem odd and one-dimensional but you really get a feeling of who they are and it didn’t take me long to envision them as fully fledged people with hearts, minds and dreams. The universe in itself seems monotone yet has a strange melodic harmony to it when you read it. It is well orchestrated with high and low points throughout the plot and it weaves the actions and characters together in a profoundly poetic way, although it is slightly tragicomic in a romantic way.
The contrasts between the workplace and the love of reading and books in general is simple yet brilliant. I appreciated the aesthetics in this book, despite it not being ‘too artistic’ as I would still consider it to be a light read. The many stories within the plot, serves a higher, common purpose, which is to tell the reader, both the man in the story, those he reads for and the readers outside the book, us, about one simple yet astoundingly complex thing – love. Love, not as a grandiose and gigglefilled experience, not as intercourse or lust, not as being in love necessarily but love as a means of being the fullest version of yourself, either in combination with others or through other means. This love, described here, is a somewhat melancholy feeling of missing something, loving something at a distance and working towards fulfillment. Not having it, is in the end what gives us hope and this, for me, is one of the important lessons in this book. We all need something to dream about and look forward to, be it the morning commute, the next book, the lunch break or meeting our beloved.
One of the characters speaks only in verse and this was incredibly hilarious on several levels as I could both identify with him and at the same time I could not. It gave the story even more depth and the great thing about this character was, that you could either choose to read it searching for those references, or merely read it for what it was.
This is a funny, romantic and simply beautiful book and it gave me immense joy whilst reading it – I can only recommend it, especially if you like Amelie or anything similar to that.
French simplicity of complex storytelling at its finest!