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The Symbolism and Style of Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel


Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel: A Review




Monsieur Linh and His Child is a novella by French author Philippe Claudel, originally published in French in 2005 and translated into English in 2011. It is the story of an unexpected friendship between two men: Monsieur Linh, a refugee who has fled his unnamed homeland in Asia after it was ravaged by war, and Monsieur Bark, who is grieving the recent death of his wife. The novella explores the themes of friendship, loneliness, war, displacement, memory and identity through a simple yet poignant style and structure. In this review, I will summarize the plot, analyze the main themes, and evaluate the style and structure of the novella.




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Introduction




Monsieur Linh and His Child is a novella by French author Philippe Claudel, originally published in French in 2005 and translated into English in 2011. It is the story of an unexpected friendship between two men: Monsieur Linh, a refugee who has fled his unnamed homeland in Asia after it was ravaged by war, and Monsieur Bark, who is grieving the recent death of his wife. The novella explores the themes of friendship, loneliness, war, displacement, memory and identity through a simple yet poignant style and structure. In this review, I will summarize the plot, analyze the main themes, and evaluate the style and structure of the novella.


Summary of the plot




The novella begins with Monsieur Linh arriving in France with other "boat people", clutching a flimsy suitcase and a newborn baby. All those who knew his name are dead. He fled after his son and daughter-in-law were killed in the war ravaging his homeland that destroyed his village. His infant grandchild, Sang diû, became the sole reason for going on, after he found her on the ground beside her doll, whose head was blown off in a bomb blast.


Monsieur Linh is taken to a refugee center where he feels lost and isolated. He does not speak or understand French, and he has no friends or relatives among the other refugees. He spends his days walking around the city with Sang diû wrapped in a shawl. One day, he meets Monsieur Bark on a park bench. Monsieur Bark is a widower who lives alone with his dog. He is lonely and depressed since his wife died of cancer. He also does not speak or understand Monsieur Linh's language, but he senses his sadness and offers him a cigarette.


From then on, Monsieur Linh and Monsieur Bark meet every day on the same bench. They communicate through gestures, smiles, nods, and sounds. They share their stories, their memories, their hopes, and their fears. They become friends despite their differences. They find comfort and solace in each other's presence.


However, their friendship is threatened when Monsieur Linh is moved to another refugee center far away from the city. He manages to escape with Sang diû and finds his way back to Monsieur Bark's bench. But he is chased by the police who think he is a kidnapper or a terrorist. He runs away with Sang diû until he reaches a bridge over a river. There he meets Monsieur Bark again who has followed him. They embrace each other as friends.


But then, the novella reveals a shocking twist. Sang diû is not a real baby, but a doll. The real Sang diû died in the same bomb blast that killed her parents. Monsieur Linh has been hallucinating her presence all along, as a way of coping with his trauma and grief. Monsieur Bark knew this, but he never told him. He respected his illusion and his love for his grandchild. He accepted him as he was.


The novella ends with Monsieur Linh and Monsieur Bark jumping into the river together, holding Sang diû. They drown, but they die as friends.


Analysis of the main themes




Friendship and loneliness




One of the main themes of the novella is friendship and loneliness. Both Monsieur Linh and Monsieur Bark are lonely and isolated in their own ways. They have lost their loved ones and their sense of belonging. They have no one to talk to or to share their feelings with. They are strangers in a strange land.


But they find each other and form a bond that transcends language, culture, and age. They become friends who understand and support each other. They offer each other kindness, compassion, and companionship. They make each other laugh and smile. They give each other hope and courage.


The novella shows that friendship is a powerful force that can overcome loneliness and despair. It also shows that friendship does not require words or commonalities. It only requires empathy and respect. As Monsieur Bark says to Monsieur Linh: "You're my friend, you know that? You're my friend even if I don't understand a word you say" .


War and displacement




Another main theme of the novella is war and displacement. The novella depicts the devastating effects of war on individuals and societies. War destroys lives, families, homes, and cultures. War causes pain, suffering, trauma, and death.


Monsieur Linh is a victim of war who has lost everything he had. He is forced to flee his homeland and seek refuge in a foreign country where he feels alienated and unwelcome. He is haunted by the memories of his past and the horrors of his present. He is a survivor who struggles to adapt to a new reality.


The novella also shows the plight of refugees who are often marginalized and discriminated against by the host society. They are seen as threats or burdens rather than as human beings who need help and protection. They are denied their rights and dignity. They are subjected to violence and injustice.


The novella challenges the stereotypes and prejudices that surround refugees. It humanizes them and gives them a voice. It shows their resilience and courage in the face of adversity. It also shows their hopes and dreams for a better future.


Memory and identity




A third main theme of the novella is memory and identity. The novella explores how memory shapes identity and how identity is affected by memory loss or distortion.


Monsieur Linh's memory is both his strength and his weakness. On one hand, his memory preserves his identity as a father, a grandfather, a husband, a farmer, and a citizen of his homeland. His memory keeps him connected to his roots and his culture. His memory gives him meaning and purpose.


On the other hand, his memory also torments him with the images of his losses and his traumas. His memory prevents him from moving on and healing from his wounds. His memory creates an illusion that he cannot let go of.


Monsieur Linh's identity is also challenged by his displacement and his language barrier. He feels like he does not belong anywhere or to anyone. He feels like he has no name or no voice. He feels like he has no identity.


But he finds a new identity in his friendship with Monsieur Bark. He finds someone who accepts him for who he is, not for where he comes from or what he speaks. He finds someone who listens to him, even if he does not understand him. He finds someone who gives him a name: "Monsieur Linh" .


Evaluation of the style and structure




Simplicity and clarity




The novella is written in a simple yet clear style that conveys the emotions and thoughts of the characters without being overly descriptive or sentimental. The language is straightforward and accessible, reflecting the simplicity and innocence of the protagonists.


the communication and the misunderstanding between the characters. The tone is conversational and informal, creating a sense of intimacy and authenticity.


Symbolism and imagery




The novella uses symbolism and imagery to enhance the meaning and the impact of the story. The most obvious symbol is Sang diû, the doll that represents Monsieur Linh's grandchild and his illusion. Sang diû is a symbol of life and death, of love and loss, of hope and despair. She is also a symbol of the fragility and the resilience of the human spirit.


Another symbol is the park bench where Monsieur Linh and Monsieur Bark meet every day. The bench is a symbol of friendship and solidarity, of comfort and refuge, of stability and continuity. It is also a symbol of the contrast and the connection between nature and culture, between the past and the present, between the East and the West.


The novella also uses imagery to create vivid pictures in the reader's mind. The imagery appeals to the senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. For example, the novella describes Monsieur Linh's homeland as "a land of rice fields and tea plantations, a land where people lived in wooden houses on stilts" . It also describes Monsieur Bark's wife as "a woman who smelled of roses and fresh bread" . The imagery helps to create a sense of realism and emotion in the story.


Surprise and suspense




The novella also uses surprise and suspense to keep the reader engaged and intrigued. The novella builds up suspense by withholding information and creating mystery around Monsieur Linh's past and Sang diû's identity. The reader wonders what happened to Monsieur Linh's family, why he fled his country, what war he is talking about, and who Sang diû really is.


The novella also surprises the reader by revealing a twist at the end that changes everything. The twist is that Sang diû is not a real baby, but a doll. This revelation shocks the reader and makes them question everything they have read before. It also makes them empathize more with Monsieur Linh's pain and madness.


The twist also adds a layer of irony and tragedy to the story. It shows that Monsieur Linh's friendship with Monsieur Bark was based on a lie, but also on a truth. It shows that Monsieur Bark knew his secret, but respected his choice. It shows that Monsieur Linh died with his friend, but also with his grandchild.


Conclusion




Monsieur Linh and His Child by Philippe Claudel is a touching and powerful novella that explores the themes of friendship, loneliness, war, displacement, memory and identity through a simple yet poignant style and structure. The novella tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two men who have lost everything: Monsieur Linh, a refugee who has fled his war-torn homeland with his grandchild Sang diû; and Monsieur Bark, a widower who lives alone with his dog. The novella uses symbolism, imagery, surprise and suspense to create a realistic and emotional story that challenges the stereotypes and prejudices that surround refugees. The novella also reveals a shocking twist at the end that changes the perspective and the meaning of the story. The novella is a moving and memorable read that will stay with you long after you finish it.


FAQs





  • Q: What is the genre of Monsieur Linh and His Child?



  • A: The novella can be classified as literary fiction or contemporary fiction. It can also be considered as a fable or a parable.



  • Q: What is the setting of Monsieur Linh and His Child?



  • A: The novella does not specify the exact time or place of the story. However, it can be inferred that it takes place in France in the late 20th or early 21st century. It can also be inferred that Monsieur Linh's homeland is somewhere in South-East Asia, possibly Vietnam.



  • Q: What is the point of view of Monsieur Linh and His Child?



  • A: The novella is written in third-person omniscient point of view. This means that the narrator knows everything about all the characters and their thoughts and feelings.



  • Q: What is the tone of Monsieur Linh and His Child?



  • A: The tone of the novella is mostly sad and melancholic, reflecting the mood of the characters and their situation. However, there are also moments of humor and warmth, especially in the interactions between Monsieur Linh and Monsieur Bark.



  • Q: What is the message of Monsieur Linh and His Child?



  • A: The novella has several messages that can be interpreted differently by different readers. Some possible messages are: friendship can overcome any barrier; refugees are human beings who deserve respect and compassion; war is a senseless and destructive force that affects everyone; memory is a double-edged sword that can heal or hurt; love is stronger than death.



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