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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.