Paperback of the week
The Patagonian Hare Claude Lanzmann, Atlantic Books, £9.99
This memoir by the French writer and film-maker is a perfect illustration of Flaubert’s warning in his novel Madame Bovary about never touching your heroes lest the gilt should come off in your hands. Lanzmann has been a hero to me ever since I first watched his extraordinary nine-and-a-half-hour Holocaust documentary, Shoah. But I could certainly have lived without the acres of creepy detail he feels the need to provide, in these 500-plus pages, about his romantic dealings chez Simone de Beauvoir and the Jean-Paul Sartre set – chez, indeed, pretty much every woman he ever met. Lanzmann’s tales from Nazi-occupied Paris, where he and his father were genuinely heroic Resistance fighters, are riveting, and his pen pictures of the movers and shakers in French postwar literary and artistic life are revealing and often viciously amusing. Like Shoah itself, The Patagonian Hare is hard to stomach but impossible to ignore.