10 November 2017
HTBS’s Hélène Rémond has read a new book with 26 short stories about rowing.
Benoît Decock’s first book, whose title Fausses Pelles refers to the technical error when an oar catches a crab, was published in October 2016 by Salto éditions. This publishing house was founded in 2015 in South France, the first one in the country dedicated exclusively to sports literature. Fausses Pelles sold well and went out of stock very quickly, as it gained huge publicity due to its selection for the Prix Goncourt in May 2017. Decock’s short stories ended up in second place in its category but got multiple distinctions and good reviews by renowned journalists and writers alike. A new edition has just been printed with a new cover design in October 2017.
The author, who is an old rowing champion, has been inspired by his own experience when he trained on the river Oise at the Sport Nautique Compiègnois rowing club (SNC), Compiègne, in the Paris region. After studies in history, he has been working at Sports Service in the city, while coaching young rowers.
‘A sweeping impressionistic epic,’ according to the book’s editor, ‘full of colourful portraits and low-key atmosphere in which the main character shares his disappointments or catches a crab.’
The main character in these short stories is Pierre, a great lover of freedom, who indulges his passion for rowing and the riverside. The reader witnesses the course of his life as a child, a teenager and an adult, confronted with the requirements of the sport and winning victories as well as facing defeats. He has to deal with both wounds and damages in the sport and on a personal level, but he’s doing alright for himself.
The epigraph of Fausses Pelles quotes a passage from the short story entitled “Fly” (“Mouche”) by Guy de Maupassant and sums it all:
For ten years, the Seine was my only, my absorbing passion. Ah, that beautiful, calm, diversified and stinking river, full of mirage and filth. I think I loved it so much because it seemed to give me a sense of life.
The book is a real page-turner as you want to follow Pierre’s paddles and immerse yourself in the depiction of the impressionistic setting, and experience this sense of flowing away.
The 26 short stories are flooded with depth and humour and set the pace of the book. They show the writer’s skills for cadence and clever metaphors. Of course, they echo situations every rower has gone through, but it also carries away the reader, who might not be accustomed to rowing, towards a poetic and meditative or competitive world – all the more so, as the very few but necessary technical terms are made explicit at the bottom of the pages.
Rumour has it, that it could become a classic, like H. M. van den Brink’s novel On the Water. The international reader might be looking forward to a translation in Thomas Eakins’s own language whereas a translation in Dutch is currently under negotiation in the Netherlands.
Follow the news about the book and the author by checking Facebook and in December, you will discover whether Fausses Pelles has been selected for the Sport Scriptum Prize, the Prize of Best Sports Book of the year.
To read a full interview of Benoît Decock by editor Julien Bernard, go here.
For postage enquiries, go here.