Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Holden Caulfield En Français

Lost Books

Print Email

“Lost Books” is a weekly series highlighting forgotten books through the prism of Tablet Magazine’s and’s archives. So, blow the dust off the cover, and begin!

Three years ago, Benjamin Nugent highlighted The Swallower Swallowed (L’Avaleé des avalés), a novel published when its author, Réjean Ducharme, was only 25. (He has written several novels since and still exhibits his art under a pseudonym at Montreal galleries.) If you can read it in the original French, Nugent says, you should: It was rightly a Prix Goncourt finalist, but its sole English translation doesn’t really hold up.

The Swallower Swallowed‘s heroine, Bérénice Einberg, is an extremely twisted, bizarrely Jewish, violent, and perhaps perverted Holden Caulfield. In other words, you may want to learn French in order to read L’Avaleé des avalés. Writes Nugent:

When her father sends her away to live in a strict Orthodox household in New York City, the boys in her Hebrew school fall in love with her and thus bring misfortune upon themselves—she shoves one of them down the stairs and watches him bounce “like a rubber ball.” This is the mistake that gets Bérénice shipped back home to Canada, where her obsessive love for her older brother Christian, with whom she hopes to revisit the relative freedom of childhood, compels her father to ship her off to the Israeli army. There, at war with the Arabs, she commits a crime against another Jew—again, one who loves her—that makes her an anti-heroine in her own eyes, even as she lies about it. She can no longer pretend she has not been swallowed by an organization. “They believed me,” she writes of her Israeli superior officers, after dutifully giving them her alibi. “A heroine was what they needed.”

To have understood this about Israel in 1966 is to have been prescient indeed.

Read Swallowed Whole by Benjamin Nugent.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

As I read this article,this is a story about a Jewish girl from a strict Orthodox home who has an older brother, presumably also Jewish, named Christian. Something is missing here?

Réjean Ducharme work is very difficult to translate but Will Browning makes a valiant and brilliant effort in our recent publication (MISS TAKE) of his translation of Ducharme’s LE NEZ QUI VOQUE .


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Holden Caulfield En Français

Lost Books

More on Tablet:

A Grandfather’s Hidden Love Letters From Nazi Germany Reveal a Buried Past

By Vox Tablet — Reporter Sarah Wildman’s grandfather escaped Vienna in 1938. Long after he died, she discovered the life—and lover—he left behind.