The New Dragon’s Summer Reads

Get to know your editors and what they’ve been reading this summer

photo by Marcus Cheah (@marcuscheah)

As the autumn semester approaches, and summer draws to a close, many students from the Le Havre campus are indulging themselves in some holiday reading. Perhaps you have made a start on the Sciences Po summer reading list, perhaps you have been reading to own tastes, or perhaps not at all. Regardless, the four new editors at Le Dragon Déchaîné thought it would be an opportune moment to introduce ourselves, and tell you what we’ve been reading this summer.

Leesa Ko

An American second year student and one of the new editors- in- chief for the radio section, Leesa joined LDD last year after writing a short piece on her solo travels and producing a music podcast with one of last year’s editors and infamous party animals, Pierre Bucaille. Between her perhaps excessive load of extracurriculars, Leesa can probably be found on campus asking too many questions, laughing obnoxiously, or caressing her new tattoo whom she’s affectionately named Noelia. She’s been reading…

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

“History has failed us, but no matter.”

The opening line of Pachinko reflects the devastating impact and raw honesty of the novel, a multigenerational story of a Korean family during and after the 35-year forced Japanese occupation of the peninsula. The story follows the Baek family as they incessentally fight to overcome in a time and place where the odds were in favor of achieving anything but.

For me, Pachinko brought me closer to my roots as I gained a keener awareness and empathy of the unimaginable hardships that my own family was forced to confront during the occupation, as well as the ongoing challenges they continue to face as a result of this period. Nonetheless, this book discusses universal themes such as family, identity and discrimination, within a historical context that is underrepresented in English-language literature.

Author Min Jin Lee skillfully strikes a balance between crafting a calculated account of a winding historical saga while avoiding the often drawn out descriptions common to such writings, and creating a humanising intimacy in the development of such vivid and complex characters. Perhaps some of this can be attributed to her having spent 30 years on the book, but it’s evident that Lee has achieved a literary feat with her literary triumph, Pachinko, which was a 2017 finalist for the National Book Award for fiction.

Philippe Andreas Bédos

Philippe is from Oslo, Norway and one of the new editors-in-chief for radio at Le Dragon. He majors in Politics & Government and is studying Chinese. He is also the P.R. Manager of the Bureau Des Élèves and an avid sportsman, part of the campus football, rugby and karate clubs. He enjoys listening to bossa nova music and quoting philosophers he has actually never read. You will often hear him using directly translated Norwegian expressions such as: “Goodbye on the bathroom, you old chocolate!” , or “I had my beard in the mailbox”. He’s been reading…

Au Revoir Là-Haut (The Great Swindle) by Pierre Lemaitre

The fate of two French soldiers, Édouard Péricourt and Albert Maillard, is decided in the final moments of World War I, as their ranking officer, Henri D’Aulnay Pradelle launches a daring offensive to ensure his social ascension once the fighting ends. After saving Albert’s life, Édouard is in turn saved by Albert. When Édouard later wakes up in the hospital, he discovers his jaw has been torn off by a shell blast.

The sad and beautiful story of Maillard and Péricourt’s friendship is a true adventure through post-war French society. Rich with humour, it centers on a plan to fool the whole country into buying fake monuments to the dead and fleeing as well as the scandal of Pradelle’s mix-up of thousands of entombed soldiers.

Pierre Lemaître draws you 100 years back in time to a society that has since profoundly changed, yet the characters and their aspirations are uncannily familiar. The story is bitter yet compelling and filled with historical detail.

The novel explores the strong social codification and stratification of the time, via investigations of Édouard’s family’s relations; focusing notably on the complex relationship with his father, who realises all too late he truly loved his son, a particularly endearing character. As he realizes what has become of his once delicate face, Edouard convinces Albert to provide him with a new identity and hides his disfigurement by making beautiful and oniric masks of all kinds, filled with color and imagination. He meets his misfortune with irony and flamboyance.

The book won Lemaître the 2013 edition of the Prix Goncourt.

You can also find the movie adaptation in theatres now. (93 % on Rotten Tomatoes / 7,6/10 on IMDb)

Maya Shenoy

Maya is an American second year student and is one of the new editors-in-chief for the print section at Le Dragon. She majors in Political Humanities and is also co-captain of LBGTQ club and Quizbowl. You will most likely catch her off campus, in the Bibliothèque Niemeyer or Columbus Café, laughing at her own jokes as subtly as possible. She’s been reading…

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

This book had been sitting on my shelf since I half-started it at sixteen. After having been recommended to me by a dear teacher from high school, I had left it untouched. My teacher had called the story, centered on the fraternity and perseverance of the American coxed-eight rowing team (largely from rural Washington State) in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, nothing short of “life-changing.”

With some time on my hands (and the promise of transformational content), I was able to dive back into the book over May and June. The book found me at an opportune moment – uninspired and seeking purpose. I found myself instantly taken by the story of protagonist Joe Rantz, his turbulent childhood and mandated independence (after having been told to fend for himself by a complicated stepmother), and his unshaking determination to the sport, bettering his life, family, and his wife, Joyce. The camaraderie with the diverse group of men in the boat, whilst it had been the advertised selling point, was for me only the second most compelling part of the story.

While Brown paints an intimate portrait of the team he, curiously, weaves in quotes by the famed shellmaker George Yeoman Pocock (who fashioned their boat on his campus workshop). Initially, the reflections of Pocock that open every chapter seemed superfluous to the story (though no less interesting). But it was these reflections, on character, on teamwork, and on grit that stuck with me the most. Brown elegantly and subtly shows us, with the near-spiritual reflections of Pocock then embodied by the actions of this boat of men, the importance of a strong network – a strong team – and sheer determination in sport and life.

The language is clear and concise, Brown does not delve into meta-analysis to feign significance. Instead, the grandness of the sheer facts and the poignancy of Pocock’s thoughts propel the book (more accurately, the story or events) into a Chariots of Fire-caliber tale of extraordinary people, courage, and drive.

Pailey Wang

Pailey is an Australian second year student, and is one of the new editors-in-chief for print at Le Dragon. He majors in Politics and Government, and is also the incumbent Public Relations Officer of the Bureau des Arts. You will often find him wandering the halls of campus, looking for someone to go to Resto-U with. He’s been reading…

Fifty Years of Constitutional Evolution in France: The 2008 Amendments and Beyond by Martin Rogoff

Some students seem to adjust to the rhythm of undergraduate studies better than others; finding a sensible balance between university work and leisure, which among other things, includes the type of wide and explorative reading one should indulge themselves in during these still formative years. I seemingly was not one of those students, the only image the words ‘work / life balance’ conjure up for me is the ability to make it to the lecture hall. So, when my delightful co-editors decided on an ‘exciting’ book review for our first piece of the new semester, my reaction was somewhat muted. In spite of this, I am not one to let down the team, so here-in you will find my review of the first thirteen pages of ‘Fifty Years of Constitutional Evolution in France: The 2008 Amendments and Beyond’ by Martin A. Rogoff, the shortest of the readings that I will have to do reasonably soon anyway for my constitutional law lecture.

It is approaching twenty minutes since I started reading, and I haven’t made it through the one-page abstract. I feel like Professor Rogoff is trying to explain a nuanced and important concept, which I have thus far completely failed to comprehend. His picture, attached to his page on the Maine University of Law directory, has not helped me. His gaze penetrates me with seething disappointment.

Reaching the beginning of the introduction on the second page, I find myself thoroughly impressed by the extent of the footnoting, three quarters of the page at least. I breeze through the three lines of body on said page, and I feel as though I am making great strides.

The third page reads as easily as the second, the extensive footnoting has helped me once again. Though it slightly worries me when my mate prof. Rogoff tells me to ‘see’, among other things, a ‘short collection of essays’; my gut tells me that the word ‘short’ is being used liberally. I much prefer Rogoff’s footnotes which, correctly, assume my general ignorance of modern French history and chime in little helpful tidbits. Wishing I knew more about Algeria, I suddenly make the dire realisation that I have only made it to page 5. My initial delight at the length of the footnotes was misplaced, our good friend Rogoff is jamming more and more background information in, and I feel decieved by the smaller type.

Many thoughts went through my mind over the next few pages, few were about constitutional law. They mostly revolved around Charles de Gaulle and all the things I would rather be doing. After considerable effort, and altogether too much time, I did eventually finish. Highlights: I feel like I increased the flow of blood to my brain for the first time in a while. Low points: See Rogoff, M. (2011). Fifty Years of Constitutional Evolution in France: The 2008 Amendments and Beyond. SSRN Electronic Journal, pp.1-13.


Author: Le Dragon Déchaîné

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