What the Swedes Read

A Reader Makes His Way Through One Book By Each Nobel Laureate

by Daniel Handler
  • LAUREATE: Anatole France (France, 1921)
  • BOOK READ: The Gods Will Have Blood, translated by Frederick Davies

It is with some embarrassment that your humble columnist must admit that he was a bit confused about the 1921 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. OK, OK: I thought he was a fictional character. I think I had him confused with Anthony Adverse. On reading the name “Anatole France,” I pictured a guy in a peasant blouse, half fop and half swashbuckler. If you’d told me that Anatole France was played by Errol Flynn in some breathtaking Technicolor production, not only would I have believed you, but I would have thought I’d seen the thing. “Unhand her, you lout! Unhand her in the name of Anatole France!

Anatole France turns out—and I’m sure everyone knew this but me—to be a French poet and writer, whose best-known work is Les dieux ont soif, a novel the title of which has been translated variously as The Gods Are Thirsty, The Gods Are Athirst, and The Gods Will Have Blood, which cumulatively sounded to me, as I chose what to read, like the studio, live, and remixed versions of some death-metal album.

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Daniel Handler writes books under his own name and as Lemony Snicket.

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