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Bij afwezigheid van mannen

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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  801 ratings  ·  104 reviews
"Charming, impudent, privileged, emotionally precocious, Vincent de I'Etoile is the same age as the young century when he meets the elegant, asthmatic forty-five-year-old Marcel Proust, and in one week - at literary salons, at the Ritz, in private rooms, in cafes - the striking youth with black hair and green eyes fashions an intimate platonic friendship with Parisian soci ...more
Hardcover, 1, 176 pages
Published July 2004 by Ambo (first published June 28th 2001)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
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Vic Van
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Occasionally, you pick up a book not quite knowing why you chose to read it in the first place, but then gradually, page by page, you start to realize that almost every chapter tells you a little about yourself, about your life. You find that you could send whole fragments of text to relevant people in your life because those fragments tell them precisely the things that you dare not tell them or wish to tell them. This novel will undoubtedly become one of the books that will never leave me and ...more
Erik
Dec 12, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
"In the Absence of Men" is the latest of Philippe Besson's gay tales to be translated into English.

Vincent is an upper-class Frenchman coming of age during World War I. One summer, while Paris is empty of men, who have all gone off to war, Vincent happens to meet and strike up a friendship with a renowned author, Marcel. Marcel, a middle-aged homosexual, helps Vincent as he processes his first time being in love with another man, a soldier he has known since childhood who is on leave from the Fr
...more
Joanka
May 05, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, men, europe, lgbtq
As I'm doing some reading summaries of 2018, I have decided that In the Absence of Men is the greatest disappointment of the year for me. I would like to believe that Polish translation is to blame, to some extent at least but unfortunately, this is the second book by Besson and I didn’t like either of them. In both I genuinely like the idea but the execution is a little disaster.

Let’s start with the fact that the narrator of the novel, Vincent, is one of the most unpleasant characters I can thi
...more
Jeruen
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that makes me amazed and wonder why I decided to pick up in the first place. Because after reading it, it felt like a whirlwind piece of fiction, and it left me dazed and wondering what just happened.

Believe me, it's a good thing. I actually like this book. It's just that I rarely encounter books of this kind that when I actually read one, I get a little shocked. So what is this book about?

This tells the story of Vincent de l'Etoile, a sixteen-year-old boy of aristocra
...more
Allen Levine
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm still processing this novel a couple of days after finishing it. As someone who writes, I simply marvel at Philippe Besson's command of his craft. Often he packs more meaning into one sentence than I will have in an entire chapter. The writing is so exquisite. The translation is flawless. I realize that Besson's newest novel, Lie With Me, is getting all the press at the moment (partly due to Andre Aciman's correct praise, and Molly Ringwald's translation). But when you have finished reading ...more
Keith
A brilliantly written novel filled with dauntlessness, awareness, finesse and amour.

The writing reminded me of the fluidity of a steady-moving stream as the water cascades over stationary stones.....evermoving.

Here are a couple of excerpts that truly touched me and took hold of me deeply:

Vincent & Arthur before Arthur leaves for Verdun - A special memorable night that will forever bind them:
"I come to your body once more. I from one world to another. It is not so difficult to do.
First, you take
...more
Luís Santos
Oct 26, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This book had everything to be a 5 out of 5 stars! It even made me cry!!!!
But some things just don't work for me. Marcel is one, how he saw Vincent another (I won't even blame Vincent because he was just 16) and that ending *sigh*. It surprised me, yes, but... nope.
What saved this book was really Arthur. How Vincent developed as a character, coming to terms with himself, how he saw Arthur... trading letters with your loved one who's in the war, not knowing if they're gonna survive, trying to put
...more
Mark Cottier
Oct 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Achingly beautiful. A tale of first love and lost love, of war and friendship. A young man starts a friendship with the famous author Marcel P, whilst simultaneously embarking on a passionate relationship with a soldier on leave. Stunning. Beautifully written, perfectly pitched, and quietly devastating.
Madeleine
"Our love is silk, it won’t stop bullets here. We must be careful it does not become my shroud."

I can't stop thinking about time. Philippe Besson was born three years before E.M. Forster died.
...more
eddiespagetti
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
So good. Didn’t need a heart anyways❤️I need to read more of this author.
Mark Cooper
Dec 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intimate, sensual and desperately desperately sad.
Rancy Breece
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At first I had trouble relating to or having empathy for Vincent, the central character in this novella. He was self-centered, spoiled, insulated from life with his aristocratic upbringing. Also, I had trouble at first following the sudden changes in narrator - I would be in the middle of a paragraph before I realized that it was not Vincent but Marcel or Arthur was narrating. A subtle and clever literary device that made me slow down and pat closer attention. When I did, the story became both m ...more
Erastes
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-historical
I thought originally, probably because it’s a French translation, that this was an old book, possibly published in the 30′s – but it was actually written in 2003. However, (again, possibly because of the translation) it reads like a story written in the year it portrays.

It’s short, novella sized, but it does pack a punch, (I advise NOT to read the full Amazon blurb which stupidly gives away the entire plot) and more so to me because I’d just finished reading The Ghost Road by Pat Barker which de
...more
James
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
James Lark
Meh. This begins in a pretty compelling way but by halfway through was really annoying me. I can just about believe that a 16-year-old would be precocious (and pretentious) enough to record his coming-of-agey encounters with such pseudo-philosophical self awareness, but when the other characters make their voices heard they ALL TALK IN THE SAME WAY. I suppose Proust might have encouraged such wankery, but no solider in the Great War would have had the patience to muse upon life and death with su ...more
Pablito
"The book is a child, too. First, one must be in love, or have been so; one must feel the fire of passion or the bitter sting of loneliness, the hollowness of absence, in order to begin a book. Love and writing are intimately linked, for one engenders the other."

- Philippe Besson (82)
...more
Jack
Aug 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another masterful work from one of France's leading authors, Philippe Besson's marvelous story of parallel relationships at a time when the world has gone mad. The hero, Vincent de l'Etoile, is 16 years old in 1916, living the insulated life of Parisian aristocracy. He is too young to be conscripted into the war ravaging Europe, which has stripped the city of most of its young male population.

The family's housekeeper has a son, Arthur, 21 and home on a one-week leave. Arthur and Vincent have a b
...more
Lisa
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Emma
It has taken me ages and ages to read this book because it was a handbag book: I read it in coffee shops, in waiting rooms and on trains. I read it that way because I read the French edition, and I wanted to stop myself from consulting the dictionary every time I was stuck for a word. And even though this means I mainly read it at plot level and probably missed some of its nuances, I still loved reading it because it is a beautiful book.
En l’absence des hommes is a story of doomed love. Doomed b
...more
Eleanor
Nov 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, lgbtq
'I watch you, in your morning coat, gliding through this unreal world. And it occurs to me - like a revelation - that you are not content with this superficiality, that you have begun to dissect it, that you are performing the autopsy of an era. I like this idea, that having so desired to be a part of this world, you will be the one to write its death certificate.'

'You say: it is transience and chance which interest you. It is the present, its futility, its essential mortality, which interests y
...more
The Second
I had already read at least three books by this author when I started this one. Actually, I longed to read it because of the references to Marcel Proust. It was a nice reading, overall, even though I happened to lose a bit of interest in the end. The book is divided into three parts and I think the first one is way better than the other two: I would probably give five stars to it. The second part is still interesting but the third part... No... What a ridiculously far-fetched ending! It seems th ...more
Akshit Suri
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
yeah! finally finished my first book of 2021. I am so glad I chose 'In the Absence of men' by Philippe Besson. I hope I could write a spoiler free review. The version I read is translated from French by Frank Wynne. The story is set in summer of 1916 in Paris, most men are at war. Vincent a 16 year old has an encounter with a 45 year old writer Marcel. Marcel is gay and he somewhat helps Vincent with his first love. Vincent is in love with a soldier, Arthur. He knew Arthur from his childhood and ...more
Jeff Cyan
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frankly speaking, In the absence of men has not reached my expectation.What I look forward is a story vehemently accusing the extreme masculinity, but the story that I read teems with male characters. Whatever, this title do tremendously attract my attention. As far as I am concerned, this novel is outstanding by its language rather than its plot. Parallelism and metaphor can be seen everywhere in the book.
Through this language, i can vividly feel the boldness and numbness of the sixteen year ol
...more
Karlos Los fandangos
The second book by Besson I read with a dire ending.

The central character - a 16 year old during the Great War in the early 1900s is painted to be so stocial, learned and enigmatic to the point of being entirely unbelievable.

Also, in terms of historical detail, letters to add from soldiers on the front line were pre-read and censored between. Homosexuality was punishable my court martial and prison although most opted to go over the top and muse their lives to share their families shame.

What
...more
Daniel
Jun 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A relatively pleasing read about a young man's relationship with two men. Poetically written, though sometimes this detracts from the story, I occasionally found myself willing things to happen a bit faster.

Vincent is a good protagonist, however I wish we had a bit more time spent with him as I felt like there were more layers to his personality that we didn't get to see.

Though a couple of pacing issues, the story of a young man coming to terms and understanding his sexuality through the two con
...more
Augustine
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
five stars seem so puny compared to a work of such herculean proportions. only a select few have elicited this kind of rating from me and this chap took me aback with its unassuming voice, lyrical prose, and pure, unbridled emotion.

this book seduced me and held me in thrall until the very last word.
Benjamin Egerman
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gay-stuff
Philippe Besson seems to have a knack for writing books in which dispassionate younger gay men experience great passion and loss in a way that resonates deeply with me, and from what I can tell, a lot of gays reading his work. There's a lot of parts of this book that I found at turns insightful and gut-wrenching. ...more
Dylan
Nov 04, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
For sure a decent read overall. I had high expectations coming into this one following Lie With Me. Overall it was a good read - with some of the similar tragic elements and writing from Lie With Me. I wasn’t as quite compelled by the story itself, and maybe it doesn’t quite translate as well in the English(?).
Jack
Dec 19, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tony DeHaan
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is, I think, the first novel I've read with no dialogue in it whatsoever. The whole story is told by 16-year old Vincent, like he is sitting in your living room telling you his story. A beautiful love story set in Paris in the summer of 1916.
Highly recommended!
...more
Yasmin
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was unexpectedly beautiful, I never read something like this before. The distinct style felt like it flowed seamlessly between characters and thoughts, so attentive yet whimsical. I read it like a daydream, but I only wish Vincent developed more.
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La Stamberga dei ...: Un amico di Marcel Proust di Philippe Besson 1 5 Oct 27, 2012 06:37AM  

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In 1999, Besson, who was a jurist at that time, was inspired to write his first novel, In the Absence of Men, while reading some accounts of ex-servicemen of the First World War. The novel won the Emmanuel-Roblès prize.

L'Arrière-saison, published in 2002, won the Grand Prix RTL-Lire 2003. Un garçon d'Italie was nominated for the Goncourt and the Médicis prizes.

Seeing that his works aroused so mu
...more

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