Paper Tiger


Paper Tiger

Olivier Rolin
Translated by William Cloonan

210 pages


March 2007


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Their generation was anything but lost, at least in the beginning. Filled with fiery ambition and idealistic to a fault, they found their voice in the Paris of 1968 and were intent on exposing the powers of repression and the demons of Western capitalism (and what, really, was the difference?)—by any means. But the acts of violence misfired, the principles of Marxism and Maoism became emptied of meaning, and the casualties mounted. The protagonist Martin is now middle-aged; his group, “The Cause,” is disbanded; his best friend has committed suicide; and he finds he must try to explain to the man’s daughter who they were, what they thought they were doing, and what happened.
Paper Tiger takes place during one night that this unlikely couple spends driving around Paris as they revisit a somewhat distant past. This odyssey is adroitly evoked by Rolin's long, fluid sentences as they reflect the car’s route past the sundry signs of the past and advertisements of the present dotting the Paris beltway.
This prize-winning novel by one of France’s most acclaimed writers tells, through Martin, the elegiac story of a whole generation’s coming of age.

Author Bio

Olivier Rolin is one of France’s most distinguished novelists. His Port-Sudan won the Prix Femina, and Tigre en Papier was short-listed for the 2003 Goncourt Prize. This is the first translation of his work into English. William Cloonan is the Richard Chapple Professor of Modern Languages at Florida State University. He is the author of The Writing of War: French and German Fiction and World War II.


Paper Tiger is a brilliant novel that explores the complex intertwining of idealism and politics and violence, a critical theme in the early twenty-first century. But the book does far more. It also illuminates the universal longing by each human soul for self and connection and a way of living in a complex world. Olivier Rolin is a towering figure in French literature, and I am deeply grateful for his introduction into the English language by William Cloonan’s vigorous and smart and elegant translation. The publication of Paper Tiger in the United States is a literary event of major importance, for Rolin is a consummate artist who will speak profoundly to the American heart.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“Martin, an aging French radical from the 60s, wonders where it all went and why. One night in 2000, when this rushing stream of a book is set, he broods out loud while driving around (and around and around) Paris with Marie, the 24-year-old daughter of his best friend from ‘the Cause.’ . . . [T]here are also treats that make the car ride worth taking, some serious . . . and others delightfully comic. . . . When the journey to the end of the night is over, the impression left behind (at once comforting and disturbing) is that history will make a paper tiger of every high hope and feared foe alike, no matter how seemingly imperishable.”— Alison McCulloch, New York Times Book Review

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