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November 2, 1918, the dawn rises over the French trenches, where exhausted and shivering soldiers are hiding and waiting.

They hesitate to take up arms, despite the insistent injunctions of their leader, the Lieutenant Aulnay-Pradelle.

On the German side, soldiers also wait. For several days, the rumor of an imminent armistice come up.

The order is coming from the Commandant in Chief, and give the desperate Lieutenant Pradelle one last chance of promotion. The ambitious Lieutenant sends two soldiers over the top,  will secretly shoot them in the back to incite his men to heroic action once more.

The hostility starts again but during the attack one young soldier Albert Maillard witnessed Pradel crime, and this one will bury Albert under the soil to stop him from talking.

Albert will be rescued by the severely injured soldier Édouard Péricourt and after the battle the two men send to the same hospital will be inseparable and will devote to Pradelle an implacable hate.

Back in civilian life, Albert and Édouard struggle to adjust to a society whose reverence for its dead cannot quite match its resentment for those who survived. Believing her brother killed in action, Édouard’s sister Madeleine has married Pradelle. The two soldiers will conspire to enact an audacious form of revenge against the country that abandoned them and against Pradelle. A series of events will inextricably bind together the fates and fortunes of the three man

Pierre Lemaitre set his novel at the end of the war in 1914 in a wounded society where people yearn for a new life. The Great Swindle is a remarkable story expressing a multitude of differents feeling full of originality, audacity and cruelty. The Great Swindle ( Au revoir là haut) won the prestigious Goncourt Price 2013.

Au revoir là haut – The great swindle – Pierre Lemaitre

Maclehose Press

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