I’m the closing ceremony, if you will, on the blog tour for Stephen Clarke’s Merde at the Paris Olympics. This seventh book in Clarke’s bestselling series finds Englishman Paul West living in Paris, while it is gearing up for the 2024 Olympics. Paul accepts a job translating for a French group, who are campaigning to get pétanque accepted as an official Olympic event, despite thinking that lobbing lumps of lead around while drinking pastis is barely a sport. Here’s an extract from early on in the book where Paul stumbles upon a spot of reconnaissance for his new clients::
Just beyond this evening art show, I came to a wide expanse of canal bank where several pétanque games were in full swing. I stopped to watch.
During the day, these areas of gravel were often occupied by groups of older guys, plus a few women, playing intensely competitive pétanque – silently measuring exact distances to see who’d won, demanding second opinions, and then victoriously or resignedly retrieving their boules from the gravel with magnets on strings. It was serious stuff.
By evening, though, younger players had taken over and the alcohol had kicked in. Men and women were laughing and chatting as they played, a boule in one hand, a drink in the other. On nearby benches stood skittle-like rows of beer and wine bottles, the evening’s refreshment. Dogs and a few kids had been brought along, and they were occasionally allowed to disrupt play by chasing after boules.
But despite the generally relaxed atmosphere, there were still groups of these hipsters who were obviously playing to win, advising their teammates on whether to go for stealth or strength, groaning or high-fiving according to where the shot landed. Some of them might well have been potential Olympic
champions in the making. Though not all of them would have passed the dope test.
Anyway, it gave me plenty to think about as I left the canal basin and strode on towards my date at the restaurant. This mass pétanque-ing couldn’t just be a Parisian phenomenon, I thought. There had to be similar scenes going on all over France.
I decided that Marjorie and Alain ought to get out here and interview both sets of players, daytime and evening, young and old. Film some vox pops to support their case.
I took out my phone and noted the exact time. I was going to bill them for this personal brainstorming session.
Hopefully, you’ll now want to find out how Paul fares in his new translation gig, while also falling in love with a tech genius who thinks he’s an idiot and embarking on a war of attrition with state bureaucracy when he applies for French citizenship. A mini Olympics of his own for Paul there, I felt. This book squirrel really enjoyed reading Merde at the Paris Olympics and I hope you do, too. If, like me, you can’t be in Paris itself, or if you’re between trips, the next best thing is to travel there in entertaining company and Stephen Clarke is certainly that.
Merde at the Paris Olympics by Stephen Clarke is the latest in his Merde series of books (starting with A Year in the Merde) which have been translated into more than 20 languages and sold more than a million copies worldwide. It is published by pAf and available as an ebook and in paperback from Amazon UK (affiliate link: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases)
For more on the author and his books, check out his Author Website.
My thanks to Helen Richardson for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.