On Leave

On Leave


A lost classic lays bare the darkest moment of France's post-war history

First published in Paris in 1957, as France's engagement in Algeria became ever more bloody, On Leave received a handful of reviews and soon disappeared from view. Through David Bellos's translation, this lost classic has been rediscovered. Spare, forceful and moving, the novel describes a week in the lives of a sergeant, a corporal and a private, home on leave in Paris. Full of sympathy and feeling, informed by the many hours Daniel Anselme spent talking to conscripts in Paris, On Leave is a timeless evocation of what the history books can never record: the shame and terror felt by men returning home from war.

Daniel Anselme was born Daniel Rabinovitch in 1927, and adopted the name Anselme while in the French Resistance with his father. He traveled widely as a journalist, and was known as a raconteur and habitué of Left Bank cafés. He published his first novel On Leave in 1957, a second, Relations, in 1964, and a semiautobiographical account of his wartime experiences calledThe Secret Companion in 1984. He was also one of the leaders of Solidarity Radio in Paris. He died in 1989.

David Bellos is Director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, where he is also Professor of French and Comparative Literature. He has won many awards for his translations of Georges Perec, Ismail Kadare and others, including the Man Booker Translator Award, and received the Prix Goncourt de la biographie for his book on Perec.


  • In fiction, we usually have to wait until long after the guns fall silent to hear such stories. Yet this precious act of literary reclamation on the part of Penguin Classics reveals a novel with a solar-plexus punch that was written from the dark heart of conflict
    Boyd Tonkin, Independent

About the author

Daniel Anselme

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