The Incorrigible Optimists Club

the incorrigible optimists club

A Book Review

I had never heard of The Incorrigible Optimists Club or the Algerian-born writer Jean-Michel Guenassia. I came across it in the library when I was selecting books for my Christmas holiday reading. The original is written in French and I read the English translation by Euan Cameron.

It is quite untrue that covers don’t sell books. I was drawn to the cover and then I was hooked after reading the blurb and the first page. (It wasn’t until later that I noticed the border design of the book bizarrely matched that of my laptop case.)

I love long works of quality fiction, especially for Christmas holiday reading, and at 624 pages, this one fulfilled my craving.


A Highly Recommended Read!

The Incorrigible Optimists Club is one of those special books that’s hard to set aside when you have to do necessary things, like cook meals, or sleep.

It’s hard to believe that The Incorrigible Optimists Club is this author’s debut novel. Written against the backdrop of the Algerian War (the war for independence between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front 1954—1962), and the era of the Iron Curtain, the book offers no facile solutions to the issues raised. Neither does it excuse the terrible tragedies caused by politics and war. What’s more, the author manages to maintain an optimistic tone, and insert humour, despite the seriousness of some of the issues.

Paris 1959

The year is 1959, the place Paris. The story follows Michel Marin, a twelve-year-old compulsive reader and amateur photographer who’s a champion table football player at the local neighbourhood bistro.

But for his age, Michel has an extraordinary interest in the wider affairs of the world and a special empathy. He is drawn to a curtained-off area at the back of the bistro where a group of exiled Eastern European men gather to chat, play chess and smoke: the Incorrigible Optimists Club. As he is gradually accepted into their circle, he listens to their stories about their homelands before they fled to France, and becomes involved in their lives.

He forms a friendship with a Russian former doctor and expert chess player, Igor, who teaches Michel to play chess. He also becomes friends with another exile, Sacha, who is rigorously and aggressively denied access to the club, especially by Igor and another Russian, Leonid, whenever he dares show up. We do not learn until the end of the book why these two men hate him so much.

Michel becomes an important connection to the outside world for Sacha. In his turn, Sacha becomes a trusted sounding board for Michel’s teen angst in the absence of his father who has moved away from Paris when he and Michel’s mother, an aloof figure in Michel’s life, separate.

The club is also the occasional haunt of Jean Paul Sartre, French philosopher, writer and political activist, and Joseph Kessel, Argentinian-born French journalist and novelist. Many of the men in the club survive thanks to the generosity of Sartre and Kessel. The author drops these famous characters into his book as if he were telling the time of day, although the characters treat them with due reverence: “We gazed at him [Sartre] from a distance, slightly intimidated, feeling we were privileged witnesses of creativity in action, and even those who disliked him watched in silence…”

In the tense resolution of the story, Sacha’s strange rituals and the mysteries surrounding him are finally revealed in a way Michel could never have foreseen.


Jean-Michel Guenassia, The Incorrigible Optimists Club, 2014, Atlantic Books Ltd, London. Available through the Book Depository with free shipping.


Gail Tagarro, Editor (AE)


Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!

A PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATION FOR EDITORS

Is there a Professional Qualification for Editors?

In Australia since 2008, yes, there is a professional qualification for editors. The name of the qualification is ‘Accredited Editor’.

What does it mean to be an Accredited Editor?

Editors who have passed the accreditation exam and become certified may use the pronominal ‘AE’ – e.g. Gail Tagarro, AE – to indicate their qualification.

Benchmark, credibility

The qualification is a benchmark for employers and clients. For editors, it provides credibility, and is a ‘reliable indicator of competence’ (IPEd).

I was very excited when a professional qualification for editors – an industry-standard qualification – was introduced. I knew it was going to be important for my future as an editor. Up until then, in Australia and New Zealand at least, there was no industry-accredited qualification available.

What Organisation Manages Editor Accreditation?

The Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) Accreditation Board has been responsible since 2005 for developing and implementing the accreditation scheme.

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First exam 2008

IPEd introduced the first accreditation exam in October 2008 across multiple locations in Australia. I sat it in Brisbane. At the time, it was paper-based (as it was for the next four exams). We used pencil and rubber, and I didn’t stop writing the whole time. By the end of the three hours, I thought my hand was going to drop off. My colleagues and I exited the exam room in a daze.

When I passed and received my certificate, I was euphoric.

On-screen exams

On-screen delivery of the accreditation exam happened for the first time in 2016. The next on-screen exam was in 2018. I was an invigilator both times. Exciting, slightly nail-biting times ensuring that before the exam and against the clock the PCs and Macs were set up and functioning correctly, and then explaining to the candidates how to answer the various types of questions.

Rigour

No walk in the park, the accreditation exam is a rigorous one. It stringently assesses editors’ knowledge and skills, and an 80% score is the minimum required in order to pass. While anyone can sit it, it’s recommended candidates have at least three years’ full-time editing experience. Even for experienced editors, it’s advisable to attend the workshops that IPEd and some of the state editing societies offer, and to work through sample exams. It’s also wise to do a lot of prior study, to prepare for questions slightly outside of our usual areas of expertise.

Renewal of Accreditation Every Five Years

Once qualified, Accredited Editors cannot rest on their laurels and calmly watch the world go by for the rest of their working career.

Every five years, AEs must apply for renewal of accreditation. This involves completing a lengthy form to provide proof of ongoing work in the editing profession and evidence of continuing professional development.accredited editor Brisbane, accredited editor Australia, accredited editor Gold Coast, accredited editor Queensland, what is an accredited editor, professional qualifications for editors

Yippee, my Accreditation was just Renewed!

This is the real reason I wrote this blog! To skite (a word one never sees these days…) that I applied for reaccreditation in December 2018, and last week my application for renewal was approved!

I’ve now been an Accredited Editor for 10 years.

 

A professional qualification for editors—Accredited Editor (AE)

 

Contact me to have a chat about your manuscript. You may be ready for an edit, or you may like a manuscript appraisal, or to ask about writer coaching. Asking is free and I’m very approachable! Check out my testimonials while you’re on my website. Read some of the other informative blogs!