The Unforseen by Christian Oster - Review & Giveaway

April 26th, 2008 by Diane

Narrated by an unnamed man, The Unforeseen gives us a good look at a most uncommon human. The man, who suffers from a perpetual cold, finds himself alone in a strange city. At the mercy of strangers from beginning to end, he starts going by the name “Serge”. Although he often blurts out an embarrassing detail or two about his current situation, he never really tells anyone about himself, despite the fact he’s been given every opportunity.

You see, this newfound “Serge” has no social skills. Zip. Zero. Zilch. And since every situation he finds himself in is a very social atmosphere, the reader is left dangling between sympathy and outright laughter. Our stiff and obsessive narrator never seems to see himself as lacking social skills - in fact, he appears to think he’s the sort that goes the extra mile in politeness and decorum. But social graces he has none. The reader can only guess at what are the true reactions of those he meets along his journey, as “Serge” seems a little confused as to what people are actually thinking.

The Unforeseen was originally written by Christian Oster in French, published first in 2006 as L’imprevu. Oster has published 12 novels in all, including My Big Apartment, winning him the Prix Médicis in 1999. He currently resides in Paris.

The novel was translated by Adriana Hunter who managed to keep the prose fluid, and the style is consistent throughout. The subtleties of the narrator’s ability to make others slightly uncomfortable were no doubt tricky to translate, yet they remain humorously intact.

If you would like to win a copy of The Unforeseen and perhaps brush up on how to embarrass yourself in public, I have a copy to give one winner. Enter before midnight, April 29, 2008.

3 Ways to Enter:

1.) Leave a comment telling me what interests you about the book. (Something more than “sounds good” is kindly suggested.) If you’d like, you can instead tell me something you did that embarrassed you in public, but this is just to make things more interesting, and besides I’m nosy.

2.) Subscribers are automatically entered into this and all future giveaways. Just enter your email address in the little white box on the upper part of the right hand column. (Please make sure to verify your Feedburner subscription by responding to the email they send you. If you don’t receive it, check your junk mail.)

3.) Blog about this giveaway on your blog with a link back.

Do all three, and you’ve got three entries to win!

Posted in Book Review and Giveaway

70 Responses

  1. Louise A Brouillette

    How about tripping over my chair as I was trying to “sneak” out of a faculty meeting…does that qualify??? ;-)

  2. Karen E.

    I work with the public and have encountered many such “Serges”. Maybe this book will let me see the workings inside such a mind!

  3. raych

    My sister and I are always embarassing ourselves in public, and then phoning each other to say, ‘You’ll never guess what I walked into/knocked over/said today!’

    Count me in!

  4. Sheree Warner

    I feel for Serge already! When my daughter was 4 and in preschool, other mothers wouldn’t let their children play with her because she was diabetic. It took a while to teach her social skills. I would very much love to read this book!

  5. Christina Almond

    Sounds like an interesting book! I think it is something that more people than we think can relate to! :) I would also be interested to read the English interpretation of a French book.

  6. Meredith Peters

    The book sounds humorous in a French dry sort of way and therefore interesting!

  7. Desmond

    I like to read works in translation if it’s done well…count me in!

  8. Tara R

    I find the premise of Serge having no social skills fascinating!

  9. Denise

    It sounds very interesting and I love to read. I also can relate to feeling like an outcast is social situations.

  10. christopher h

    i was a big fan of My Big Apartment, would love to read this as well

  11. Linda Moeller

    Sounds like my dog….no social skills!

  12. Erin

    The latest public embarassment was when I asked a stock boy at our local grocery store where “his” nuts were. He just stared at me turning every imaginable shade of red until he finally pointed to another aisle. It wasn’t until I reached the other aisle that I realized what I had said.

  13. anne

    This book would make be interesting reading and useful dinner conversation as well. Thanks for this giveaway.

  14. Nicole

    I have too many embarrassing moments to list, so I’d like to read this book because I think I could relate to its narrator!

  15. Susan Chester

    I am intrigued about why he has no social skills, and why the perpetual cold? I am too embarrassed to mention my embarrassing moments.

  16. Heather

    This sounds like an interesting and funny read. The idea of him having no idea he has no social graces intrigues me - I’ve a friend in a real life who thinks he has GREAT social graces, and in fact is one of the most awkward people in large gatherings - maybe if I pass it on to him after I read it he’ll get a clue? LOL!

  17. Julie

    I can relate to “Serge” because I often feel awkward in social situations and have embarrassed myself more times than I can remember. I’d loved to win this novel, thanks.

  18. Kathryn

    “The Unforeseen” appears to be quite unlike any books I own. It would be great to have something so different…it would be both a delight and diversion from my usual routine…which is exactly like I need right now.

  19. Cindi

    Hi, For some reason, it didn’t surprise me when you said this book was originally French. As I was reading your preview of the book, I could see this strange looking little man in strange situations. Maybe, similar to a French satire. Thanks,Cindi

  20. Anna

    I was at a candy store not to long ago, and I filled my bag full with jelly beans, then when I went to check out the checkout girl said it was ten dollars. I thought that was too much money and felt bad that I had gotten so many so I told her I didn’t want them. There was a line of people behind me. She looked disgusted and rolled her eyes. She took the jelly beans and I apologized and ran away. I still haven’t been back.

  21. Samantha Pruitt

    this sounds like a very entertaining book.

  22. Sylvia Porter

    this book sounds hilarious, i love reading about other people in horribly awkward situations rather than actually being in them, haha!

  23. Kari Follett

    Sounds great!

  24. bunny

    Sounds like a fun read! I consider myself as a shy person and don’t think I do well at parties. But people always say I’m friendly. I guess that’s what friendly is - just smiling and listening to other people talk..

  25. Sharon Jones

    A book that will bring a smile to my face and one that I can relate to at moments…sounds like a great read. THANKS

  26. toasters


  27. Cynthia C

    I love mysteries with a sense of humor. This one sounds fantastic. Thanks for the chance to win.

  28. trudee carreiro

    I love mysteries

  29. Kathy L.

    I enjoy reading novels from French authors, so it will be interesting to see how well it translates to English from its original French. Also, I can easily relate to the narrator’s lack of social skills, so I know I would find this book fascinating. Thanks for the giveaway.

  30. Laura

    This book looks very intriguing. Definitely something I would love to read.

  31. Theresa N

    This sounds like the Seinfield show.. the show about nothing that was so funny.

  32. ron miller

    sounds like someone I know, no social skills. Zip. Zero. Zilch

  33. Leslie Sil

    sounds good I love mysteries

  34. S

    this sounds really fascinating - would love to read it

  35. Liz

    Men and their social skills….interesting!

  36. Elizabeth M.

    I think it’s the lack of social skills that makes it intriguing. There’s something fascinating about observing people’s negative traits. It reminds me of how we gawk at accidents or watch horrific scenes on tv cringing but yet not looking away.

  37. Karen

    Having known many people lacking in the social skills (perhaps I’m one of them) I find it interesting to see them in action and their utter lack of understanding that there’s an issue.

  38. The Unforseen by Christian Oster | Contests 4 Moms

    [...] Where: carp(e) libris reviews [...]

  39. Chris

    I think Serge might be a false name for someone I worked with in the past. His real name might very well be Bob. Sounds like a very interesting premise.

  40. judy folk

    i hope this book isn’t about me; sounds like a fun read

  41. Carla Cui

    I like reading about books with awkward situations

  42. Cindy S.

    Books make life worth living

  43. Kathi Book

    This novel sounds really fascinating..and funny, which I don’t usually read. But I’d love to give this one a go as it’s really piqued my interest.

  44. Jim Anderson

    sounds like larry david from curb your enthusiasm. to my knowledge, i’ve never read any modenr work that was translated form another language.

  45. Charlotte Padgett

    would love to read this

  46. Jasmin

    I have a relative who is very much like this, and can relate to “dangling between sympathy and outright laughter” — although irritation creeps in a lot too. Count me in!

  47. Shelly

    I wonder where in the dangling between sympathy and outright laughter I will find myself. Thanks!

  48. Tammy

    Hee hee - embarrassing moments are all the rage in my life — I was complaining to my mother-in-law about some service program and what I thought was wrong with it, and how it could improve, only to find out her grandson’s girlfriend (whom I have not met), runs it.

  49. sarah

    This sounds great, I just finished a book written in first person from the point of view of an autisic kid. I imagine that this book is going to be along the same fascinating lines.

  50. Bebemiqui

    I’m not sure how comfortable it would be to read this, but I’d love to try. Great giveaway! Count me in. bebemiqui82(at)yahoo(dot)com

  51. Pamela White

    Very interesting writing style. I know a few people who have to be told how to act in public because of personality style or autism and this is a book I would love to read.

  52. kathy Scott

    Sounds like a very interesting book that may be a little hard to read. Sometimes the truth hurts. Thanks for the chance.

  53. janet

    ty 4 the nice contest!

  54. carol drury

    intriguing book where I can learn to understand another culture!sounds very french!!!!

  55. Mary Dunigan

    Being the Queen of Clumsy, I think that this book would fit me well…

  56. Ed Nemmers

    Intriguing cover photograph

  57. mark

    Nobody moves! nobody gets hurt.

  58. Heather C

    When I laugh really, really hard, my throat makes some sort of funky sound, like a goose honking or someone…well, passing gas, I suppose! One evening, after performing a play, my castmates and I went out to eat. Afterward, someone made me laugh out in the parking lot and I let loose one of my hard laughs, and boy, was it a long one. Everyone around me thought I tooted…and it was so funny, I kept laughing - - hard! Oh, my!

  59. Betty Curran

    Somehow this plot summary makes me think of Inspector Clouseau. I hope Serge gives me the same enjoyment that Peter Sellers provided.

  60. Kathleen

    Just recently I tripped on a bump in the carpet at the door of the Church. Trying to catch myself, I punched the Deacon in the stomach. I don’t know when or how I will live this one down.

  61. Buddy Garrett

    I am intrigued that Serge has no social skills. I guess we can all relate to a situation that we have been in where we are unsure how to conduct ourselves.

  62. Brooke

    I like books with unusual perspectives. A guy who can’t get a read on people sounds really interesting.

  63. kathy pease


  64. Ilissa H.

    I’d like to read this book because it has been a long time since I read something really funny and this book sounds hilarious. I’d love to have the chance! Thanks.

  65. Annick

    One night I was out at a club looking all cute in my short skirt and 4-inch heels until I tripped and landed straight on my face.. real smooth! Actually, Serge sounds worst off than me, no social skills.. ouch! Sounds embarrassing too, I can relate that’s for sure!

  66. angela

    What have I not done to embarass myself in public? I think the best one is walking out of the bathroom with my skirt hiked up and not realizing it until I got some really funny looks in class as I was showing everyone my underwear (college… yeh.. um..)

    That was just a month ago.

    I blogged you contest as well at Prize-A-Tron

  67. Charlene Kuser

    This book from the review really
    interests me how someone can get
    around in a place with no
    social skills.Im really wanting to read this one

  68. Joy Venters

    the premise of Serge having no social skills is fascinating!

  69. Lily Kwan

    I’m interested in reading about someone without social skills and his or her struggles through life.

  70. Jeane

    It sounds rather like a book I just finished reading, the Country Life. Curious to compare the two!

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