Tag Archives: French literature

Vipers’ Tangle: François Mauriac

François Mauriac’s superb book Vipers’ Tangle is the exploration of the inner life of a lawyer, Monsieur Louis, a bitter shriveled, miserable man who taints the lives of all those in his orbit. The novel is essentially a journal kept by Louis to be read after he dies. While he lives with his family, he is estranged from them all, and the journal, which he imagines will be read with shock upon his death, is an explanation of why he loathes them all. The journal will be a “single act of vengeance.” According to him he’s been goaded into this hate by the treatment he has endured from Isa, his wife, his children and his grandchildren.

All though my life I have made sacrifices, and the memory of them has poisoned my mind, nourishing and fattening the kind of rancorous resentment that grows worse with the passage of the years.

The journal begins when Louis is 68 year old. He has been married for over 40 years, “suffered side by side” with his wife is how he describes it. Louis is the narrator so that means he is in control of the narrative and gives us his poisonous versions of events. The journal is a litany of vicious spite against everyone in his family. According to Louis he has been wronged by everyone, and that started with his wife who made a confession of sorts about a innocent youthful passion. They married when he was 23 and she was 18. Perhaps she just wanted to clean the slate, or felt the need to confess, but Louis hid his true feelings regarding her confession and then began to hate and despise his wife. It could be said that bitterness entered his heart at that point, but no, he was an emotionally shriveled human being before that point. In despising himself, he must also despise his wife and children, and hence he plots a way to ensure his family will not get their expected inheritance.

Things obviously are bad with Louis and Isa but then when he sees her giving the children religious training, he tries to win them away from her. That’s when he decides she hates him (and not the other way around).He has many grievances, including that Isa turned the children against him, that she paid them more attention, and that she is religious.

Your first pregnancy, moreover, made any explanation idle, and little by little changed the relations between us. It was before the great gathering. We went back to town and you had a miscarriage and had to lie quiet for several weeks. In the spring, you became pregnant again. We had to take great care of you. So began those years of pregnancies, accidents and births that provided me with more pretext than I needed to draw away from you. I plunged into a life of secret debauchery. Very secret, for I was beginning to appear in court a good deal. I was at my business as Mamma said, and it was a question for me of being careful of my reputation. I had my hours and my habits. Life in a provincial town develops in the debauchee the wily instinct of hunted game. But don’t be afraid Isa. I shall spare you held in horror. You need not picture any of that hell into which I descended almost every day. You threw me back into it, you who had pulled me out of it. Even if I had been less prudent, you would have seen nothing but passion in it . From the moment of Hubert’s birth you revealed your true nature. You were a mother. Nothing but a mother. Your attention was turned away from me. You no longer saw me. It was absolutely true that you had no eyes except for the children.

Boo hoo. Had to love his statement that her pregnancies “provided me with more pretext than I needed to draw away from you.” So the ‘drawing away’ clearly was selective. He moans about missing ‘the joy of life’ (as if he had any clue what this is) and the way his family considers him “a machine for handing out 1000 franc notes.” True his family come to him for handouts, but then that relationship is all that remains. There is no affection, concern, love–no interaction except money. But hasn’t he crafted his life this way?

I imagine that psychologists would put a number of labels onto Louis’s behaviour. The novel is brilliantly written. It’s an unrelenting look at a miserable git who has to ensure that everyone else around him is as miserable as he is.

To me this is the story of a wasted life. Louis had a good life but he poisoned all of his relationships, and yes there’s a moral lesson there. There is a religious component/lesson to the novel. There’s the underlying idea that you can be a total prick your entire life but still find “divine grace” on your death bed. I am not a religious person, but this seems like cheating to me. Decades ago, when I used to take my pocket money and haunt used books shops, I came across an entire volume arguing against death bed repentance. It was written by a C of E vicar. Made sense, but then all that stuff is mostly Greek to me.



Filed under Mauriac François, posts

Chéri and The End of Chéri: Colette

Colette’s Chéri opens in 1912, in pre-World War I Paris, yet given the setting and the characters, we could be in a 19th century novel. Chéri, whose unglamorous real name is Fred, is the only son of a former courtesan, Charlotte Peloux. Chéri was raised in the demi-monde world of women, which probably goes a long way to explaining his behaviour. When the novel opens, Chéri is in the bedroom of yet another retired courtesan, Léa. Unlike the usual fate of the tragic, worn out courtesan, Léa has done very well for herself. She lives in luxury. Chéri is in Léa’s boudoir, playing with, and demanding her pearl necklace as “it looks just as good on me as it does on you, even better!”

In front of the rose-colored curtains suffused with sunlight, he was dancing, all black, like a graceful devil with an inferno at his back. When he drew away toward the bed, he turned all white again from his silk pajamas to his doeskin babouches. […]

He stood, facing a full-length mirror that was mounted on the wall between the two windows, and gazed at his image: that of a very beautiful, very young man, neither tall nor short, his hair tinged with blue like the plumage of a blackbird. He opened his pajama top to reveal an olive-hued, firmly muscled chest, rounded like a shield, and an identical pink spark played on his teeth, on the whites of his dark eyes, and on the pearl of the necklace.

At this point, he seems like a gigolo, fresh flesh for Léa, “a well-heeled courtesan,” whose work days, at age 49, are over. Chéri certainly acts like a gigolo, a boy-toy, lounging around in an opulent boudoir. He’s spoiled, bores easily, playing with, and demanding jewels, but there’s more to Chéri than meets the eye. He’s intelligent, has a slight miserly touch and has invested his money wisely.

Six years ago, Léa ‘saved’ Chéri. She scraped him up from a wastrel life of debauchery, fed him, petted him, recuperated his health through training with a boxer, and gradually his health returned They’ve had an “affair” or as Léa calls it “an adoption” since then. Léa, sharing her life and her bed with Chéri, is the envy of all of her female friends.

Chéri and Léa’s lives are about to change dramatically, and so the book’s opening scene between Léa and Chéri is a sort of farewell. Chéri is be married in an arranged match to Edmée, the 18-year-old daughter of yet another one of Chéris mother’s circle. There’s a meeting at the Peloux house with Chéri, his mother, Edmée and her mother, and, curiously, Léa in attendance. Edmée has led a sheltered life, and she seems terrified yet resigned as she looks with “unaffected dread” at the mention of the wedding. “Léa wasn’t the least but mistaken about the bewildered, defeated look” in Edmée’s eyes. But just as Chéri has hidden depths so does Edmée. She knows just how to handle Chéri, mainly by shrinking and minimizing his role in her life.

These two short novels follow the life of Chéri and his relationships. Chéri and Léa were inseparable for 6 years, but once Chéri leaves for his honeymoon, Léa’s supposed to smile and sail on. All her female friends are watching her with the acid hope that she will collapse with grief and that of course will spoil her well-preserved looks.

At first I expected a sort of love story, but no, this is a tale of finding one’s place in the world, having purpose and adjusting to change. The second novel, The End of Chéri, finds Chéri a WWI veteran who returns to find a world in which he is superfluous. Everyone, even Léa has adapted to the change.

Review copy. Translated by Paul Eprile.


Filed under Colette, Fiction, posts

The Guermantes Way: Proust

It is illness that makes us recognize that we do not live in isolation but are chained to a being from a different realm, worlds apart from us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body. Were we to meet a brigand on the road, we might manage to make him conscious of his own personal interest if not our plight. But to ask pity of our body is like talking to an octopus, for which our words can have no more meaning than the sound of the sea, and with which we should be terrified to find ourselves condemned to live.

In Volume One of Remembrance of Things Past, Proust describes ‘the Guermantes Way as a geographical phenomenon, a particular path along a river, but in Proust’s third volume the phrase ‘The Guermantes Way’ takes on new meaning. Proust’s narrator is now a young man in society. His health is still fragile, but in spite of this, he maintains his friendship with Saint-Loup, leads an active social life, suffers a major loss, and finally meets his goddess: the elegant Duchesse de Guermantes, but as is often the case, reality does not meet expectations.

Our narrator is maturing, and a number of incidents contribute to his process of understanding the world and human deficiencies. He now lives close to the Guermantes family, and these days we would probably call him a stalker. He has admired the Duchesse de Guermantes from afar for years and considers her to be a fascinating woman. He discovers the routines of the Duchesse and manages to ‘accidentally’ bump into this ultra elegant woman daily but this doesn’t spark an acquaintance, and if anything, the Duchesse seems annoyed by the constant sight of narrator. He goes to visit the Duchesse’s nephew, Robert Saint-Loup, and tries to rope Saint-Loup into an endeavor to meet the Duchesse, the leader of “the Faubourg Saint-Germain” set.

I was genuinely in love with Mme. de Guermantes. The greatest happiness that I could have asked of God would have been that He should overwhelm her under every imaginable calamity, and that ruined, despised, stripped of all the privileges that divided her from me, having no longer any home of her own or people who would condescend to speak to her, she should come to me for refuge. I imagined her doing so.

The narrator’s beloved grandmother dies in a very painful sequence of the novel, and the narrator, ever the observer, details his grandmother’s final illness, her valiant attempts to recover after a stroke in the park, and the behaviour of some of their circle in the face of the grandmother’s death. He notes the hypocrisy of the Duc de Guermantes who comes to pay his respects to the family. The Duke is so enamoured with his own generosity in visiting the narrator’s home, that he is oblivious to his mother’s distress and forever afterwards labels her as a sort of looney.

So much happens in this wonderful book–it was slow to start but once underway, I was hooked. Proust’s descriptions of evenings spent in society are delightfully detailed, and it’s easy to imagine that we are right there in the room with him. Proust manages to convey the boredom, the stuffiness, and the tedium of spending hours in this, the highest, Parisian society, and paradoxically while nauseating boredom infuses these scenes, Proust’s detailed descriptions of this rarefied life are fascinating. The Guermantes, husband and wife, are central here. Large portions of the novel relate details of the Duchesse’s salons in which she rules the roost and showers the company with bitchy comments about various people in society. It’s a circle jerk of admiration with visitors cooing at the Duchesse’s expertise on everything and tittering at the Duchesse’s nastiness (hoping the nastiness doesn’t come their way). She is the Queen of Society. There are rumours of a divorce between this golden couple and we get a good look at the toxic marriage. The Duc admires his wife as a sort of valuable trophy, acknowledging her premier place in society, but he has a constant flow of mistresses, and the married pair delights in verbally ripping apart the old mistresses as they fade behind newer acquisitions.

One subplot concerns Rachel, the mistress of Robert Saint-Loup. Saint-Loup has praised Rachel to the narrator, so when he finally meets her, he is shocked to recognize her as a coarse prostitute he once passed over:

I saw that what had appeared to be not worth twenty francs when it was offered to me in a brothel

He could have had sex with Rachel for 20 francs but Saint-Loup is spending over 100,000 francs a year to maintain her. One could argue that the 100k francs a year is for exclusivity but there are no such promises here. Rachel, however, is beyond price to Saint-Loup and he’s well on his way to bankrupting himself on Rachel as have other men in the past. To patch up a row, Saint-Loup buys her a 30,000 franc necklace. The relationship between Saint-Loup and Rachel is awful. He’s tortured with suspicion and jealousy, and Rachel stokes the flames by flirting shamelessly with other men in Saint-Loup’s presence. The narrator goes out to dinner with Saint-Loup and Rachel, and he gets a front row seat witnessing how Rachel manipulates and tortures Saint-Loup.

Snobbery pervades every aspect of life in this world especially in the salons of the ‘cream’ of Parisian society. The fierce boundaries of society, the totem poles of social hierarchy, are savagely protected by the highest members with those slightly lower begging and dreaming of invitations to the ‘important’ homes. It’s pathetically funny how one set of visitors must not be allowed to bump into another set–almost as if there’s some fear of class contamination. The backdrop to these salon evenings is the Dreyfus trial which is the dominant topic of conversation.

While the narrator is a keen, peerless observer, finds he is horribly disappointed in the shallow reality of the Duchesse de Guermantes, he also has many other maturing experiences which he, true to his nature, analyses scrupulously. Proust’s philosophical observations permeate the plot: most of them are nuggets of amazing wisdom, and a few show Proust’s own snobbery and attitudes. For example at one point the narrator talks about Rachel’s hands and how she eats clumsily but “recovered her dexterity only when making love with that touching prescience in women who love the male body so intensely,” and thus Proust’s male vanity surfaces.

In one section, Albertine visits the narrator and they have sex in his bedroom. He is aware that he no longer loves Albertine; he’s matured and moved on, and a few pages later he has the nerve to ask Albertine to select the course for a dinner for another woman. The other woman, incidentally is Saint-Loup’s new mistress. The eccentric (mad as a march hare) Baron de Charlus, the brother of the Duc de Guermantes makes a few appearances. He is homosexual and seeks out the narrator’s company, offering to mentor him in society. A few people throw out hints warning about Charlus, but the narrator is too naïve to understand. He misguidedly (and unsuspectingly) accepts an invitation to visit Charlus at home and sits in the ‘wrong’ chair. Subsequently Charlus spews venom and accusations at the astonished and confused young visitor who is humiliated in front of the servants.

Towards the end of the book, the narrator, leaving the Duc and the Duchesse de Guermantes, runs into a sickly-looking Swann. In the first volume, Swann, an iconic romantic figure, was a vigorous man who scandalized his family by marrying his mistress, but now Swann is dying. Swann tells the Duc and the Duchesse that he has just a few months to live and the Duc in his usual crass way diminishes Swann’s statement with a discussion of the Duchesse’s shoes and her petty ailments. It was clear before this poignant scene that the Faubourg Saint-German society is superficial but with this casual cruelty, the superficiality sinks to a new low.

It is the wicked deception of love that it begins by making us dwell not upon a woman in the outside world but upon a doll inside our head, the only woman who is always available in fact, the only one we shall ever possess, whom the arbitrary nature of memory, almost as absolute as that of the imagination, may have made as different from the real woman as the real Balbec had been from the Balbec I imagined- a dummy creation that little by little, to our own detriment, we shall force the real woman to resemble.


Filed under Fiction, posts, Proust Marcel

Swann’s Way: Proust

I’ve had a few false starts with Proust, but this year (2022) I was determined to begin Remembrance of Things Past. This goal was motivated by the short story Time Lost by Elizabeth Berridge. The story is told by a niece whose aunt says she is “leaving him [Proust] for my deathbed.” The aunt imagines herself “drift[ing] off” to the words of Proust. It’s a great image, no argument there, but that’s not what happens. When it comes to her deathbed, Proust is the last thing on the aunt’s mind. The story is a cautionary tale, ‘don’t put good things off.’ I needed no more, so in January I started the first volume.

I am obviously not an expert on Proust; no doubt there are many PhD’s out there on Proust, so here I am just a reader. First: if you have been putting off Proust: don’t. Second: if you want to read Proust because you think you should, then read him for the delights that await you. I am not going to rehash the plot. Over the years I’ve heard the madeleines reference so many times, that in a sense Proust became distilled down to that, and that’s a shame. The madeleines were a tiny part sliver of the whole idea of memory. Huge chunks of the book dwell on the elusiveness of memory and time: how the past can be ‘hidden’ in a material object.

The book opens with the narrator as a boy. Swann’s Way is essentially the childhood of the narrator, so we read about his family, his friends, his relations, his childhood holiday, influences. Snobbery and bourgeois values are weaved through the many relationships here. A significant character is Aunt Léonie who, after the death of her husband, retreated into invalidism. Even though she rarely emerges from her bedroom, she is nonetheless a tyrant. Friends and acquaintances are ‘dropped’ if they don’t show the carefully measured respect for her invalidism, and her loyal, fiercely protective servant, Françoise, simmers with resentment and jealousy when her employer pays attention to Eulalie, a servant who visits occasionally.

The Swanns dominate the novel: Monsieur Swann is referred to repeatedly as a somewhat problematic person, socially, (his “unfortunate” marriage) and over time his relationship with Odette, a courtesan, is detailed. I don’t think I’ve ever read such an intense description of obsession. Well, I’ll back up and say that Maugham’s Of Human Bondage is also incredibly intense on the subject. The sections with M. Swann were some of my favourites. Swann is a woman chaser. He visits houses of friends and when he does this, his hosts often wonder why he is such a frequent visitor, but it’s always because he’s pursuing one of the female servants. The references to Swann create a sort of mystique in the narrator’s eyes, and this mystique only increases when he eventually meets and loves, Swann’s daughter, Gilberte….

The narrator is an only child, and his fragile health sometimes constrained his desires. He develops a love of reading which is an intensely emotional experience. He notes “these afternoons were crammed with more dramatic and sensational events than occur often in a whole lifetime. These were the events that took place in the book I was reading.”

The novelist’s happy discovery was to think of substituting for those opaque sections, impenetrable by the human spirit, their equivalent in immaterial sections, things, that is, which the spirit can assimilate to itself. After which it matters not that the actions, the feelings of this new order of creatures appear to us in the guise of truth, since we have made them our own, since it is in ourselves that they are happening, that they are holding in thrall, while we turn over, feverishly, the pages of the book, our quickened breath and staring eyes. And once the novelist has brought us to that state, in which, as in all purely mental states, every emotion is multiplied ten-fold, into which his book comes to disturb us as might a dream, but a dream more lucid, and of a more lasting impression than those which come to us in sleep; why, then, for the space of an hour he sets free within us all the joys and sorrows in the world, a few of which, only, we should have to spend years of our actual life in getting to know, and the keenest, the most intense of which would never have been revealed to us because the slow course of their development stops our perception of them. It is the same in life, the heart changes, that is our worst misfortune, but we learn of it only from reading or from imagination, for in reality, its alteration, like that of certain natural phenomena, is so gradual, even if we are able to distinguish successively, each of its different states, we are still spared the actual sensation of change.

The narrator’s life is highly, leisurely, detailed. Many of the characters are so intensely described that it’s almost as if we know them. My copy is heavily marked with notes, and I can’t possibly include all the profound quotes that I chewed over repeatedly as I read the book. I should add here that I listened to this on audio (plus have physical copy), and for me audio was a very successful way to tackle Proust. I’ve read many Modiano novels, and Modiano also tackles the subject of memory. It’s not fair to compare him to Proust, but after reading Proust, I can’t help but conclude that Modiano presents a light version of memory. Also I read/listened along with Swann’s Way. Marcel Proust’s Search for Lost Time: A Reader’s Guide to The Remembrance of Things Past by Patrick Alexander. The book helped tremendously. Special thanks to Patrick Alexander for mentioning the Monty Python All-England Summarize Proust Competition. You can watch a sort clip here:

Monty Python All-England Summarize Proust Competition


Filed under Fiction, posts, Proust Marcel

Artists’ Wives: Alphonse Daudet

“Artists who live only by and for the public, carry nothing home to their hearth but fatigue from glory, or the melancholy of their disappointments.”

Alphonse Daudet’s Artists’ Wives easily makes my best-of-year list. This themed collection of short stories argues “again and again that artists cannot be happily married.” The idea exists (is it broadly accepted?) that Art is a jealous mistress, and Daudet shows this argument to be true, repeatedly, through his stories. Yet it’s not as simple as that: Daudet creates 12 stories, 12 situations if you will, which argue his point from various, cleverly devised angles. The book begins with a prologue in which “two friends–a poet and a painter” spend an evening together. After dinner, the poet, who is single, declares that he envies his married friend, and so a dialogue begins with the painter stating categorically that artists “ought never to marry.”

Here’s the breakdown of the stories:

Madame Heurtebise

The Credo of Love

The Transteverina

A Couple of Singers

A Misunderstanding

Assault with Violence

Bohemia at Home

Fragment of a Woman’s letter found in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs

A Great Man’s Widow

The Deceiver

The Comtesse Irma

The Confidences of an Academic Coat

Daudet doesn’t just create an artist (who by the way can be a poet, a writer, a singer, a sculptor, a painter) who neglects his wife and dallies with his latest muse; no, Daudet is too ingenious for that. He creates 12 different scenarios of domestic hell all built around the complexities and complications of placing an ‘artist’ in the relationship.

Artists wives

Madame Heurtesbise would be arguably the one of the most predictable scenarios were it not for the sting in the story’s tale. Madame Heurtebise is seen as an unpleasant, pretentious woman:

having a certain love for glitter and tinsel, no doubt caught at her father’s shop window, making her take her pleasure in many-coloured satin bows, sashes and buckles; and her hair glossy with cosmetic, stiffly arranged over the small obstinate, narrow forehead, where the total absence of wrinkles told less of youth than of complete lack of thought.

This story, of a writer who marries an unimaginative woman, reminds me of the misery of married life found in George Gissing’s New Grub Street.

The Credo of Love, one of my favourites due to its dark humour, is the story of a woman who dreamed of being “the wife of a poet,” but instead she is married off to a wealthy, older man whose one “passion” is gardening.

She remained like this for a long time, closed in by the four walls of the conjugal garden, innocent as clematis, full however of wild aspirations toward other gardens, less staid, less humdrum, where the rose trees would fling out their branches untrained, and the wild growth of weed and briar be taller than the trees, and blossom with unknown and fantastic flowers, luxuriantly coloured by a warmer sun.

Bored, she turns once more to poetry, and then “at the terrible age of thirty, which seems to be the decisive critical moment for woman’s virtue” she meets “the irresistible Amaury,”

a drawing-room poet, one of those fanatics in dress coat and grey kid gloves, who between ten o’clock and midnight go and recite to the world their ecstasies of love, their raptures, their despair, leaning mournfully against the mantelpiece, in the blaze of lights, while seated around him, women, in full evening dress, listen entranced behind their fans.

Amaury  is “a desperate man such as women love, hopeless of life but irreproachably dressed, a lyric enthusiast, chilled and disheartened, in whom the madness of inspiration can be divined only in the loose and neglected tie of his cravat.”

A Couple of Singers is the story of two opera singers, one male, one female, who fall in love, inevitably, after singing love arias on stage to each other night after night. You’d think this match should work, after all, both husband and wife have the same career, but Daudet explores what happens when one partner in the marriage becomes more popular than the other.

A Misunderstanding is a he said/she said comparison (literally side by side pages) of a bickering couple.

Assault with Violence is a rather funny short story in epistolary form with lawyers writing back and forth and Nina, a woman who married a writer, sending letters about the situation to her aunt “an old maid.” Oh the horrors of married life to a “Bohemian.

A Great Man’s Widow, another favorite, concerns a woman who marries a musician who after 15 years of miserable married life, has the grace to die.

On the high road to fame, over which he had so triumphantly and hurriedly traveled, like those who are to die young, she sat behind him, humble and timidly, in a corner in the chariot, ever fearful of collisions.

But with the death of her husband, the widow finds that she has a newly gained stature: she is now the widow of a Great Man, and she capitalizes on this situation, becomes insufferable, marries a younger less well know musician and incorporates him into the cult-like worship of the dead man.

The Deceiver has a mystery at its dark heart, and The Comtesse Irma, sticks with me still–the saddest story in the collection.

I am impressed by Daudet’s agile mind and the subtle nuances of the stories. In the exploration of human nature, these stories are reminiscent of Balzac. The introduction from Olivier Bernier goes into Daudet’s life along with a description of how he stood as an artist during his lifetime.

Translated by Laura Ensor



Filed under Daudet Alphonse, Fiction

Armand: Emmanuel Bove

I read a collection of stories from Emmanuel Bove: Henri Duchemin and His Shadows  and thought I’d try one of his out-of-print novellas. Thematically and stylistically, I can see the link between the stories and the novellas, but for this reader, the stories were much more successful.


Armand is another of Bove’s lost, desperate isolated characters, but when the novella begins, Armand isn’t so desperate any more. The reason: Armand lives with Jeanne rather comfortably these days. But all the barriers Armand has placed between himself and poverty come tumbling down when he runs into an old friend, Lucien; it’s been a year since they met, and frankly Armand doesn’t seem thrilled to have met this old friend. Politeness takes over, and after an initial jolt, Armand invites Lucien to a nearby cafe.

How you have changed, Armand! You must be rich now. You could not come to our restaurant any more. Do you remember last year?

The soda-water was still bubbling in my aperitif. I held my cigarette where it was dry to throw it away. I took a fresh one. It was so sunny I did not know if my match would alight or not.

Indeed I could remember my past life. That was finished now. But I guessed that Lucien himself still took his meals in the same restaurants and lived in the same room.

The meeting is awkward and ends with Armand inviting Lucien to lunch the next day, and this meeting is even more awkward. It’s clear that Lucien doesn’t want to leave, and Jeanne is offended by Lucien’s remarks.  Armand’s present and past cannot mingle, but Armand promises to visit Lucien the next day.

From this point, Armand’s life begins to unravel. He seems ashamed of his cushy life with Jeanne. But what exactly is Armand? A gigolo? A cross-dresser? These are all terms that came to mind as I read Emmanuel Bove’s Armand and puzzled through the title character’s relationships.

I wondered briefly if I should put on one of Jeanne’s dresses. She liked me to dress as she did and pretend to be a woman.

I could, if I felt like it, describe this novel in a few sentences that would make it sound much more interesting than it really was: cross-dressing gigolo Armand, who has formerly lived in poverty and who is now kept by a woman, runs into an old friend. Mortified by shame, he engages in self-sabotage.

But for this reader, the execution of what could have been a really great novella, fell short, and instead Armand felt like a good start, a skeleton, of something else. Some of the more intriguing aspects of the plot: Armand’s feelings towards Jeanne for example, are largely absent, yet there are hints that he doesn’t like her touch. There were times when the relationship between Armand and Lucien contained overtones–almost as though Lucien is Armand’s doppelgänger, but again there are just hints. The incident with Lucien’s sister seemed rushed and created for plot development. The style grated at times, and I could imagine a creative writing teacher harping on about expository writing:

We sat outside where heating was provided by three silver braziers. We crushed pistachio nuts under our feet. The siphons were enclosed in wire to stop them exploding. 

Translated by Janet Louth


Filed under Bove Emmanuel, Fiction

Henri Duchemin and His Shadows: Emmanuel Bove

Lost, desperate, isolated characters inhabit Emmanuel Bove’s short story collection Henri Duchemin and His Shadows (1928). While the characters are sometimes isolated due to circumstance, it’s primarily their inner thoughts and private fears that separate them from mainstream society.  The dominant threads here are broken relationships, absorbing disillusionment and coming to terms with a less-than-satisfactory life. Naturally, most of the disillusion occurs in relationships between men and women.

Night Crime is set on Christmas Eve with the title character, Henri Duchemin, mired in a life of poverty turning desperately to a stranger for sympathy, but he’s told that if he’s that unhappy, he should just kill himself.

He closed his window and, motionless in front of the only armchair, he saw women everywhere, in the depths of the walls, standing on his bed, languidly waving their arms. No, he would not kill himself. At forty a man is still young and can, if he perseveres, become rich.

Henri Duchemin dreamed of supplicants, of owning houses, of freedom. But once his imagination had calmed down, it seemed the disorder of his room had grown, in contrast as it was with his reveries.

This is a nightmarish, surreal tale in which Duchemin is tempted by a stranger to commit a crime which will supposedly solve all of his problems.

In Another Friend, a poor man is befriended by a wealthy stranger. The poor man imagines that he has met someone, finally, who will be an understanding friend, only to discover that the stranger collects poor people and gets some strange satisfaction from giving them a meal and listening to their tales of woe.

Henri ducheminIn Night Visit, marital woes between Paul and Fernande spill over on to Paul’s friend, Jean. Paul worships Fernande and describes her in the most glowing terms, but Jean finds Fernande to be a “rather corpulent, rather common woman.” Who can explain why we love some people while we ignore others who are far more suitable? Here’s the story’s final passage which, on the surface, would seem to have little to do with the subject.

An automobile on its way to Les Halles passed very close to us. In the pure, freezing air, it left such a circumscribed scent of vegetables that when we took one step to the side, we could not smell it any more. In the middle of the sleeping city, beneath the sky, we were alone. The moon had disappeared. And without it, as if they lacked a leader, the stars seemed to be in disarray.

In What I Saw  the narrator, Jean (possibly the character from the previous tale) tells the story of his girlfriend, Henriette. While the narrator stresses how much he loves his girlfriend who is “as sweet as an angel,” we get the impression that beneath the surface, there’s an undercurrent of problems. Some of these problems are manifested in the narrator’s insufferable attitude towards females in general: “One shouldn’t ask too much of a woman,” for example.  There are hints that he’s been unfaithful perhaps, but he’s always forgiven, and when he tests her love with questions, she always gives the right responses.

 Even though she is beautiful, she recognizes that a man’s lapse is not as great as a woman’s.

Through the narrator’s description of his girlfriend, a picture of Henriette gradually builds. There’s nothing to fault in what she says or what she does, but somehow, once again, there’s a feeling of unease.

Candy, cake, fruit-she always goes without in order to offer them to me and, if I don’t take them, because I know how fond she is of them, she insists with so much love that I would be hurting her if I continued to refuse them. Nothing exists for her. She sees all of life through me.

Is this woman a saint? Or has she honed her manipulative skills to a fine point? Or is she merely holding her own in this relationship in which the narrator completely underestimates the female sex?

In Is it A Lie?, my favourite in this collection, a much older husband, Mr. Marjanne must confront his wife’s infidelity when she provides a very flimsy story excusing an overnight absence. This short story takes us through Claire Marjanne’s ridiculous version of events, and as a result we become both witnesses and participants in her fabrication. Taking the moral high ground, she grasps the power in the marital relationship and then Claire manipulates her husband, drawing him into her web of lies, liberally casting details and logic as though these will base her story in reality.

“None of that tells me where you spent the night. You had to sleep somewhere, after all.”

“If you interrupt me one more time, I’m warning you I won’t tell you another thing. You think it’s amusing to recount everything in such detail? Listen to me now. So I leave Le Printemps. It was exactly six-thirty and I say to myself “Robert must be waiting for me, I’ve got to hurry.” But instead of taking a cab in front of the store–you know how crowded it is there, I would have waited for an hour–I go on foot to boulevard Malsherbes. And right then, when I am on the corner of rue du Havre, I run into–you’ll never guess who. Who do you think?’

“I don’t know.”

“Come on, guess.”


“No, no. I told you a moment ago that I had left her at Madeleine’s “

In Mr. Marjanne’s mind Claire was only trying to give the illusion of truth. To be less alone with her lie, she wanted to make her husband participate in it. But he was determined not to let himself be dragged into it and simply answered: “I don’t know” and “What can I say?”

Is he wise to accept his wife’s ridiculous story and ignore her suspected infidelity or has he just opened the door to future misery?

Bove is not a first tier writer–well at least not for this book. Some of the narrators, who suffer from a sameness in tone, ramble, repetitively before getting on with their stories. One of the blurbs connects Bove’s stories to the female characters in the novels of Jean Rhys. I’d disagree, and if you’re hoping to find Jean Rhys-type stories here, you’ll be disappointed. Bove’s main characters are lost males, and if there are women in their lives, then the women are lying to them, cheating on them, or simply moving on. The story Henri Duchemin and His Shadows gives a glimpse of café culture, reminiscent of Rhys, and a hard, acid-tongued woman who tells the title character to stop whining and just kill himself. Ultimately the women here are the tough ones–they survive and move on leaving their men wondering just what went wrong.

Resurrected by New York Review books. Translated by Alyson Waters

Review copy


Filed under Bove Emmanuel, Fiction

Fear: A Novel of WWI by Gabriel Chevallier

About a third of the way into Gabriel Chevallier’s WWI novel, Fear, our young narrator, Jean Dartemont, finds himself in a hospital recuperating from wounds. The nurses seek tales of war, glory and valiant duty–after all, Jean must have had a number of stories that prefaced his horrible wounds and successful evacuation. But instead Jean, who was  a student prior to entering the war in 1915, tries to convey the realities of war to an audience who simply do not understand. Jean’s fervent arguments disturb the universe of the nurses–mostly delicate young women from the best of French society, who’ve volunteered to do their duty for the war effort. Jean notes that “their heads are stuffed with good intentions, which have been garnished with the bric-a-brac of noble sentiments tied up in a pretty bow.” He admits that during the war his “chief occupation” was fear, and the nurses react as though he said “something obscene.” For this “demoralizing talk” the chaplain is sent to lecture Jean, but goes away from the encounter dissatisfied.

FearAfter this brief respite in hospital, Jean is sent back to the front where he is in involved in some of the most horrendous, notable  battles of the war. The novel is written in retrospect, the war is over, and Jean has spent a great deal of time trying to understand this period of madness:

Men are sheep. This fact makes armies and wars possible. They die the victims of their own stupid docility.

When you have seen war as I have just seen it, you ask yourself” ‘how can we put up with such a thing? What frontier traced on a map, what national honour could possibly justify it? How can what is nothing but banditry be dressed up as an ideal, and allowed to happen?’

They told the Germans: ‘forward to a bright and joyous war! On to Paris! God is with us, for a greater Germany!’ And the good, peaceful Germans, who take everything seriously, set forth to conquer, transforming themselves into savage beasts.

They told the French: ‘The nation is under attack. We will fight for Justice and retribution. On to Berlin!’ And the pacifist French who take nothing at all seriously, interrupted their modest little rentier reveries to go and fight.

So it was with the Austrians, the Belgians, the English, the Russians, the Turks, and then the Italians. In a single week, twenty million men, busy with their lives and loves, with making money and planning a future, received the order to stop everything and go and kill other men. And those twenty million individuals obeyed the order because they had been convinced that this was their duty.

Jean admits that a sense of duty was not the “real reason” he went to war:”Through my own behaviour I can explain that of a great many others, especially in France.”

They set off without any hatred at all, drawn by an adventure from which everything could be expected. The weather was lovely. This war was breaking out right at the beginning of August. Ordinary workers were the most eager: instead of their fortnight’s annual holiday, they were going to get several months, visiting new places, and all at the expense of the Germans. A great medley of clothes, customs and classes, a great clamour, a great cocktail of drinks, a new force given to individual initiatives, a need to smash things up, leap over fences, to break laws–all this, at the start, made the war acceptable. It was confused with freedom, and discipline was then accepted in the belief that it was lacking.

Everywhere had the atmosphere of a funfair, a riot, a disaster and a triumph; a vast intoxicating upheaval. The daily round had come to a halt. Men stopped being factory workers or civil servants, clerks or common labourers, in order to become explorers and conquerors. Or so at least they believed. They dreamed of the North, as if it were America, or the pampas, or a virgin forest, of Germany as if it were a banquet; they dreamed of laying waste to the countryside, breaking open wine barrels, burning towns, the white stomachs of the blonde women of Germania, of pillage and plunder, of all that life normally denied them. Each individual believed in his destiny, no one thought of death, except the death of others. In short, the war got off to a pretty good start, with the help of chaos.

That’s a fairly long quote, one of my favourites from this highly quotable and much highlighted book. The quote gives a strong sense of the author’s style but also it’s a good example of the novel’s tone. The author through his observant narrator always keeps a sense of distance from his subject matter, and really that’s just as well. Who doesn’t cringe at just the thought of the squelch of mud-filled trenches, the “wasteland full of corpses,” and the stench of rancid, rotting human flesh found in a WWI novel? But while the narrator may be in the thick of things, there’s always a sense of distance and also of anger. Anger at the carnage, anger at the incompetence, and anger at those who ‘manage’ the war from a safe distance. 

Anti-war literature is by its nature, radical, subversive, but Fear, in its unsentimental detachment, doesn’t take the usual position of loss and waste, and instead emphasizes anger at the insanity of events which foments until Jean explodes with his opinions–no matter the consequences. At one point Jean notes “those who wanted all this” make public appearances on “palace balconies,” and for Jean, this was the moment when “the first–and last–machine gun should have done its work, emptied its belt of bullets on to that emperor and his advisors.” Similarly he notes, “in the revolution, they sent incompetent generals to the guillotine, an excellent measure.”

Fear is a unique entry into the canon of WWI fiction, for even though the story follows the normal trajectory of WWI novels, a young man enlisting into a carnage that is impossible to even imagine, its unsentimental approach makes the novel unique.  We are there with Jean when he sees his first corpse, picks off the first lice, watches the first killings, learns to keep his head down, hears dying soldiers begging to not be abandoned, grasps at jobs that will temporarily remove him from danger, cowers in a cave hoping he won’t be buried alive, and as he insanely volunteers to take another man’s place for a dangerous mission. The sense of chaos surrounding Jean is underscored by the ridiculous, senseless demands made by the officers, and also by the way we never discover the fate of some of the few named characters who cross Jean’s path. What happens to these soldiers as they lay trampled in the mud, or, if they’re lucky, are carried off the field to one of evacuation sites where they may, if their wounds are too severe, be left to rot and die as the overworked doctors save those who are considered salvageable? While Fear covers some familiar territory here: the incompetence of generals, the type of men who excel at wartime, the dehumanization of soldiers, and the collaboration of society’s vested interests (the church, the state, the police, and the bourgeois), Gabriel Chevallier’s unsentimental approach in a situation that is driven by Jean’s anger, the strong narrative voice, and the manner in which the author excels at description, secure this novel’s place in the must-read list of WWI novels.

Author Gabriel Chevallier fought in WWI. The introduction written by John Berger mentions that Fear was published in 1930, and as an “anti-war book had the misfortune to run into a new one. In 1939, its author and publisher freely agreed to suspend sales.” Perhaps this is why the book faded from view.

Review copy. Translated by Malcolm Imrie


Filed under Chevallier Gabriel, Fiction

Thérèse Desqueroux by François Mauriac

Théresè Desqueroux by François Mauriac is one of two picks made by Emma for the virtual gift exchange. The book had been a topic of conversation before the exchange as there’s a new film version with Audrey Tatou in the role. I’m not sure if I’ll see it as I don’t think anything can be better than the 1962 version. But back to the book….

ThereseThérèse Desqueroux begins with the dismissal of a court case against a young married woman, and on the first page she exits the court house. A chilling reception awaits from Thérèse’s father, and a discussion between Monsieur Larroque and the barrister Duros reveal snippets of an extraordinary conversation; it becomes evident that a local doctor charged Thérèse with attempting to poison her husband, Bernard. Since this is a serious accusation, you might expect a celebratory period following the dismissal, but instead Duros and Larroque discuss the best line of attack; Duros favours aggressive newspaper coverage denying “A Scandalous Rumour,” while Larroque explains that “for the family’s sake we’ve got to hush the whole business up.”  And what of the young woman who’s the object of this horrible accusation? Her emotions don’t fit the moment; she’s cool and detached, and yet here in a conversation between Thérèse’s father and barrister, she reveals an underlying aggression:

“After my son-in-law’s evidence it was a foregone conclusion.”

“Hardly that-one can never be quite certain.”

“Once they’d got him to admit that he never counted his drops….

But in cases of this kind, you know, Larroque, the evidence of the victim…”

Thérèse spoke in a loud voice:

“There was no victim.”

End of conversation.

There’s a little bit of a squabble about what will happen next. Thérèse says she will spend a short time with her husband before returning to her father, but he’ll have none of that and tells her that she’s with her husband “till death do you part.” A grim statement in light of the recently dismissed court case.

On the journey back to Bernard’s and their home in Argelouse, Thérèse goes back into her past–through her childhood, adolescence and her marriage to Bernard, the brother of her best friend, Anne. The marriage is viewed as a “foregone conclusion” and yet Bernard’s mother, remarried and now called Madame Victor de la Trave isn’t 100% sold on the match. Thérèse is rich and attractive, but there’s a scandal involving her grandmother that’s been successfully swept under the rug, and Bernard’s mother is concerned that Thérèse might inherit her grandmother’s genes.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the honeymoon is an unmitigated disaster–undeniably so because Bernard is oblivious to his wife’s distress:

He remained imprisoned in his own pleasure like one of those charming little pigs whom it is so amusing to watch through the railings rooting around delightedly in their stye. (“And I was the stye,” thought Thérèse.) He always looked so much in a hurry, so busy, so serious. He was a man of method. “Do you think it’s altogether wise?”  Thérèse would sometimes ask, appalled by the extent of his virility. Laughingly he reassured her. Where had he learned to draw such fine shades of discrimination in all matters pertaining to the flesh, to distinguish between what a decent man may or may not permit himself in the matter of sadistic self-indulgence? He was never for a moment in doubt. Once, when they stopped for a night in Paris on their way back, he pointedly left a music-hall where the performance had shocked him. ‘To think the foreigners should see that! It’s a disgrace. that’s the sort of thing they judge us by!…” It amazed Thérèse to think that this Puritan should be one and the same as the man whose sensual ingenuities would be forced upon her in less than an hour.

Thérèse’s memories bring images of her unhappy marriage and the endless days which are coated with a suffocating boredom. Naturally the status quo cannot remain forever, and rather strangely Thérèse discovers the inkling of mental liberation through a platonic relationship with a young man who returns to the neighbourhood.

I saw undertones of lesbianism in the 1962 film version, but I didn’t pick that up in the book. I had a great deal more sympathy for Thérèse as depicted on the big screen, but there’s something repellent about the book’s Thérèse. I think I’m supposed to have sympathy for the fictional Thérèse’s dilemma–marrying a bombastic country bore before she really understands what she wants out of life. And, yes, while I do have sympathy, there are limits. There’s something rather cold and unpleasant about Thérèse. Here she is on the receiving end of one of Bernard’s lectures:

Thérèse was no longer frightened: she wanted to laugh. He was just comic– a figure of fun. It did not matter what he said in that awful accent of his which everywhere but in Saint-Claire made him a laughing stock–she was going away. Why all this fuss? It would not have made the slightest difference to anyone if this fool had disappeared from the face of the earth! The paper trembled in his hand, and she noticed his badly-kept finger-nails. He was wearing no cuffs. He was just a county oaf who looked merely comic anywhere but in his accustomed rut, the kind of man who, from any intellectual, or even personal, point of view, is completely null and void. Only habit makes us attach importance to the life of the individual. Robespierre had been right–and Napoleon and Lenin.

Don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to follow the examples of those three when considering the value of a human life.

Ultimately, are we supposed to have complete sympathy for Thérèse? Clearly her marriage to Bernard is a huge argument for ‘no-fault’ divorce, and while I have sympathy for anyone who married boring old Bernard, he never changed. He was totally himself, a creature of predictable, yawn-inducing habits from the start. Even though the marriage just fell into place, Thérèse wasn’t forced to marry him. After all, she was a wealthy young woman. For this reader, Thérèse has a few vital components missing–not everything can be explained away by the tedium of her daily existence, the suffocation of life with a boring spouse.

Translated by Gerard Hopkins

Anyway, thanks Emma. This was a great pick for me.


Filed under Fiction, Mauriac François

Climates by André Maurois

I’ve been picking away at a Balzac biography by André Maurois, so I curious to read the novel Climates (1928). Maurois, who “kept a secret cupboard filled with Balzac novels” was clearly a Balzac devotee and expert, and I decided that given the Balzac connection, his novel would be, at the very least, interesting. Climates, also known as The Climates of Love, is the story of a man,  Philippe Marcenat and his two marriages, and through the novel, we get a fascinating look at two very different, and yet with the slight shifting of roles, oddly similar relationships. The novel explores some of the unanswerable questions about love: why do we chose to love one person and not another? Why are some relationships satisfying while others are not? Do we tend to fall in love with the same sort of person? Are we more comfortable with some relationship roles than others?  What does the selection of who we love say about who we are and what we need? And perhaps the most intriguing question of all: why do we love people who aren’t good for us?

ClimatesRegular readers of this blog know that I am a film fan, and while I watch a great deal of foreign film, French film seems to excel at exploring the philosophical depths and treacherously difficult nuances of relationships. Certainly the same is also true of French fiction, and after reading Climates, I have to agree with a statement in the wonderful introduction by Sarah Bakewell that French writers are “more than usually observant and often merciless with themselves. They reveal every power game, every change of emotional weather. Every powerful and embarrassing moment is needled out for us on the page.” This is most definitely the case with Climates, a novel in which one man’s relationships are scrutinized and rather painfully analyzed, and we see that even though our protagonist, Philippe perfectly understands himself, his actions, his desires, and his choices, in this case, self-knowledge does not bring happiness or success in personal relationships.

 Philippe Marcenat comes from a rather staid, conventional and respectable background in the provinces. His father owns a paper mill, and when the novel begins, Philippe is a child set to run and inherit the paper mill in the distant future. The family is well off and live in a nineteenth century Château, the Château de Gandumas–an idyllic if provincial setting. You could say that his family is rather predictably boring, caring a great deal about appearances, but to say that doesn’t really do justice to the fact that Philippe’s family are very nice, decent people but somewhat repressive and eminently respectable. As a child, Philippe develops an image of the ‘ideal woman’ after reading a book called Little Russian Soldiers, and clearly his imagined role with this fantasy woman is to be a sort of devoted slave who aims to please and is rewarded with a smile. This seemingly small experience appears to set the tone for Philippe’s later adult relationships, for while he has numerous affairs, his first really serious relationship is with a young, beautiful, emotionally elusive girl called Odile he meets against the backdrop of a romantic Italian holiday.

Structurally, according to the author,  this is a very simple story: “Part 1 -I love and am not loved. Part 2-I am loved and do not love.” Part 1 which takes the form of a letter to his second wife is narrated by Philippe and is the story of his courtship of Odile and their subsequent marriage. After his first glance at Odile, he is completely entranced:

Why did I feel such a sense of perfection? Were the things Odile said remarkable? I think not, but she had what all the Marcenats lacked: a lust for life. We love people who secrete a mysterious essence, the one missing from our own formula to make us a stable chemical compound. I may not have known women more beautiful than Odile, but I knew plenty who were more brilliant, more perfectly intelligent, yet not one of them managed to bring the physical world within my grasp as she did. Having been distanced from it by too much reading, too much solitary meditation, I now discovered trees and flowers and the smell of the earth, all sorts of things picked by Odile every morning and laid in bunches at my feet.

While Odile Malet brings “the world of colors and sounds” to Philippe (and we can really feel how entranced he is with her fey qualities), he gives her the stability she lacks. Odile’s home life is less-than-respectable. Her father is a failed architect, and this is Odile’s mother’s third marriage. Odile is inadequately chaperoned, goes into society freely, and her mother takes lovers. Ultimately to Philippe’s mother, the Malets are “not people like us.” Since Philippe and Odile both bring to the marriage the elements the other person lacks, it’s entirely possible to imagine that this couple will enjoy a happy marriage. But almost from the moment this relationship gets off the ground, tiny fault lines form between them (her flirtatiousness, attraction to fake jewelry, “puerile” novels and the fact that Philippe isn’t “much fun,“) and these fault lines widen.

I do not regret those times, although they were fleeting. Their last chords still resonate within me, and if I listen carefully and silence the noise of the present, I can make our their pure but already doomed sound.

We are taken through every stage of this marriage including “the first knock to send a fine crack through the transparent crystal of my love. An insignificant episode but one that prefigured everything to come.” Our narrator, Philippe does not spare himself as he details the disintegration of the marriage, and this is somewhat unusual, as so often the narrator–especially in the matters of love–will tell a slightly slanted story. Not so here. Philippe admits that in the marriage he finds himself in an unusual position, and one that he does not care for. In the past, he’s the one who loved lightly and decided when his relationships with various mistresses were to end. Now the tables are turned, and Philippe acknowledges that Odile has the power in the relationship. Yes, he’s male and has the money, and in theory should be the one in power, but his adulation of Odile dictates his amount of tolerance which is accompanied by overwhelming jealously and a sense of powerlessness.  At the same time, he also admits that “as early as the second month of our married life I knew that the real Odile was not the one I had married.” Odile brings a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship, and while it’s emotional difficulty that Philippe craves, it also erodes the foundations of their marriage.

Part 2 is written by Philippe’s second wife in the form of a letter to her husband–along with quotes from his diaries. Here we see Philippe in his second marital relationship. This wife is all the things that Odile was not, and yet the opposite is also true. Philippe’s attraction is partially explained by the similarities he makes between the two women “rather like hanging a garment on a peg.” Outsiders might predict that Philippe’s second marriage would be far more successful than the first, yet is it? He has a wife who worships him and is content just to be in the same room together, but is this the sort of relationship Philippe wants?

In the novel, Maurois argues that each relationship creates a climate, an environment, physical, mental and emotional, and that these climates alter as we move from one relationship to another. One climate may not suit while another may be preferable, and one of the difficulties presented by marriage and examined in the book is the undeniable fact that  “one cannot just transfer one’s personality intact from one environment to the next” (Bakewell).  One of the first annoyances Philippe encounters after returning from his honeymoon with Odile is her choice of curtains, and it’s no coincidence that domestic details are given a fair amount of attention in the novel.

It’s impossible to read this novel without contemplating the power of memory. Philippe’s early memories shape his later life, and are his memories of Odile accurate or has she improved in the frequent replays of their life together?

Why do some images remain with as clear to us as when we first saw them, while others that might seem more important grow hazy and fade so quickly?

The introduction discusses some aspects of the author’s personal life and those autobiographical elements that entered the novel. The character of Odile, strangely sad at times in spite of her love for life, seems to be so alive in these pages–almost as if she could step, laughing, from the pages. I take that as a tribute to the author’s love for the woman who was the basis for the character. Authors often write in order to answer unresolved questions in their lives. How gratifying it would be, in theory at least, to be an author who had the talent to write and then solve some of the issues in life. In the case of Climates, this superb novel does not appear to bring any ease to Maurois or chase away the ghosts that haunted him. In fact, if anything, there’s a lingering discontent, an acknowledged hopeless regarding his shortcomings and a strong, overpowering sense of loss.

Review copy. Translated by Adriana Hunter.


Filed under Fiction, Maurois André