Tuesday, April 05, 2011

L'Amour

With no trace of irony, she clinks her glass against his. He would rather not know what they are drinking to. To his leaving? To the peacefulness of their breakup? To Scotland's mild summer? Silently, he drinks to l'Amour, and everything he knows about it. Its 2,700 miles, from its source in the Argun region to its mouth on the Tatar Strait, opposite Sakhalin. He keeps his bad joke about the River Amour to himself. A pity he doesn't realize that the river's English name, Armur, is closer to the word "armor" than to "love," and — worse — that armur means "muddy" in Buriat.

Our hero takes a sip from this dark, bitter beer that he does not like, which is precisely why he chose it. He had to give the whole debacle a degree of harmony.

— from The Intervention of a Good Man, by Hervé Le Tellier.

Slight, but a mostly pleasant read. It continues to astound me that 20- and 30-year-old women would want to associate with or attach themselves to 50-year-old men, but that's not a problem of the novella, that's life. The story gives a nice play-by-play of the thought processes of one party to a such relationship as it disintegrates.

I hate the title. En français, c'est Je m'attache très facilement — much better. I suppose it's an intervention of sorts, but I think "intervention" is semantically loaded with things not present here. And I don't think he's a particularly good man. We have only his word for it, and his carrying on an affair with an as-good-as-married younger woman in a very insecure and needy way doesn't exactly speak to his goodness. The Slight Disturbance of Some Pathetic Chump, more like.

And there's that thing with the Polish girl who works at the hotel. Do you really have to bring up Nazi concentration camps just because she's Polish? That was weird and out of place.

Although Le Tellier is an Oulipo member, I didn't recognize any of the qualities related to that group in this novella. However, I did very much enjoy his Enough about Love, and I see the Oulipo in it in retrospect, and I look forward to reading more by him.

Read Le Tellier on what exactly is French love...
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