Thursday, January 20, 2011

About enough

"An attentive reader will always learn more, and more quickly, from good authors than from life. "

I thought I should say a few things about Enough about Love, by Hervé Le Tellier, set for publication in February. My review copy (in e-book format!) has already long since vanished into the ether. I read this back in October, and enjoyed it immensely.

Do I have anything more to say about it? It's proven to be mostly forgettable, but that shouldn't diminish the enjoyability factor. Reminds me a lot of Kundera — kind of philosophy lite, in a relationship-y context. The many reference to weightier works (including none other than Madame Bovary, which I was reading at the time).

[Of her husband, "Anna wants him to be more outgoing, more dazzling. She is actually less eager for him to be successful than for him to want to be successful." It's Emma and Charles all over again!]

On the extensive bookshelves against the far wall, literature rubs shoulders with psychoanalysis in peaceful conflict. Joyce mingles with Pierre Kahn, Leiris is shoehorned against Lacan, a book by Queaneau which has been put back in the wrong place — a good sign for a book — leans up against a Deleuze.

That's a lot of name-dropping. I won't pretend to know the first thing about half the figures Le Tellier mentions. He seems to do so with purpose, and the references do seem to bear some relationship on the plot and character issues at work, whether the nature of love, power politics, creativity, identity, destiny, whatever.

Thomas shakes his head. In these few minutes of his life, he can see a fork in his own destiny. That was the word Anna used in her last session, when she said, "I don't know whether Yves is my destiny." Coming from Anna, the word is ambiguous, somewhere between freedom of choice and the inevitability of fate.

Thomas does not believe in fate. He would have the power of speech and actions shape our lives. To him, that is the point of psychoanalysis, giving the analysand the strength to become the driving force in his or her own life. If the accident just now had actually happened, he likes to think that, against all the odds, he would have known how to play it right, to become one of the people Louise would lean on.

As a teenager, he had endless discussions about the elasticity of individual fates and History (with a capital H, as Perec used to say). The budding Marxist confronted trainee Hegelians. If Hitler had died in a car crash in 1931, would some inertia in the powers that be have doggedly set the war and the Holocaust back on track? Was Stalinism conceivable with a different Stalin? Who could have replaced Trotsky?

Other questions hover. Where did he stand in Louise's story? Did a lover have to turn up at this particular point in her life? Was he interchangeable? Thomas has no idea.

See the review at The Complete Review for a fuller notion of what's going on in this book, and this passionate endorsement.


It's a romance novel, but with a very mature approach to love as it is among very real, and very smart, grown-ups. I can see myself picking up this novel again.

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