Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vie Francaise

I initially picked up this novel purely on the basis of its cover which I found strangely alluring. And the title was also appealling, evoking something vaguely more exotic than say, An Ontario Life. Vie Francaise by Jean-Paul Dubois, translated by Linda Coverdale, traces the life of a French Everyman named Paul Blick by mirroring his experiences with the changing political climate of the nation - the turbulent sixties, the consumerism of the eighties, the millennial existential self-doubt (this is a French novel after all - a certain amount of philosophical introspection is expected). The chapters are even named after French presidents and their length of terms (also corresponding to the length of the chapters) from Charles de Gaulle to Jacques Chirac. Paul is a bit of a slacker, always searching for a way to avoid committing to a profession (marrying a rich wife helps) but as the comforts of his life, both personal and material are slowly stripped away from him, he is forced to confront the meaning (if any) of it all. While I probably would have benefitted more from this novel if I had a better handle about French politics, I did enjoy the writing and found myself curiously absorbed in Paul's ethical dilemmas, which often involved many humourous episodes. The book won France's prestigous Prix Femina when it was published there in 2004.

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