Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mid-life crisis - French style. . .

I've been nursing the sniffles all weekend and feeling both sorry for myself and yet quite happy to have an excuse not to get out of bed. I was definitely in the mood to read about someone in a more miserable state, and no one does middle age existential gloominess better than the French, so Adam Haberberg by Yasmina Reza was the perfect reading choice. Plus I love the cover. I know Reza's work mainly as a playwright; she wrote the phenomenally successful play Art which I was lucky enough to see many years ago in London, starring Albert Finney, Tom Courtney and Ken Stott. It's one of the best plays I've ever seen and subsequently read, about friendship and mid-life crisis; a topic she's evidently made something of a specialty.
In Adam Haberberg, the narrator is an unsuccessful writer in his late forties, panicking that he is going to lose his sight after being told by doctors he has thrombosis in his eye and possibly glaucoma. While moping in a Paris park, going over all the failures in his life - an unhappy marriage among them - he bumps into Marie-Thérèse, a woman he hasn't seen since high school. She invites him back to her flat for a meal and he reluctantly agrees. The encounter forces him to take a second, albeit blurry look, at his life, both past and present. That's it for plot, but the novel really explores how cynical narcissism can overshadow those ordinary moments in life that make up happiness, if only one recognizes them for what they are. Haberberg's rants are frequently funny, and sometimes quite heartbreaking but always very human.
I can't wait for Reza's next book, due out this April. Titled Dawn, Dusk or Night: A Year With Nicolas Sarkozy - it's a non-fiction account of having spent 2006 trailing Sarkozy on his campaign trail. She was given full rein to write what she wanted. At sales conference, the editors compared the writing to what would happen if Tom Stoppard trailed George W. Bush for a year. I think it will be fascinating and unlike any other political memoir.

No comments: