Sunday, September 29, 2013

Et en français, nous avons. . .

This is a fly-by visit (or is that flyover?) just to note the two French novels I read this summer so that I can move them back to the bookshelf.
Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse is wonderfully evocative of a melancholy freedom remembered by a woman looking back on one seaside summer, a summer that she spent caught up in her bourgeois father's sexual liaisons, while embarking on her own first serious relationship -- with an older man. Southern France, languor, nostalgia, an interesting femme d'un certain age, mid-century sexual mores -- the novel is a compelling cultural document as well as a fascinating and well-remembered or well-observed rendition of an adolescent girl's thoughts and emotions . . . and exploration of the power (and limitations of) her sexuality in a clearly gendered world.

Also testifying to the role of gender, but equally concerned with class and ethnicity is Saphia Azzeddine's La Mecque-Phuket. A young Muslim woman in contemporary Paris works to send her parents to Mecca so they can improve their satisfaction with life and their status in the community. She's torn between loyalties to the culture (that have little to do with religious precepts but much to do with family, food, respect for her parents' hard work) and impatience with its inability to adapt and with its gendered roles. Her divided loyalties are compounded by an impatience with the surrounding culture of consumerism which she contrasts unfavourably with her parents' frugality, her own emphasis on education. I loved her voice, the novel's humour, the colloquial French it introduced me to, and a view of Paris that corrects those too-too-present scenes of St. Germain, Place Vosges, and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honouré, et cetera.


  1. I read Bonjour Tristesse many years ago and it amazes me that Françoise Sagan was so young when she wrote it. It really is a sensitive young woman coming of age novel. Did you ever see the movie with David Niven and Deborah Kerr? Even when I was young, I was fascinated by the French world. I enjoy being able to read in the original French because much is lost in translation.

  2. I've never seen that movie -- I wonder if I could track it down now. . . I agree that reading in the original French is a special pleasure, although it's probably more work for me than it is for you!