jueves, 29 de octubre de 2015

Le planétarium

Le planétarium (Folio, 2009)
by Nathalie Sarraute
France, 1959

A propensity for backstabbing their family and friends notwithstanding, callow Parisian lovebirds and interior decoration snobs Alain and Gisèle Guimier outwardly appear to be a most charming young couple--or at least it almost seems that way until entitled eternal student Alain lets his annoying Aunt Berthe know that he'll do just about anything in his power to hound her out of her fashionable Passy apartment so that he and his wife can inhabit it instead (at a critical juncture in this family squabble, in fact, a sly observation is made to the effect that the emotionally cornered Berthe awaits the next attack from the couple "comme le vieux sanglier quand il se retourne et s'assied face à la meute" ["like the old wild boar when it turns around and sits facing the pack of hounds"] (183)...with apologies if I've already revealed too much about the almost plotless plot (pure nouveau roman effrontery!), rest assured that Nathalie Sarraute's amusingly caustic and narratively frisky Le planétarium--looked at one way, a character assassination of an entire generation of shallow contempo Parisians & looked at another way, a proto-Seinfeldian "show about nothing" livened up by breathless interior monologues and a series of unnamed narrators who are sometimes only properly introduced in subsequent chapters' gossipy narrative orbits--is just mad fun, I kid you not...to leave you with a specific example of why ça marche pour moi, one need only contrast this somewhat restrained class-conscious dismissal of Alain Guimier as "un bien gentil petit, insatisfait, inquiet... produit trés pur de sa classe : jeune intellectuel bourgeois marié à une petite fille gâtée comme lui... Écureuils tournant dans leur cage dorée" ["a good-looking, nice young man--unsatisfied, anxious...very pure product of his class: young bourgeois intellectual married to a young girl just as spoiled as he...  Squirrels wheeling back and forth in their golden cage"] (233, ellipsis added at the very end) with the totally unrestrained personal attack on the couple courtesy of Alain's high-strung mother-in-law which likens their hypocrisy and lies with the sort of words which "autrefois révélaient l'hérésie et conduisaient droit au bûcher" ["in former times revealed heresy and led right to the stake"] (43).  Yep, c'est vachement drôle.

Nathalie Sarraute (1900-1999)

 With apologies to Obooki, I believe I'm the first member of the Wolves to join him in this now nearly five year old group read.  Let's do it again sometime, shall we?

6 comentarios:

  1. Intelligent and amusing commentary as always Richard.

    Attacking an entire generation can be simplistic. However, I must confess that it can be very entertaining.

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    1. Thanks, Brian. While that bit about the character assassination of an entire generation might have been a bit of hyperbole on my part, suffice it to say that Sarraute's novel is itself and intelligent and amusing work--no hyperbole on that point!

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  2. So glad to see that someone read this thing - and that it was more than worth it! I still cringe whenever I see the book, recognizing my failure to participate in the group read after having signed on.

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    1. No need to cringe, Scott: everybody but Obooki seemingly failed in that group read endeavor, and Emily from Evening All Afternoon even made a Rimbaud-like departure from the blogging scene right around the same time. At least you're still blogging! The novel was well worth the wait, though, and I intend to read more Sarraute within the coming year--if possible, my follow through is lackluster these days--on account of it.

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  3. Also cringing. At least I own a copy still and am happy to follow your reading example sometime in the dead of this winter. You've made that an attractive possibility with your thoughts here.

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    1. Please, no more cringing, fellow Wolfie! I do hope to read your thoughts on this eventually, though, because I think the play with POV and the frisky humor might seem rather, um, fetching to you.

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