Now here was a challenge! How to write up this book put forward as a major offering for the ‘Rentrée Littéraire’! Fargues’ protagonists are rarely likeable but Romain Ruyssen is perfectly obnoxious, Fargues serves us up a hero who has written a book about France, supposedly researched (Ruyssen is a university sociology teacher) Where he ‘violently criticises the culture and beliefs of the French’.
In itself this could be built up as a refreshing view point with a few examples quoted here.
‘Anyone having one day taken the Eurostar will tell you : there is absolutely no comparison between the impression given by the Gare du Nord in Paris and St Pancras, in London.’*** Followed by a detailed list of differences.
‘I carried out a poll of nearly one hundred French citizens living there (in London)…I questioned three categories of immigrants : the young who were there for a short spell…The second working as expatriates for British or French companies with contracts varying from two to five years? And finally the third , whilst keeping their French nationality, having decided to live indefinitely in London with their family, returning to France only for their holidays. In the series of questions about their motivation for choosing London, most put forward better employment opportunities in London rather than France. Those having created their companies speak of the simplification of administrative procedures and the high income bracket always come back to the fiscal advantages offered over the channel.***
This however, goes on page after page after page ad nauseam, thus nullifying any serious critique and going well beyond satire.
Ruyssen throughout the book is about as sexist and self sufficient as any character I have yet come across in life or literature, here are a few of the dozens and dozens of his comments about women.
‘She gave however a general impression of health and freshness, a necessary prerequisite for mating.***
´Few people know the subtle power of hearing and caring : those being heard attach themselves, naturally, to their listeners, so rare, that often they finish without realising it by becoming dependant on them. And it’s with women that this is most shown to be true.***
You may say that I was unable to appreciate the acid humour of Fargues’ character, Ruyssen, who was all too human and self conceited, and that other readers will appreciate this, maybe. I will however put forward that Fargues gave me no reason to want to understand him, in life I would simply avoid him.
As for the finale, no one who has ever used social media, let alone a man in his forties, would be so naïve as to put himself in this situation during a one night stand, in 2015!
You may have understood that I did not appreciate this book.
Published in French by P.O.L. in 2015