Vincent Almendros ‘Un Été’

This highly recommended book is from my French Lit Targets for 2016,image

This short book is published by Les Editions de Minuit, and as Emma from The Book Around the Corner recently pointed out to me they specialise in experimental and modernist fiction.

This is an intimist story which takes place on a very small sail boat in the Mediterranean, limited to four characters that are introduced in the first few pages, the narrator, the narrators brother and owner of the boat, Jean as well as his companion Jeannette and finally the narrators friend Lone.

We are lead immediately to feel the unease between the narrator and their brother as they are to meet in Naples (if you feel I’m skating around the identity of the narrator it is because I am)

‘As my cheek nears his, darkened by a thick furry beard, I make it known to my brother that there are two Castles in Naples.
I know, he says.
You didn’t tell me.
No, I told you the castel dell’Ovo, the other is the castel Nuovo.
They’re very similar, I said.
It doesn’t matter, he said’***

Or a bit later as Jean continues to avoid conversation and assumes that everything should be obvious

I felt the sun heating my forehead and asked my brother, who was still below deck, if he had a hat he could lend me. You don’t have one? No, I said’***

Jeanne is contrasted to Jean

My brother seemed nervous, Jeanne on the other hand seemed to have everything under control***

We are also slowly lead to believe that the relationship between the narrator and Jeanne may be more complex than it would at first seem, for instance after Jeanne asks the narrator to put some sun tan oil on her back

I could feel her beauty spots under my fingers. I slowly got used to them again, like a blind man reading Braille.***

Clearly Lone is the odd one out, she doesn’t belong, first of all she is not French as are the others and she does not share whatever past they share and it is obvious she will not share whatever future they will share.

I will take you no further into this story, rush out and buy it (in French) or find someone to translate it, it deserves it!

First published in French as Un Été by Les Éditions de Minuit in 2015
***My translation

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