29 January 2016

Patrick Lapeyre: La vie est brève et le désir sans fin | Life Is short and Desire Endless (2010)

When I gave my impressions of La Splendeur dans l'herbe several days ago I mentioned the bit about a pair of tourists seen as Martians taking photos to sell on their planet. This is an observation by the American Murphy Blomdale, who's working in central London. He's obsessed by the mysterious Nora Neville, a young English woman striving to be an actress. She's been living with Murphy, although after two years she returns to Paris, to Louis Blériot, named the same as the famous pilot, a man eking out a living as a translator of prescriptions but married to Sabine, the real breadwinner. Like Murphy, Louis is also obsessed with Nora, who has a mysterious power to win men over, extract love and money from them, endless desire, and whose gift is never really fully explained, although we're told that her eyes have the ability to convey a 'limpid, almost lunar, unreality'.

Also, when I was speaking about La Splendeur dans l'herbe, I noted the fact that Lapeyre brings to mind Craig Raine's Martian view of everyday observations, and these re-occur here in the comment about men's behatted heads from a distance resembling talkative mushrooms, or people aligned in deckchairs giving the appearance of cellos in a row. And again, there's a certain other world quality in the behaviour of some of the protagonists and their propensity to disappear without warning, as Louis does when he and his wife are about to go into the cinema: time for his vanishing trick, and he returns to the hotel a few hours later explaining that he got a little lost, but that there's still time, at midnight, to visit the casino. Sabine says that she's worried about him, and most readers (quite possibly severely reduced by this almost halfway stage) would probably agree.

It would be a shame for people to lose interest in or get exasperated with Lapeyre though, because he sees things from a different perspective: people don't behave as expected, the normal is odd, or maybe to be more accurate it's the odd that's normal. References to the (real) Russian space dog Laika, or to Star Trek, or Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles aren't for nothing.

There are of course certain similar themes or main character traits in both Life Is short and Desire Endless and La Splendeur dans l'herbe, such as the importance of waiting, and waiting is even mentioned as a kind of religion here. Lapeyre's characters are also strong on indecision as well as desire. And where does the idea of a parallel universe fit in here? Just asking: someone has to.

My other posts on Patrick Lapeyre:
Patrick Lapeyre: La Splendeur dans l'herbe

Patrick Lapeyre: L'Homme-sœur

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