6 October 2017

Christian Oster: En ville (2013)

On the face of it, nothing much happens in 174 pages, but then this is Christian Oster: much psychologising over anything said or done, the possible consequences of any future action taken, long sentences and long descriptions of ever single thing done, etc. This, in fact, is a monologue, with other people's words not read as actually spoken by them but added into the monologue, which also has very long paragraphs as well as long sentences.

And life here is pretty much a mess, with sudden switches of emotion, although perhaps not quite as dramatically as in some of Oster's other novels. The main character has a steady job but his love life is, well, indeterminate and he's very slow to make any decisions. Oh, and his name's Jean, although the novel takes a long time telling us this.

The main plot revolves around a small group of people who have been going on holiday in July together, such places by the sea as Corsica and Malta, and this time they decide to go to Hydra. They all are past their prime, most of them in their fifties or older. The oldest one is  the now gross William, who's tried his hand as a dentist and a musician and several other things. Then there's the married couple Paul the doctor and his wife Louise, there's George who's split up from his wife, and finally the narrator Jean.

Things go wrong: William dies coming out of hospital and falls on his stairs onto Jean (who is in turn temporarily  hospitalised); Paul and Louise split up; and although George very briefly moves into Jean's new flat with him near the Statue of Liberty replica below Pont Grenelle, he's soon moving in with the attractive estate agent.

Nevertheless the holiday goes ahead (although moved to Hérault) with the four existing characters: George's (whose new girlfriend may have found someone else) is on the train, so is Paul, and maybe Louise and Jean will hit it off. But where does Samantha in Paris stand in this, as she's expecting a child by Jean, who doesn't seem to react too well to becoming a father, if he has any detectable reactions at all? Yeah, it's a mess, but a fascinating one for the reader, even if it's perhaps not one of Oster's best.

My other posts on Christian Oster:
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Christian Oster: Dans le train
Christian Oster: Une femme de Ménage | Cleaning Woman

Christian Oster: Rouler
Christian Oster: Le Cœur du problème
Christian Oster: Mon grand appartement

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