19 February 2018

Jean Echenoz: Les Grandes Blondes (1995)

Les Grandes Blondes. So, great blonds rather than tall ones? It doesn't matter, in a sense, and they don't really have to be true blonds. Uh? Paul Salvador – probably quite a saviour as his name suggests and as it turns out, but that's not a valid point to make now – works for television and has devised a series on the great blonds: you know, Brigitte Bardot, Marlene Dietrich, and so on.

But the fictional (in 'real life') Gloire Stella (or Gloire Abrall) is elusive and hasn't been heard of for some years. She's disappeared from the radar, which obviously makes her more interesting, although the reader perhaps wonders why Salvador goes to such lengths and such expenses to re-locate her.

Quite simply, Gloire has had enough of fame and wants to live a quiet existence. But then there's this 'homoncule' (or homunculous): I remember Ian McEwan (a guy I intensely dislike) once interviewing John Updike on his use of the word 'homunculous' – just saying. But a homonculous called Béliard appears frequently in Les Grands Blondes, an invisible little creature who might be her guardian angel, although this is doubtful as he sometimes encourages Gloire to kill people who get in the way of her rehabilitation, if that's the right word. So, maybe the devil or the id...?

Nah, too simple: this is Echenoz: don't look for symbolism, just enjoy a disturbing read, prepare to be mentally knocked around, thrown from pillar to post, but accept no easy solutions as there are none. Re-read and you'll enjoy far more, but still be no wiser. Just prepare to be surprised every which way the novel takes you, and this (it's Echenoz after all) will geographically (as well as mentally) take you to many places.

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