7 October 2020

Michel Déon: Un taxi mauve (1973)

Michel Déon's Un taxi mauve is a strange, and strangely haunting, novel. Set in his beloved Ireland, where Déon died, we have a motley group of characters, many of whom seem traumatised in some way. The American Kean siblings, from a very wealthy family, and who have Irish ancestry, are prominent, although only the young Jerry Kean lives there, albeit apparently only temporarily. He carries the guilt of his Iranian girlfriend being accidentally killed during an opium-smoking session in the States, and seeks something by moving to Ireland. His sister Sharon has married into the German aristocracy and is a princess, although many of her tastes are down to earth, and when she briefly visits Ireland she stays with Jerry in his primitive cottage without electricity, while her servant Li stays in a plush hotel. Jerry's other sister, Moïra, is a Hollywood film star and also makes an appearance. The final member of the Kean clan, Terence, is an astronaut who's only seen via the television.

We don't know the name of the narrator, although he had a son who's dead, and he has come to Ireland to live in peace, shoot game, read and listen to music. The presence of Sharon will disturb him, and she soon develops a liking for him, although the novel has nothing like the strong sexual hints of Yves Boisset's nevertheless well directed film with Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Noiret, Peter Ustinov, Fred Astaire, etc.

The strongest character in the book, which would be much diluted without him, is Taubelman, a huge guy who's a bit like, as the front flap of this France Loisirs (picked up in Bissy-sur-Fley, Saône-et-Loire) suggests, a mixture of Rabelais and Tartarin: he eats and drinks enormous amounts, and his stories are wildly exaggerated if not outright lies. He lives with his daughter Anne (who may or may not be his daughter), and (with the help of her) cheats at poker and wins a large amount of money from the players. Jerry, of course, is bound to fall in love with her.

All this is played out against an Irish backdrop, with the social centre being the pub with its rustic locals (plus a gay couple|), and the narrator's friend the supposedly retired Dr Scully, who drives the mauve taxi and views the natives affectionately and philosophically. An unexpected delight.

No comments: