October 2023

Marguerite Duras, Moderato Cantabile
Excellent experimental novel from 1958 that centers on a Platonic love affair between two strangers, one a wealthy woman, the other an unemployed laborer, brought together by un crime passionel. Review 2023/10/11
Marguerite Duras, The Square
The novel that preceded Moderato Cantabile and shares some notable similarities, i.e. the action centers on the conversation of two strangers, this time who meet in a public square and whose conversation takes place on only a single occasion. Interesting for how the absurd nature of this conversation points to a breakdown in how language functions, dissolution of the identities of the two desperate characters, one a traveling salesman, the other an unhappy maid.
Eugene Brennan, Russell Williams (Editors), Literature and Intoxication Features an excellent chapter by Anne-Lucile Gérardot on the chronotope of alcohol in Duras's work. Read it here
Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination
Contains Bakhtin's development of the idea of the chronotope, which I referenced in the Moderato Cantabile video.
Denton Welch, I Left my Grandfather's House
An unpretentious work, full of non-events, of vividly presented moments, that transports the reader (as it did the author) back to 1933 and their youth.

Short Stories
J. M. G. Le Clézio, Le Jeu D'Anne (Anne's Game)
First story I've read by this writer (first in French, then in English translation). Excellently constructed.
Guy de Maupassant:

A very amusing story about magnetism; the setting is after a dinner party where all of the men bar one are convinced of the genuine nature of supernatural phenomena. The lone skeptic offers two demonstrations of how he debunked seemingly miraculous occurrences, the first concerns the drowning of a fisherman which was foretold by his son, the second is a racy personal narrative concerning a dream and subsequent ravishing of a woman who lives in the apartment before him. This last example draws a neat punchline from one of his auditors.
L'attente (Mother and Son!!!)
Technically superb short story, so sure of itself that the author selects an anti-climactic ending.
Better than both Magnetism and L'attente, this finishes with an excellent moral observation.
Sur l'eau (On the River)
As strong as Suicides, a tale told by a man who has spent his life on the river. Genuinely spooky, excellent conclusion.
La peur (The Traveler's Story)
Similar in structure to Magnetism, two thematically-linked events occurring years apart, in different locations, are presented. Not particularly strong.
La rempailleuse (A Strange Fancy)
A truly heart-breaking story of the callous treatment received by a lower-class girl who loves only a middle-class boy, to whom she gives all of the money she scrapes together, even to the point of leaving him her life savings, in the hope he will think of her. This felt all too believable with regard to the way this man and his wife greeted the news of this bequest.
Auprès d'un mort (Beside a Dead Man)
How strange! This story of a dead German philosopher recalls Thomas Bernhard's Goethe Dies in the way it makes fun of a major figure on their death bed. In this story, decomposition causes Schopenhauer's dentures to be thrown out of his mouth, terrifying two men charged with watching over his corpse. Entertaining.