Sunday, February 7, 2010

Jules and Jim

2. Jules and Jim, by Henri-Pierre Roché

This is the book from which François Truffaut made his iconic film. It's the story of two friends, Jules and Jim, who both love Kate, who marries Jules, divorces him to marry Jim, but doesn't, and goes back to Jules, but continues her affair with Jim, not to mention other men. She's basically a selfish, self-centered woman, and it's hard to see why they love her. One can understand, perhaps the initial attraction, but these relationships span the period from 1907 until well into the '30s, when they're old enough to know better!

So it's a curious book, and I liked the laconic style - short sentences, short chapters. Yet one never feels one knows or understands the protagonists, and Kate is positively unlikable.

(I read it in translation, which, for the most part, seemed good. But there's one extended section involving a Nordic woman named Odile in which, to show that she did not speak French well, the translator has her speaking in a rather annoying pidgin (the author?translator?'s word). "Many them at café want teach me. Me no want." Now, I have no idea whether that's a decent translation of how a Scandinavian who didn't speak much French would torture the syntax, but it was irksome.)

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