The first US publication of French novelist Dâ€šon: a pseudo-biography--and critical study--of a fictional writer that moves episodically between anecdote and plot summary. While pedestrian in places, the book is finally a shrewd gloss on the genesis of fiction--and on the connections between a writer's life and work. Stanislas Beren arrives as a provincial at the lycâ€še, learns French in two or three months (though he doesn't speak it for a while because ""it's very pleasant to sit and listen to the music of the words"") and eventually becomes a famous author concerned with language play--and with ""the dazzled amazement of a man each time he penetrates the woman he loves."" The story's narrator, whose father was Beren's intellectual companion until an early death, is rather precious in his fascination with Beren, but the metafiction flourishes. Beren's first novel, The Physical Life of an Orgasm, teaches ""how physically painful, insulting, indecent and naive it is to write a novel,"" for instance, and there is much theory on the art of the novel worked gracefully into the text. Besides such literary games, the narrative illustrates a life defined by Beren's own prolific talent and by the sensibility of the narrator. Where Are You Dying Tonight? is the title not only of Dâ€šon's novel, but also of a book Beren writes about the great affair of his life--and the narrator spends much time tracing the genesis of this book in the context of Beren's continued loyalty to Felicite, his wife (much older than he) who dies in 1968, followed by Beren in 1977. Though this may not quite measure up to Nabokov's Pale Fire or a Borgean metafiction, it's fair to say that it plays with some success in the same league.
Pub Date: July 20, 1989
Page Count: -
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown