ELISE OR THE REAL LIFE by Claire Etcherelli


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A bleak, spare and curiously effective novel by a young Frenchwoman, set mainly in Paris during the Algerian war. Although this is the story of a timid love affair between Elise, a twenty-eight-year-old girl from a poverty-stricken province, and Arezki, a defiant Algerian worker, it is Elise's devotion to her brother Lucian which highlights the tragic ineptitude of contemporary youth unable to ""dominate . . . fate."" Lucien, to Elise, is the aspiring one, ""my only bridge between the world of others and ours."" The dutiful acolyte, Elise is summoned by her brother to Paris, after he had left his broken-hearted, teenaged wife and their child in the provinces. Lucien finds his sister a job in an automobile factory where the hours are long, pay meager, and the Algerians treated with contempt. While Lucien lacerates himself in ineffectual protest activity, Elise shyly accepts Arezki's love. At the close, Lucien, feverishly intent on attending a ""meaningless"" demonstration, dies ludicrously on a motor scooter (""he had thought Paris would thunder; Paris had only yawned""). Arezki, arrested, disappears, leaving Elise to question ""what was the power we lacked?"" Others must fight the battles, for those unfit for the power game have only their ""fifteen minutes of love"" and hope in the ashes. Terse, taut and relevant.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1969
Publisher: Morrow