THE DINNER PARTY by Claude Mauriac


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Claude Mauriac's first novel (he is the son of Francois) is a technical tour de force: it is also an equally demanding exercise for the reader. A dinner party, given by Bertrand and Martine Carnejoux, sets and confines the scene here to a period of about three hours during which the desultory table talk alternates with the unspoken thoughts of those assembled here. In this counterpoint of comment and argument, and on the other hand private preoccupations and speculations- largely of an amatory nature- none of the eight characters who are speaking- or thinking- is identified for the reader who- progressively- will find it easier to follow-- Bertrand Carnejoux, a prominent writer given to extra-marital attachments; Martine, with her excessive love for her children; young Marie-Ange, Bertrand's latest mistress, with acting ambitions she hopes to further here; Lucienne Osborn, whose mind is on clothes, her sun-tan, her dog; aging Gigi, 67; too young Jerome Aygulf; Gilles Bellecroix, screen writer, taunted by the novels he has not written; Roland Soulaires, more successful with money than women... On the surface, there are rather tiresome discussions and dissertations on history and literature; in private, as the men poor down the decolletages of the women, there is the libertinage of their thoughts- along with the occasional discomfiture when reminders of death, age, impotence, intrude. All in all, it is a show piece of some tactical skill which demands the fullest attention of the spectator and an interest which the characters, self-bound, venal and worldly, do not altogether deserve.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1960
Publisher: Braziller