In this philosophically charged debut novel, two lovers separated for decades meet by chance in Paris and rekindle their romance.
Nicole is an attractive woman in her late 50s living in Paris, divorced and single. Her close friend, Michelle, comes over for one of their regular chat sessions, and she tells her about one of her former love interests, Pierre Barbisson, whom she encountered while he was a young student at the Sorbonne, and hasn’t seen for over 30 years. Pierre is a doctor and a brilliant writer and, as far as Nicole is concerned, moved to the United States. However, she suddenly and fortuitously notices him on her television screen, apparently attired in the garb of a clochard, or a street vagrant. She sets out to find him and finally bumps into him on the street, and the two decide to have dinner together and catch up. Quickly, old dormant feelings are revisited, and a new romance seems to be blossoming out of the soil of their reminiscences. Nicole is shocked and dismayed to learn, though, that Pierre abandoned his career as a physician, and now really lives like a penniless clochard in a woodshed. Borme structures the book as a hybrid of the play and novel forms. The dialogue is delivered as it would be within a play, with some third-person narrative interspersed throughout. The conversational exchanges between Nicole and Pierre dominate the work, and cover a wide range of intellectual topics, including love, art, nihilism, European history, and Jesus. The author’s erudition is impressive, but the prose is ponderously overwritten, and often so pretentious, it borders on inadvertent self-parody: “Agapes, eros, ethos, porneia are all concepts to reexamine, liberating them from religion and big brothers. I am speaking of innocence that must be conquered and not preserved in naphthalene…remember?” A significant section of the volume is devoted to Pierre’s writing, which Nicole stumbles upon, and is impenetrable. And there are pages listing books Pierre owns, grouped thematically.
Despite being ambitiously dismissive of conventional literary forms, this tale about a talented vagrant remains a rambling, tedious read.