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PARIS TRANCE by Geoff Dyer

PARIS TRANCE

By Geoff Dyer

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-374-22981-3
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

English music- and literary-critic Dyer (Out of Sheer Rage, 1998, etc.) offers his first novel—a disappointing improvisation on the Parisian themes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Not so many years ago, at the age of 26, Luke Barnes moved from London to Paris to write “a book based on his experiences of living.” In Paris, Luke goes to a lot of movies (especially action thrillers and POW films) and eventually finds work at the Garnier Warehouse, where he meets narrator Alex (also English). Luke and Alex become great friends right away and are soon spending all their free time together. Eventually, Luke falls in love with Nicole, who’s from Belgrade—they meet on the street—and the two move in together. Not long thereafter, Alex begins dating Sahra, an American interpreter of Libyan descent, and the four of them become constant companions, taking Christmas and summer vacations together and hanging out over the course of long evenings of food and conversation (—That’s how it was at that time: no evening was complete unless everyone had their say about Cassavetes, his directorial style, his limitations, his influence—). But this isn—t exactly Jules and Jim: Despite all his talk of art, Luke writes next to nothing and comes nowhere near completing the novel he had come to Paris to begin. After a time, he leaves Paris (and Nicole) altogether and wanders for some years in America and Mexico. Much later, Alex (by now happily married and a father) sees Luke once more in England, but it can never be the same again: “What good does it do anyone, knowing that they once sat with friends in a car and called out the names of cinemas and films, that they ate lunch in a town whose name they have forgotten? Pointless to a fault, pock-marked with clichés about expatriates and la vie bohéme: a chronicle of squandered youth that would have seemed old-hat 50 years ago.