PRIORITY by Iselin C. Hermann


A Correspondence Published by Jean-Luc Foreur
by & translated by
Email this review


Hermann debuts with a slighter-than-air story about unfulfilled love—told in letters—that's said to be a literary sensation abroad. Could be.

In Denmark, a woman named Delphine Hav writes a letter to a well-known French painter named Jean-Luc Foreur, telling him that a painting of his she saw in Paris so impressed her that it has stayed with her, remaining “Somewhere under my skin, where the flesh turns to fluid . . . .” Jean-Luc writes back saying he knows exactly how she feels, since the same thing happens to him with Beethoven and Walt Whitman—and thus is born a love-by-mail affair that all told will flame on for a year and a half. Inexplicably, not until well after things get quite considerably heated (“Cells are tingling in me. They are all tingling: the cells in my skin, in the mucus membranes and in my brain. I am taking leave of my senses, as they say. I am itching all over”) is there any mention whatsoever-from either party-of the desirability of, well, getting together sometime. When the yearned-for proposal does come up, from Delphine, it either gets shelved in the most preposterous of ways (“But I lead a busy life. I've got exhibitions in Basle, in Paris, and next month from April 14th to May 5th I am exhibiting in a large New York gallery”) or, still more absurdly, gives way to long passages of schoolish art-talk (“Perhaps . . . what enchants me is the paradox; all this sensuality, this eroticism, and in a Catholic church! I'm talking of course about Bernini's Saint Theresa”). What'll ever happen? Let it be said that once all is explained, lovers of O. Henry will be more pleased than those who find the old American storyteller to be at best a giant among the very miniature indeed.

A tale of unhappy love that's young, breathy, far-fetched—and very, very slight..

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8021-1667-1
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2000