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By Jean Dutourd

Pub Date: May 19th, 1967
Publisher: Doubleday

Dutourd's A Dog's Head was a mordant fantasy about the vagaries of taste, money, and love, a contemporary parable staged like an 18th century farce, while The Best Butter. suggested a Balzacian success story, bouncy, imaginative, suitably ironic. These charming works were followed by more ambitious efforts, the latest being a weighty examination of the libido, The Horrors of Love, in which a melange of classic models can be discerned. The form is deliberately anachronistic: a middle-aged man's extramarital affair with a young girl as relayed through the leisurely conversation of two friends, piquantly reminiscent of Diderot, Laclos, and Flaubert's Bouvard et Pecuchet. The aphoristic trimmings and conversational asides, the real meat of the proceedings, draw on the Gidean conte and, especially, Stendhal, Dutourd's true hero. The book is overblown structurally and rather philosophically self-indulgent: one is really never sure Just how the melodramatic denouement (Edouard in a fit of bewildered passion kills his paramour's moralistic brother) is to be taken, since the underlying tone throughout has a sort of bumbling cat-and-mouse nuance. The insights re marriage, the anguish of age, illusion and reality, as well as subtleties of characterization, are often brilliantly, if ambiguously: turned.