GEMINI by Michel Tournier


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Much respected in France, Tournier is the sort of writer who never lets you forget the thematic structure of his densely philosophical writing--and the Theme here is ""geminate intuition"": the state of pairing, of ""oviform loving"" that only twins are naturally heir to. . . and to a simulacrum of which (""extended soul"") homosexuality, according to the thesis, seriously aspires. Tournier's twins are Paul and Jean Surin, growing up in the Brittany village of Pierres Sonnantes before World War II. An uncle, Alexandre, provides them with some coaching on how to live a life based on contradictions: a homosexual aesthete, he's also a garbage magnate, a king of refuse, of the discarded. His perverse celebration of trash takes on a glow of genius thanks to his sexual inversion--and thus the twins have a family model of a working dialectic. What story there is, thereafter, is minimal. Jean, looking for ""intoxication through emancipation,"" briefly takes a fiancÉe (which devastates the still geminately-faithful Paul), then discards her and keeps one step ahead of his brother on a world-hop to Venice, then Iceland, Japan, Canada, and finally Berlin (its East/West twin nature is underlined, of course). At each port of call, Tournier unrolls serious philosophical essays on place--and they're as intelligent as his discussion of the peculiar and documented psychology of twinship. But, despite a final attempt to bring everything together (""It is important to keep this worldwide dimension. . . restore it to the regularity and secrecy of our childhood hopscotch. After cosmopolitan, it must become cosmic""), the book is really a series of knots throughout, themes overwhelming scenes. With one exception: a spectacularly imaginative (and skin-crawling) chapter set in the St.-Escobille dumps outside Marseilles during World War II, as Uncle Alexandre lives in a railroad car among white hills of garbage ruled by thousands of rats and gulls at war with each other. Aside from this billiant set-piece, however, the impressiveness here--the keen intentions and Gallic thoughtfulness--is largely bloodless, with far more appeal to psychology/philosophy enthusiasts than readers of fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 7th, 1981
ISBN: 0801857767
Publisher: Doubleday