Mérot’s first book to be translated into English is the wild tale of a Parisian anti-hero called the Uncle.
It would probably be safe to say that Mérot’s protagonist is something of a poorly adjusted sort. Intermittently employed, occasionally married, most always drunk and still living at home with his parents, he embodies a sort of cautionary tale for those who might thumb their nose at the idea of bourgeois respectability. He’s the type of guy who would bum all your smokes over the course of an evening out; or cadge drinks off you all night at the bar; or crash on your couch for a week or two and sleep with your girlfriend while you were out working to make the rent. In other words, a highly unreliable fellow. He’s a charmer, though, which is why this book, despite being chock-full of windy, juvenile philosophizing from beginning to end, rarely fails to entertain. The Uncle lets loose in a series of free-flowing reminiscences, touching on his jobs, his parents, his women. He rails against family, work, love—all the usual targets of your misunderstood bohemian—bemoaning the sorts of disappointments grownups generally learn to accept. It would all be pretty obnoxious were he not at the same time delightfully funny. He’s able, with his thoroughly jaundiced gaze, to ferret out absurdity. A trip to the psychiatrist, an all-night bender, a stint at a crumbling publishing outfit—all provide fine satirical fodder. The Uncle is a frustrating creature, no doubt, and his complaints for the most part are worth little more than an eye-roll, but were he not so petty a man, it’s unlikely he’d be such an amusing one, either.
Tiresome at times, but with enough laughs to make it worthwhile.