NIGHT WITHOUT DAY by Raphaele Billetdoux


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An overblown, pretentious tale about obsessive love, previously published in France. While brooding in a Paris cafÉ, Lucas--a studied grump and malcontent--meets an enigmatic nightclub singer by the name of Blanche. They don't particularly like each other, but there's a strange attraction here: intense, near-violent sexual desire pulsing below the surface of conversation. The sheer nastiness of the characters sets up an expectation of explosive action--one that is subverted by long, drawn-out descriptive passages and bare stretches of chillingly mundane dialogue. Readers expecting a feisty little romance á la Last Tango will be sorely disappointed to discover that this couple has trouble getting around to ordering coffee, let alone hopping into bed. Billetdoux seems to want to set up an opposition between inner desire and surface action, between will and commission, and possibly between thought and language; but it's a laborious experiment. Thus it is a very long time before Lucas and Blanche finally get down to business in Room 420 of their hotel. And though we know that Blanche is married to an officious character by the name of Francois, and that Lucas is a student whose mother was drowned by Lucas' father, we aren't left with a strong impression of who either of these people are or why they're so unpleasant. When Lucas does become violent and bludgeons Blanche--before reenacting his family tragedy by drowning himself along with her in a fit of mechanistic jealousy--the reader hasn't lost two characters so much as two verbal constructs. With its overwrought surface and rather hollow center, this harmless bit of pastry is worth a pass.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1987
Publisher: Viking