FETE by Roger Vailland


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In an era of synthetic and imitative writing, Vailland's new novel (his first novel was The Law) stands out as a thoroughly creative original work. Quoting Vailland, it could- and probably will- be described as ""a novel that wasn't a real novel"". Duc, whose story it is, feels restive and disillusioned over the novel he is attempting to write. Wholly self-centered, he seeks a cure for his problems in an amour fou -- rather than an amour passion. ""What I need is a fete"" he explains to his understanding wife, Leonie. And so, with the connivance of Leonie and the acquiescence of his young friend, Jean-Marc, he takes Jean-Marc's unfledged wife, Lucie, away for an uninhibited week-end. It is as simple- and as Latin -- as that. But where it diverges sharply from the routine affaire of much of today's writing, is that interwoven with the delineation of this inner story is Duc's rationalization of his use of the material he is acquiring. He tries out the plot of the novel in the works -- and discards it. Why create unreal characters, unreal situations, if all that needs be done is to live your novel, know your characters, pinpoint your own reactions, and write it down. And so the book comes full circle. The last paragraph and the first are identical. What happened in between is the substance of the novel Duc will write....The English title, The Sovereigns, fails to capture the essence caught in the American title, Fete. And the final impression left with any reader is the magic of the sweep of words.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1960
Publisher: Knopf