Four Parisians navigate a shifting personal and political landscape in a modern, sexually liberated Europe.
Tracing the rise, fall and subsequent reinvention of a generation through a few key relationships, this deliberately provocative novel makes for a gossipy snapshot of the French intelligentsia. The narrator, Elizabeth “Liz” Levallois, is a chic pop-culture journalist who is conducting a longtime affair with Jean-Michel “Leibo” Leibowitz, a married Jewish intellectual best known for writing a book about fidelity. A one-time leftist, he finds himself, as the years go by, shifting to the right, taking on a contrarian’s role. Liz writes for the same newspaper as Leibo’s college pal Dominique Rossi, aka Doum, a local gay icon who came of age in the fabulous, anything-goes '80s. Liz fatefully introduces him to William Miller, aka Willie, a naïve younger man from the provinces. They fall in love, with Doum, who is HIV positive, taking the self-absorbed Willie under his wing. After the two split up, Doum, in the spirit of the times, takes a leadership role advocating for safe sex within the gay community. Willie, motivated by perversity, self-destruction and a twisted kind of love, consequently makes a name for himself as a defiant anti-safe sex ambassador. Preaching a subversive “no condoms” gospel, Willie becomes more and more obsessed with “destroying” his ex. Lacking Doum’s connections and coherence, he posts humiliating and pornographic photos of Doum on the Internet, and gets him marginalized in the gay-activist organization that he founded. But eventually, enough is enough, as Doum teams up with Leibo for a book and media tour that manages to make them both relevant again. Meanwhile, fading enfant terrible Willie spirals out of control–with disastrous results. That leaves a rueful Liz to pick up the pieces and question her choices. A sensation when it was first released in the author’s native France, Garcia’s debut is filled with multiple cultural touchstones and a “you had to have been there” insider quality that could put off some readers.
Edgy, pretentious roman à clef.