Volume 6, Issue 4, February 2016

Word from the Editor

Love, loyalty and families, murder and suicide, oppression and self-realization all feature in this month’s reviews.

In the Buzz, Philip Nord shares his enthusiasm for Christophe Boltanski’s La Cache. The central characters are the author’s grandparents and their apartment on the rue de Grenelle. This is a family with secrets, not all of which are unraveled. At its heart, Myriam, the formidable grandmother, is determined to insulate her brood from the outside world, despite meagre resources. She manages to hide her husband Etienne from the French police during the Occupation. While uncles Jean-Elie and Christian, aunt Anne and his father Luc are part of the narrative, it is Christophe’s fond and bemused recollections that allow us to penetrate this fortress and gain some insight into a family forever poised between two worlds.

In Maybe Missed, Natalya Vince guides us through The Meursault Investigation, Kamel Daoud’s response to Albert Camus’s L’Étranger. The novel treats the original as “real,” and reveals Meursault’s victim’s identity (Musa) who, in Camus’s account, was just a nameless Arab. Seated at a bar in Oran, the murdered Musa’s now elderly brother Harun describes to a young journalist what life was like under colonial rule, during the fight for independence, and in its aftermath. He has little to be proud of in his own life, but his mother and long-ago girlfriend had the guts he lacks. As Natalya Vince demonstrates, this is a multi-layered tale in which the present confronts the past.

In the Classics section, Jim Allen looks at the latest adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. While no movie can do justice to the novel, Allen gives us reasons to appreciate Sophie Barthes’s 2014 version. She brings to the film a strong visual aesthetic, turning Flaubert’s words into striking imagery. Likewise, Mia Wasikowska’s combination of poise and intensity is able to convey, with a look, Emma Bovary’s longings, petulance, and ultimate despair. The film is an excellent illustration of the desires created by the new consumer society, with Emma remodeling her house and ordering increasingly lavish (and unforgettable) dresses in her determination to rise above her station.

Liana Vardi

University at Buffalo, SUNY

 

Table of Contents

The Buzz

Christophe Boltanski’s Memories of War and Peace, by Philip Nord

Maybe Missed

Literature as post-colonial reality? Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation, by Natalya Vince

Classics in the Classroom

Sophie Barthes’s Madame Bovary, by James Smith Allen

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