A Word from the Editor
In this issue, an art historian, a specialist in contemporary French literature, and an anthropologist review two recent novels and a film.
In our first Buzz, Neil McWilliam situates Jacques Doillon’s film Rodin (2017) within the genre of artist biopics and contrasts it to Bruno Nuytten’s tempestuous Camille Claudel (1988). In an amusing and highly informed review, he explains how the film’s didacticism boosts the conventional cliché of the tormented artist without really engaging with Rodin’s artistic process. The relationship with Camille Claudel is approached more soberly than in Nuytten’s version, but leaves no doubt about Rodin’s failings with women.
In the second Buzz, Alan Morris takes us to the wartime experiences of Samuel Beckett and his future wife Suzanne Dechevaux-Dumesnil as re-imagined by Jo Baker in A Country Road, a Tree (2016). The novel offers a highly atmospheric account of their struggle for survival in a depleted Paris and involvement in resistance movements in Paris and the Midi, ending with Beckett’s volunteer work for an Irish hospital in bombed-out Saint-Lô. With much ingenuity, Baker weaves in Beckett’s creative distancing from Joyce and the memories that would infuse his post-war work.
Lastly, in Maybe Missed, Kimberley Arkin entices us into the world of multi-cultural Belleville, one of the several locales in Karim Miské’s award-winning Arab Jazz (2012). A murder has been committed and the suspects include the victim’s neighbour (a starving secular Muslim hiding in the world of books), radicalized Muslim youths, Jewish fundamentalists (in Paris and Brooklyn), and deranged Jehovah’s Witnesses. While the real culprit is greed rather than religion, Miské makes clear his dislike of religious extremism in this complex and lively tale.
University at Buffalo, SUNY