An very sad young American in Paris.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 8 May 2013
It takes place in Paris in the 1950s. And, surprisingly, we consider the contemporary French writer Patrick Modiano: the streets of Paris, cafes, bars, inactivity, wandering of a young man – about twenty years- his attendance with people older than him. We also think, Hung forces, to Jean Genet, but the feelings and writing feelings are not the same, far from it. It is also believed to any part of the anxlo Saxon literature including U.S. where young people come in continental Europe, usually South or even North Africa, in principle to be formed of life, but more specifically, to forget,be lost or destroyed, in alcohol and sex. Do, I think of Paul Bowles. But the universe is lightes by some exotic points.
« Giovanni's room », I read it because it is regarded as an essential book genre literature. The problem of David, coming from the United States in Paris : he cannot say to his family and he cannnot thinh, himself, that’s a man he loves. He pretends to hesitate between man and a woman or women. But he can not stand, either, to love a woman or women. So it seems to me that the problem of David is deeper than the sexual kind. To borrow a phrase from Donald Winnicott, it is , for him, impossible to "be." And I would say that in a perverse way, he focused its inability to "be" on another he sends to death. But that’s not so simple.
Indeed, if it is, rarely, about desire, it is never, never about pleasure. The sexual act appears as a comforting, calming anxiety, protection, leak, but never as a pleasure. The desire is present, as well as alcohol, which is flowing throughout the book, and much more than sex, but more like an escape from reality or one’ s self that as an accomplishment. Just made the first move of its realization, even before David is assailed by thoughts of guilt, disgust with himself or another man or woman ; he nevers lets him touched by sensations of pleasure. Everything is bathed in an atmosphere where everything is only falsehood or lie. Giovanni's Room is a filthy hovel in ruins : David’s inner world ?
Then, of course, all this goes back to a distant childhood. And very beautiful and just this scene of early adolescence: he wakes up a first night with a friend and he is shocked by the sight of this fellow, still almost a child, still asleep, naked, fragile, near form him. This emotion, it is unbearable. And in this sense the universe of writing is, here, absolutely different from that of Jean Genet. Jean Genet fetch the rarest purest words to celebrate the body that moves, that dazzles him. Here, however, the emotion body has no place, must not be. And it seems to me that this is the key to David’s relationship with Giovanni, Hella and Sue.
I liked the construction of the book: its back and forth between different periods in the life of David. And we know very quickly, even before David's ever met him, what will be the outcome for Giovanni, but no one knows how or why. This creates a tension. But throughout the last third of the book, everything is consumed: the guilt of David, his distaste for Hella itself. It remains for him to imagine in detail the last moments of Giovanni. Makes you wonder if there is not, there,finally, a sadistic pleasure, the only one…
I did not like the amount of dialogue: in this world where everything is wrong, they talk a lot, and a lot to hide or lie, not to say that they desire, not to say that they love, they do not love anymore, not to say that disgust is between them. As if they were talking not to feel. The dialogues flow as numerous as the alcohol glasses. This universe of the book is bathed in a murky atmosphere, even if from beginning to the end, the light of spring, summer and fall has smiled to Paris.
By the way, in 1938, Jean Paul Sartres had published "Nausea".
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