Love and Empire

Erik Orsenna, Author Cornelia & Michael Bessie Books $25 (487p) ISBN 978-0-06-039103-4
This unconventional, plotless chronicle, inflated to tedious girth, records the views and adventures of flighty, roly-poly, rubber-tire expert Gabriel Orsenna, and combines his escapades with a whimsical survey of the slippage of French imperialism between the 1880s and 1954, when Indochina was lost. Of French and Mexican background, Gabriel searches out the latex-bearing forests of the world from the Amazon to the East. He is married and pursues an ongoing affair with his wife's sister, but neither relationship is developed or imbued with human interest. The author shuttles abruptly between first- and third-person narration, and pads his prose with digressions on automobiles, bicycle racing, varieties of rubber tires, a table on the curative properties of French and German mineral waters, a list of forest types according to the prevalence of rubber trees, letters, and ``notes from the rain forest.'' The work suffers from forced wit in an attempt at absurdity, together with the presumption that wordiness on stated themes may add up to a novel. Critics in France, however, awarded the book the Prix Goncourt. (June)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1991
Release date: 07/01/1991
Genre: Fiction
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