TAKING IT TO HEART

Marie Desplechin, Author, Will Hobson, Translator , trans. from the French by Will Hobson. Granta $11.95 (170p) ISBN 978-1-86207-407-1

This disarming and often witty debut collection of stories by Desplechin (Sans Moi) is set in a Paris of lonely hearts and ill-fated friendships. Heroines wave a common banner of resigned romanticism on the march through frequently doomed relationships, and the blackly comic one-liners fly thick and fast: "You only escape from loneliness in fits and starts. I love friendship. It's like the gulp of air torturers allow their victims before they push their heads back underwater." Hobson's translation renders Desplechin's wry humor effortlessly from the original French—no small feat. Some of the stories seem unfinished: there are missing details, inconclusive scenes, unexplored characters. But in the best of these tragicomic tales of sex and love and dinner parties, a meditative emotional wisdom is at work. "Joy," the life story of a gynecologist told in the first person, is a satiric delight; "Something's Wrong," about a woman who moves in with her boyfriend, is more tense and meditative; "At Sea," which chronicles a woman's various boating mishaps, is funny and observant. The title story may suggest Desplechin's true range: when city siblings Bénédicte and Théo visit ailing and lonely Granny in their hometown outside of Paris, a bitter childhood nostalgia blinds them to their own grandmother's toughness and resilience, borne of a terrifying youth in Nazi-occupied France. In these stories, no one admits they're looking for love, but everyone is—and their eyes may be too sharp ever to find it. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 03/18/2002
Release date: 04/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
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