cover image Exposed


Jean-Philippe Blondel, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. New Vessel, $16.95 trade paper (158p) ISBN 978-1-939931-67-2

Blondel’s captivating second novel (following The 6:41 from Paris) tracks an aging high school English teacher’s strange relationship with a famous young painter. Louis Claret, approaching 60, lives alone in a small, cold apartment in his provincial French city. His ex-wife, Anne, amicably divorced him years earlier and is happily remarried; his two adult daughters have moved away. Claret’s life changes when he is invited to Alexandre Laudin’s art opening. Laudin, a local celebrity whose painting has achieved national attention, was Claret’s student, but Claret barely remembers him. Laudin invites a surprised Claret to his apartment, shows him a stunning new sequence of triptychs, and makes an unusual offer: he’d like Claret to pose. Claret agrees, and each time he is painted, Blondel reveals more of his past through beautiful, italicized sequences. The experience lets him dwell on a life of roads not taken and of regret mingled with beauty. All along, Laudin reveals his true self, and eventually, Claret is given the chance to strip bare. The novel flies by with gentle humor, but it also poses complex questions about the meaning of art and sexuality, and offers an elegiac look at late middle age. Claret’s evolution is irresistible, and the story’s fundamental kindness sets it apart. (June)