cover image Women


Philippe Sollers, Phillipe Sollers. Columbia University Press, $40.5 (559pp) ISBN 978-0-231-06546-7

Sollers, editor of Tel Quel (now L'infini) and author of experimental texts ( H. ; Le Parc ), has written here what is, on the surface, a conventional roman a clef--Barthes, Lacan, Foucault and others roam its edges--but which is, at a deeper level, an unforgiving portrait of European intellectual culture. The narrator, Will, is an expatriate American journalist capable of but one conviction--``The world belongs to women. In other words, to death.'' Women is the novel he is writing as he travels the world recording his views on political terrorism, Maoism and the dozens of females he encounters along the way. Despite the ennui that engulfs Will and his countless sexual partners, the narration is buoyed by extraordinary improvisations that keep the reader sailing. The audacious description of a real-life Emma Bovary, circa 1984stet , who expresses ``great admiration for Flaubert'' but who criticizes the great French writer for describing her ``burgeoning love for Rodolphe in parallel to the lowing of cattle,'' is scandalously funny. Given Sollers's own political activism, one can only suppose that in the boorish, self-absorbed Will he has created a fictional object of transference for a generation of idealists now clutched in doubt. Bray's translation makes brilliant accommodation to both the lyrical swing and the hard poetry of Sollers's imagination. (Dec.)