cover image Vie Francaise

Vie Francaise

Jean-Paul DuBois. Knopf Publishing Group, $24.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-0-307-26287-5

In this first translation of veteran French novelist Dubois, Gallic everyman Paul Blick experiences decades of turmoil and tragedy, and conscientiously adds each mishap-whether national or personal-to his bleak philosophy. A native of the southern city of Toulouse, Paul loses his beloved brother in childhood, flirts with the revolutionary side of the '60s during his student days and finally sells out to marry Anna, the proud daughter of an aggressively capitalist family. Peaceful domesticity eventually gives way to Paul being unfaithful, and to his newfound passion for photography, which in turn brings him fame. Each section of Paul's life is titled with the name of the French president at the time (""Charles De Gaulle""; ""François Mitterrand"") and not-so-subtle parallels are drawn by Paul between his shifting discontent and his country's restlessness, climaxing in a series of random tragedies. Dubois's sense of irony and the absurd-Paul's fascination with snapping photos of trees and beetles, a friend's teenage sexual exploits with a roast turkey, Anna's hauteur as CEO of a Jacuzzi company-is compelling. But while Paul's grim discourses may be an integral part of his character, they don't add much to the story.