cover image Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost

Paris Is a Party, Paris Is a Ghost

David Hoon Kim. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-22972-6

Kim’s splendid if scattered debut centers on a Paris university student who is left reeling after his girlfriend’s death. Henrik Blatand has long struggled with his identity as a Japanese man adopted by Danish parents . After his Japanese girlfriend, Fumiko, dies by suicide, he feels consumed by guilt, believing he could have helped her. Here, Kim introduces a confusing break in the narrative. Fumiko’s body was donated to science, and the medical student who is dissecting Fumiko’s body in the lab meets Henrik, who has joined the lab as an arts student after learning her body would be there. Later, Henrik trains to be a translator and befriends charismatic Swiss translator René, whose seven-year-old daughter, Gém, reminds Henrik of Fumiko, even though she’s not Japanese, and who takes to claiming Henrik is her father when they’re in public, leading him to see himself as a father figure to her. Throughout, Henrik describes his various encounters with women and girls who remind him in some way of Fumiko. While there are many beautiful passages of longing (Henrik remembers falling in love with Fumiko’s “strangeness”), the incurably woebegone narrator lacks a clear motive, which will leave readers feeling puzzled. Kim sets a captivating mood, but not enough is done with it. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Aug.)