cover image Separation


Dan Franck. Alfred A. Knopf, $19 (227pp) ISBN 978-0-679-42453-6

``Separation'' seems too benign a word for the excruciating psychological torment the narrator undergoes during the breakup of his seven-year marriage. In a process that starts at a performance of The Tempest when his wife takes her hand from his, the narrator's sense of self and security are peeled away layer by layer until, four and a half months later, he is stripped of wife, two young children and his Paris home. The nameless narrator, his wife and their numerous friends were all ``children of May '68'' who have slipped into a life of comfortable affluence and liberal rhetoric. When his wife cools to him and then admits that she is infatuated with another man, he is determined to be understanding and reasonable in order to keep his family together. Soon he realizes that the other man is merely a symptom of a deeper malaise and the narrator's noblesse dissipates into petty jealousies, betrayals and his induction as a ``Knight of the Order of Valium.'' He clings to his five-year-old ``First Child,'' hoping to stave off the loss that followed his parents' divorce. Every detail in this terse poetic narrative hits home: ``She slips past him in the hallways, goes through doors ahead of him, calls their bedroom `my' bedroom and the children `my' children . . .'' French writer Franck dedicates Separation to his children; one can presume that such sad insight has been earned. (Jan.)