cover image The Destiny of Nathalie X: And Other Stories

The Destiny of Nathalie X: And Other Stories

William Boyd. Alfred A. Knopf, $22 (208pp) ISBN 978-0-679-44705-4

In the long title story of Boyd's accomplished new collection, a young African filmmaker finds himself catapulted by an obscure French prize out of his native village into Hollywood and an unwanted movie deal. In the book's shortest piece-a fictional, two-page obituary-a Vietnamese writer wins fame in Paris, falls into obscurity during the Occupation and dies after being struck by a bicycle. Other stories feature a British student in Marseilles; a latter-day Walter Mitty, misplaced in London, whose real life unfolds in dreams of Brazil; and a German architect who builds diners in 1950s Los Angeles. Like Boyd's popular novels A Good Man in Africa and Brazzaville Beach, all are tales of expatriate life or spiritual exile. In this collection, Boyd's style is polished and elegant, and he has developed a mature point of view that takes the bitterness out of his satire and makes his use of even conventional themes and situations subtly unsettling. His observations, whether of a landscape, an accent or an attitude, are consistently open to surprise and delight. His expats are, like their author, nomad exquisites: through their fresh eyes nothing looks banal, and the world-past or present, Old or New-is an entertaining, unfailingly exotic destination. (Feb.)