cover image The Unforeseen

The Unforeseen

Christian Oster, , trans. from the French by Adriana Hunter. . Other Press, $13.95 (257pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-265-4

The latest from French novelist Oster (A Cleaning Woman ) uses the common cold as a deceptively offhand metaphor for love, and achieves a depth that is comic, sad and very Gallic. The unnamed narrator claims that he lives with a constant low-level cold, and that he inevitably infects every woman with whom he is in a relationship. He loves his partner, Laure, who has, for the past year, proven impervious to infection. As the two set off in their car for a friend's birthday party on the distant island of Braz, Laure is seized with cold symptoms. It shocks her, and the resulting chain of events, closely observed from the narrator's perspective, makes up the rest of the book. The result is a love story deeply informed by Beckett (complete with the narrator acquiring a limp like that of Molloy 's title character), where swells of feeling are tracked in sneezes as involuntary as love itself. The narrator's dispassion, which is likely to turn more than a few readers off, paradoxically betrays the depth of his feeling at every turn, giving a story in which almost nothing happens very large stakes indeed. (Oct.)