cover image One Hour of Fervor

One Hour of Fervor

Muriel Barbery, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Europa, $24 (196p) ISBN 979-8-88966-004-0

Barbery (The Elegance of the Hedgehog) focuses her exquisite latest on Haru Ueno, a successful Kyoto art dealer whose life is disrupted when, after a brief affair in 1970, his French lover, Maud, informs him in a letter she is pregnant and that she will kill herself if he attempts to get in touch with her or their child. After their daughter, Rose, is born in France, Haru hires a detective to keep tabs on mother and child. He occasionally returns to his mountain homeland in Takayama to see his parents and brother but has deeper relationships with his closest friends in Kyoto, artist and poet Keisuke Shibata, and Tomoo Hasegawa, the woman who introduced him to Maud. Haru eventually works up the courage to visit Rose in Paris when she’s a young adult, a pivotal and poignant scene that Barbery handles with dexterity. Throughout, the author perfectly captures Haru’s ambivalence about family and the twin poles of his life, which he calls “opposing riverbanks”: “On one, there were women, sake, business dinners and parties. On the other, there were the works of art, Keisuke, and Tomoo. In the center, in a zone of mystery washed with flowing water, floated Rose, enigmatic and ethereal.” Readers will be rapt. (Jan.)