Book reviews Critiques littéraires Books recently published in english and french.

samedi 24 juillet 2010

William Boyd, 0rdinary Thunderstorms, HarperCollins, 2009

This extraordinary intelligent British author always surprises one by his skill : he writes a thriller and a novel of manners at the same time, keeps a tight suspense and also piques your intellect with his keen cultural knowledge of the contemporary scene. His hero, Adam Kindred is certainly one of a kind, and also well named, judge for yourself. This man is a climatologist, an academic who studies clouds, nothing more impractical, who comes to London for a fancy job interview. What does he do? He goes to lunch and meets by chance an immunologist , Dr Wang, who leaves his file on the table upon departing … Adam goes to Wang's office to bring it vback and finds him brutally murdered on the floor…he flees horrified .From there, comes a series of accidents which ruin poor Adam's life in a whiff and throws him out of society as fast as a missile .What happens ? He flees in the city ,does'nt call the police ,wanting above all freedom ; naturally he is mugged and robbed , and practically naked hides in an small bushy isle in the middle of the Thames… It sounds incredible but it isn't, things like that happen all the time except sleeping on an inlet . Having been recently robbed in Athens of my papers and money, I can testify that being without identity is astounding : you are all of a sudden nobody and must prove that you are a citizen if you want to go home. The novel is thus an interesting study of Identity in the eyes of others as a major aspect of our personality ;it is impossible to live in the margins of society more than a few months ( as a game as it were )and your social self needs to exist even if it includes your financial self in the process. What can you do without money?

Boyd shows this very well , his hero invents a sort of derelict way of life by camping out, stealing a bit, begging, escaping a killer's hit (a giant pharmaceutical needs this witness of Wang's murder out of the way) and even joining a crazy pseudo church who feeds the poor.All the aspects of the homeless life in our modern cities are exposed and found absolutely tragic, full of fear, unbearable, sinister and without hope.. how can these poor people survive is a mystery, and Adam sees that , often wondering if his quest of freedom at all cost was worth it. This is what makes the novel fascinating, this quest which is fundamental to him : freedom to act .Otherwise it would be just a cultural thriller even a very good one.

As a moral tale," Ordinary Clouds " is pretty satisfying but a bit weak and scabrous : the villain is a disgusting and arrogant pharmaceutical giant, the hero is saved by having coldly usurped not only the identity of a dead homeless companion but by throwing over the bridge a repulsive black mailer… The new Adam simply kills a man without a back glance, this is what homeless life does to you : you become a sort of monster.At the end, Boyd makes a mistake in my mind: Adam saved from annihilation, so to speak , falls in love with a policewoman who has been more or less mixed up in his case and they plan a cosy little life with an adopted nitwit, in a cottage along the Thames… Can you believe it ? That is a bit Hollywoodish , a romantic twist that sounds like Leonardo di Caprio in an otherwise superb novel.


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Brussels, Belgium
Née à Bruxelles, mère résistante et sculpteur, père homme d’affaires, études à l ’Université libre de Bruxelles ( Philosophie et Lettres ; arts primitifs), puis à Harvard ( anthropologie), Rutgers New Brunswick, Duke University .N.C. USA ( littérature comparée, Masters et Doctorat.) Thèse publiée (Ph.D) sur Valéry et Mallarmé. Enseignement universitaire aux USA, en France (Aix en Provence) et au Liban (comme coopérant) ,littérature et philosophie , en français ou anglais. Mariée en premières noces à un avocat américain G.Robert Wills et puis à un peintre et publiciste Français, Jean- Pierre Rhein (décédé). La plupart des publications sous le nom de Wills.Vit à Bruxelles.