Don’t bother

February 19, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger. 2012. Not translated into English.

Leger_LodenI’m supposed to be on a book buying ban but I had a too rare moment in town for myself and I couldn’t resist visiting my favourite book store. I bought Supplément à la vie de Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger because it was short and had won the Prix du Livre Inter. This literary prize is awarded by readers who are selected by France Inter (the French public radio) after they apply to be in the jury. The applicants have to write a letter saying why they love literature and the journalists of the station pick up the jury members among them. So common readers like us get to read a selection of books, debate about them and decide which one they preferred. It’s a good prize, away from the Parisian literary coterie and pressure from publishers. Obviously, I don’t have the same reading tastes as the 2012 jury.

I started to read this in the theatre, before Chapters of the Fall began. The man sitting next to me was reading an essay about eroticism in Western countries. I’m sure his book was more interesting than mine. This slim novel(?) is a first person narrative and the narrator is Nathalie Léger herself. She has to write a short note about Barbara Loden for a cinema anthology. She watches Wanda, Loden’s only film as a director. She relates her research about Barbara Loden. It’s interlaced with moments of her personal life. She sort of tries to find Barbara Loden, the woman, behind the character Wanda. She sort of tries to understand why she’s taking such a sudden interest in Barbara Loden. She sort of tries to link Barbara, Wanda and her mother or herself through I don’t know what. I was bored out of my mind and abandoned it at page 74. The remaining 40 ones were too much to bear.

It’s written in pseudo-intellectual rambling and it didn’t make any sense to me. It’s a succession of vignettes about what Wanda does in the film, what Barbara did in her life and what Nathalie and her mother do in theirs. Fascinating stuff. It may be autofiction, I’m not sure about the tag. Anyway, the best thing about it was its cover and it confirms the saying: you can’t judge a book by its cover.

  1. February 19, 2014 at 11:26 pm

    At least you bailed. It doesn’t sound like you’d have liked it any more if you’d pressed on for those remaining 40 pages.

    • February 19, 2014 at 11:28 pm

      That kind of stuff kept me away from contemporary French lit for a few years. I can’t see the draw.

  2. February 20, 2014 at 4:30 am

    It sounds as though it’s based on a fairly elusive premise. Have you seen the film wanda? I’m wondering if this would have more appeal to those who have seen/love the film.

    • February 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm

      I haven’t seen the film. I didn’t finish a book by Alice Ferney for the same reason. She kept referring to an old movie I hadn’t seen and it was just annoying. (I remember asking you if you’d seen it and even you hadn’t)
      I mean, if they want to compare the characters or the situations to a movie, they need to pick a famous one, one everyone has seen.
      Here it’s a bit different because she’s telling about her life as she’s working on that note and watching and rewatching the film.

      • February 22, 2014 at 6:52 pm

        It does seem to be a obscure reference, but perhaps that’s why she chose it.

        • February 23, 2014 at 10:05 am

          I’m thinking this is really autofiction and that she actually had to write that note, stumbled upon the film and wrote a book.

          • February 23, 2014 at 7:42 pm

            I’ve been thinking about it and the book rings a ring–I think there’s another one with a similar premise. Can’t remember the name of it as it’s fairly obscure.

  3. February 21, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Funny enough this sounds like something I would like a lot – just judging from the premise but then it would really depend on the writing. A book with a premise like this needs pretty stella writing.

    • February 21, 2014 at 9:56 pm

      There’s a good chance that you’d like it more than me. Plus you’re better than me about film references. Honestly, sometimes I wasn’t even understanding what I was reading. (And it was in French!!)

  4. February 21, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    stellar not stella – sorry.

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