Home > 1990, 20th Century, Adam Olivier, French Literature, Made into a film, Novel > Don’t worry, I’m fine, they all say

Don’t worry, I’m fine, they all say

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Je vais bien, ne t’en fais pas by Olivier Adam. (155 pages). Not translated in English. The title means : Don’t worry, I’m fine.

 I decided to read Je vais bien, ne t’en fais pas by Olivier Adam, after watching the eponymous film directed by Philippe Lioret. The film upset me and left me with terrible questions about right and wrong. In order to better understand the characters, I bought the novel. The title means “I’m fine, don’t worry”. But who is fine? Claire, Loïc, their parents Paul and Irène?  

The first part of the book pictures Claire and her automatic life. She works as a cashier at a Shopi, a French equivalent of a 7/11. This jobs requires no brain and that’s fine with her. She’s suffering. She’s thinking of Loïc all the time. What he would do. What he would say. What he would think. Loïc is Claire’s little brother. They are as close as twins. Loïc is absent. And his absence changed Claire into a robot. Her parents are silent, loving but silent, ill at ease with their feelings. We don’t know where Loïc is, just that he is physically absent but present in all Claire’s thoughts. A ghostly presence at her side and haunting questions.

Second part. A flash back. Claire comes home from holidays. Loïc is gone, the parents say. He and Paul had a dreadful fight. He left six days ago and hasn’t called since. Claire sinks, stops eating, lets herself wither with chagrin. She wants to die. She feels hollow, a living part of herself is missing. One day, a postcard. Loïc wrote to her. He’s fine, he wants to travel. And from this moment, every now and then, a post card. “I’m fine, don’t worry.” Claire still feels hollow but her death-wish fades away.

Third part. Claire struggles to move on, decides to go to Portbail as Loïc’s latest postcard comes from there. And I won’t say more about the plot.

After watching the film, I wanted to read the novel. After reading the novel, I needed to write about it, not type, but write with a pen the words pouring out of my head.  Because the story touched me and the atmosphere wrapped me in a veil of gloom.

Adam writes in a staccato style, figuring Claire living like a robot. He captures Claire’s automatic life, how she feels ill at ease everywhere. Out of place. Not in the mood. Alien. He portrays France in the 1990s, the quiet suburbs around Paris, with fathers and husbands like Paul, commuting everyday, spending two and a half hours per day in the suburb trains. (RER) Claire and Loïc’s childhood sounds like any childhood of middle-class children from that time. They are ordinary people. Spot on. Such are also the descriptions of the parties among Parisian students, not asking what one studies but where. Snobs who look down on the poor cashier.  

This novel made me think of Skylark by Deszö Kosztlányi. Not that Olivier Adam is as talented as Kosztlányi. But there’s a recurring theme: “How children suffer for their parents, and parents for their children”. How they can suffer side by side, knowing what the others are feeling but never telling it. Saying it aloud would only increase the pain greatly. Better do anything rather than inflicting pain on their beloved ones?  

Adam’s book hasn’t been translated in English. It’s easy to read in French, not too much slang, not too many complicated words. I felt the melancholy and a sort of nostalgia when reading about the food references, the music, the prices in francs. For those who can’t read French, I recommend the film. Philippe Lioret has done a wonderful job there. He encapsulated the atmosphere of the novel. He turned the words into images on the same tune. Mélanie Laurent (Claire) and Kad Merad (Paul) are excellent in their roles. Watching the film is as good as reading the book, and that doesn’t happen so often.  

In case anyone is interested, the DVD I have includes English subtitles and French subtitles for the hearing impaired.

  1. February 8, 2011 at 6:52 am

    This sounds very interesting. I think I would like to read it. I am suprised though that you liked it, it sounds gloomy enough.Maybe because it was very thought-provoking. I want to know what happened. I am not sure if I would rather like to watch the movie. I haven’t read anything by Olivier Adam yet but once again I wonder why certain books are translated while others are not and will never be. (No prize, I suppose.) I wrote as a comment on a blog post once that when I was working for the German editor I had to refuse books that were too French and was completely misunderstood. Someone said that Marguerite Duras and Marie Ndiaye were also very French but ha been translated anyway. What I meant, and this could be the reason here is too much reference to French everyday life and popular culture, products, music, politics. Some references really don’t mean anything outside of France. This novel seems rooted in the French 90s, no?

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    • February 8, 2011 at 8:53 am

      It was thought provoking. Really. The film stayed with me.

      “This novel seems rooted in the French 90s, no?” You nailed it. This book won’t last because of all the precise references, but the film will. That’s the power of cinema: you show that everyday life and the spectator understands, even if he’s a foreigner. This is the real France, not the one from Amélie Poulain.

      This is a post without quotes, and I don’t do that very often. Actually, I didn’t have short relevant quotes.

      If you have to make a choice between the book and the film, I recommend the film.

      Like

  2. February 8, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I ordered the movie after having watched the trailer. The book would have been short but I have a huge pile of unread French books. Since none of them has been translated I am a bit less enthusiastic to read them. Silly really.

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    • February 8, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      If you don’t post about the film, I hope you’ll leave a comment. I’ll be happy to read your thoughts about it.
      I understand why you are reluctant to read French books that have not been translated. Same thing for me. And I also think I’m rather silly for that. But at least I know you can read them, and vice versa.

      Like

  3. Malin
    May 16, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Is the story in the film the same as in the book, or have they changed it? I’d like to know how the book ends compared to the film..

    Like

    • May 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for visiting. Have you seen the film?

      The story is the same regarding the Claire (Lili in the film)/Loïc/parents relationship.
      The relationship between Lili/Thomas/Léa isn’t the same in the book.
      The book is darker in its tone. Claire’s life is more violent.
      The ending is similar, yes.

      Like

  4. Malin
    May 16, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Yes, I’ve seen the film, and I tried reading the book but I got a bit confused since the character names and the stories are not the same. But I think I got the main bits, thank you for answering!

    Like

  5. Luigi
    April 8, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I stumbled upon jes vais bien, ne t’en fais pas by accident. I actually watched Les adoptés by Mélanie Laurent. Her film as well as her performance caught my eye. So I did some research and I found jes vais bien, ne t’en fais pas. I watched the movie and I was left with many questions. I truly loved it!!! I wish there was an English translation to Olivier’s book. My french is not that good so reading a book will be difficult, but I’m so intrigued to find more answers, and if so, those answers are laying behind those pages of Olivier’s book.

    Like

    • April 8, 2012 at 8:28 am

      Thanks for visiting and commenting.
      In my opinion, the film is better than the book, no need to regret you can’t read it. There aren’t any answers in the book. Sorry.

      Like

  6. Sonia
    August 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    That was fantabulous in my opinion!! It moves me a lot because Claire’s sense about her brother was same as mine! So I’m so impressed and I love it,..

    Like

  7. April 28, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Interesting post, thank you for this. I had to read the book and compare the ending of the film with the ending of the book for a French assignment, and this has some good points. Thank you!

    Like

    • April 28, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      Hi, happy if I was of some help. Thanks for letting me know.
      I wish that all the people who click on my post about The Boy in the Last Row by Mayorga did the same. It’d be the most commented post of the blog. 🙂

      Like

  1. February 11, 2011 at 9:08 pm
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