Un bonheur parfait
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Un bonheur parfait

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4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  1,589 ratings  ·  232 reviews
Nedra est belle, assurée, et sait donner aux gestes quotidiens une sorte d'élégance. Viri est architecte. Il rêve d'accomplir une œuvre qui lui survivra, et dévore les biographies des hommes illustres. Ils habitent une vieille demeure non loin de New York, ils s'aiment. Peut-être sont-ils moins heureux qu'ils ne le disent.
Paperback, 380 pages
Published October 6th 1999 by Editions de l'Olivier (first published 1975)
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Eric
A novel to read quickly, in a few long gulps. Reopening it each time, I needed at least 20 pages to recover the book’s subtle groove. Snatching a chapter here or a few pages there didn’t work: the characters sounded trivial, their pillow talk and dinner chatter banal, infuriating. I had to let their days accumulate. And the writing can seem all-too hushed and solemn; but the imagery becomes inevitable, the rhythms right. I admire Salter for having the balls to write a novel requiring such immers...more
William Thomas
You ever have one of those days where you spend the waning daylight hours staring out of a picture window at nothing in particular, with a far away look on your face, trying to clear your mind with a scotch in one hand and the other hadn stuffed in your pocket, rocking back and forth on your heels every so often, shaking the glass to break up the ice and then sighing so heavily that you physically deflate, your shoulders slumping and posture slouching?

This book is the literary equivalent of thi...more
Lee
Dec 22, 2013 Lee rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: fans of "Revolutionary Road"?
Hmm. I admired this more than I liked it. It's one of the most generic stories ever told, really, about the dissolution of the privileged lives of family and friends. Westchester County. The Hamptons. European travel. Educated, urbane conversation. Too much knowledge of good wine. Hot, intelligent children. "Luminous" prose, yea, but it seemed too often mannered for me. The syntax is consistent, two phrases separated by a comma, the second phrase deepening the resonance, often with an unexpected...more
AC
Let me start by saying that this book is a gem, flawless, rich, intelligent, emotional, mature. It is a work of genius. Of a minor genius (in the grand sweep of things), perhaps; but of genius, nonetheless.

The Hunters is an excellent book - beautifully written, plotted, with rich and believable characters -- often handled deftly with a few quick strokes. In it, Salter shows that he is developing a craftsmanship of real note. And added to that is the fact that he actually has something to say.

I t...more
Will Byrnes
This is a portrait of marriage. I felt very touched by the lives he describes, not so much for their own travails, but in recognition of my own. There is such sadness in expectations unfulfilled. Our lives do not follow the script we write as inexperienced authors of our lives. We drift apart, do not, cannot travel like paired rails to a common destination. I guess that is what this book is about. I found it lyrical as well as sad, beautifully written, not the heroic in the world, the challenged...more
James
This is the second novel by James Salter I've read and by far the most brilliant. I read The Hunters last year, which is a fine tale about the air war during the Korean conflict. For some reason, much of Light Years, a later novel, reminded me of the early D.H. Lawrence, especially the writing style, the terse, poetic subtlety, the directness and the need to eclipse the ordinary with vaulting description of thought and action interweaving, and yet somehow it all paints a world seemingly aloof, o...more
Jessica
I loved this more than I've loved any novel in a very long time, but please don't interpret that as a recommendation because you might really hate it. It spans something like fifteen years of a marriage and is mostly about sexy people with tons of money enjoying elaborately prepared meals and traveling around under various types of sky. But it's great.

I've noticed that many people have no tolerance for novels about unendearing rich characters doing nothing -- or perhaps more accurately, not supe...more
Amanda Rose
This book felt like a punch to the gut. When I finished it, I felt as though I'd lost people who had very quickly become an important part of my life. I have never read anything that more accurately and intimately described the truth about relationships. I skimmed other reviews by readers, and noticed that a few people pointed out that the characters are somewhat unlikeable. This is a personal quirk of mine, but I have very rarely really liked characters, or even people I meet, that are genuinel...more
Pam
This book is so beautifully written, so evocative -- not for everyone, I'm sure. The characters are held at a distance, and aren't always likeable. But there are these occasional, intimate glimpses.

I think I loved it for the language and setting. Moments like this: the father tells his little girls that he found their missing pony, Urusla, in the lake. He tells the girls that Urusla was swimming. The pony was looking for onions that grow along the bottom of the lake, she was stirring up the oni...more
Kimberly Faith
Salter analyzes marriage and the merits of independence vs. dependence. But, the novel is really a study of time. We know these characters through pin-points over twenty years. The writing is often stunning particularly as the characters travel through Europe in search of themselves and their true happiness. Salter is often oblique but because of this spare hand, some choices really mesmerize. He pays great attention to the changing of seasons and these shifts mark big changes for the characters...more
Bradley
I tried to like it, I really tried. Had to read it for a class, and while there were enjoyable moments, it was for the most part incredibly boring. Someone else reviewing it called it old white guy fiction and that is exactly what it is. And there is entertaining and good old white guy fiction, but Light Years is not even that. I not only didn't like either of the main characters, I actively hated them. They were selfish, self-centered, altogether terrible people who didn't have any real problem...more
Sebastian
Utterly shattering. Even better than Salter's A Sport And A Pastime, which I adored. So rich in words, ideas, emotion and images that it almost hurts to read. Poetry as prose that nails with equal precision descriptions of a landscape or a street as it does the complex vagueries of the human heart. An elliptical look at twenty years in the lives of a man, a woman, their two daughters and their circle of friends in New York and abroad in and around the 1960s. The breakup of a marriage; the realiz...more
Ann M
Trying again. Good dialogue, but do I care about these people? This is old white guy lit, big time. I wanted to give it two stars, but I was not motivated to finish it. Boring.
Corey
Quite simply the best novel I have read in some time. The prose is as beautiful as Marilynne Robinson's in 'Housekeeping' and the story is heartbreaking in the Cheever tradition. I am somewhat in awe of 'Light Years.' And you find lovely things in it like this: “How frightening to be without it, to wait for happiness, to be patient, to be ready, to have your face upturned and luminous like girls at communion. Yes, you are saying to yourself, me, me, I’m ready.”
Stu Sherman
Amazing, amazing, amazing. This is one of the greatest books I have ever read, right up there with Housekeeping and Ulysses. It follows the lives of a couple, Viri and Nedra, as well as the lives of their two daughters, over the course of about twenty years. The book starts with them as a young couple with young children. They live an easy and privileged life in upstate New York, alongside the Hudson river--which itself it as major character in the book along with the light and the seasons. Ther...more
Matt Simmons
It is exceptionally easy, and perhaps even exceptionally banal, to call James Salter's writing “lyrical.” Yet, that is exactly the feeling you get in reading Light Years—that of the lyric, the poem. While “poetic” in its language throughout, the novel feels most acutely “lyrical” for its first half, like a series of poems, somehow and perhaps only slightly related, brief glimpses into and mediations on the lives of an interesting-yet-venal people, concerned with their lovers, with the “fascinati...more
Robert
This is a true rarity for me. Not the one star, I'm not shy about doling those out. Not my lack of enthusiasm entering it; I'd just finished the marvelous "The Skin" by Curzio Malaparte so it would take quite something for me jump right into the next tale. Not my I found puzzlement as, after trudging through a needlessly florid, atmospheric chapter crammed with oddly hyper-selfconscious poetic language, I read the back flap description and wondered why I had picked this up in the first place: I...more
Sasha Martinez
The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of others?

She laid the book down open beside a few others.
...more
Sara
I feel oddly disappointed in myself for not enjoying this more. Some of it may have something to do with having to read most of it on the subway and it's terrible for subway reading. There's no plot you can immediately jump back into. The language is beautiful, highly poetic, but often to the point of seeming overworked, at least to me. It's hard for sentences to stand out if all of them are surrounded by other sentences whittled down to their most perfect parts. And I hate to say it, the charac...more
Matt
Like Virginia Woolf, Salter has managed to totally entrance me with characters and a genre that I would have professed zero interest in. He's just a really freakin' good writer, and a good listener...I get the feeling he pays attention to life as he lives it.

The beautiful heart of this novel--read during a very difficult period in my own life--is its exploration of the role that choice might play in determining the quality of one's existence. Viri's dilemma. Is it, as the party guest says, that...more
Margaret Tracy
Made an impression that I won't easily forget...about marriage, loneliness, raising kids and the transience of it all. Maybe a bit depressing, so don't go there if your state of mind is not strong.
Rafa
No puedo decir nada que no escribiera Antonio Muñoz Molina en este artículo http://antoniomuñozmolina.es/2013/04/...
Ann
Seldom has the evanescence of life, the passing from the years of light to the darkness of aging and death been assayed with such poetic, graceful writing. Salter also reminds the reader that, "One of the last great realizations is that life will not be what you dreamed"; a painful turning point for each of us.

Salter frames his meditation on mortality within the confines of the marriage of Nedra and Viri Berland. The perfect couple - darling children, witty friends - until infidelities and mount...more
Alan
Where has James Salter been all these years and why haven't I heard of him before reading this miraculous novel? While I can't answer that question I can marvel at the command of language and the spareness of his prose. The images he creates are awe inspiring and at the same time eerily frightening. This is not easy or safe writing. The characters seem simple yet mysterious and their path has a dark, existential quality that brings to mind Camus. Salter seems at ease at throwing you off your saf...more
JDK1962
Gave up on this after 7-8 chapters. Very poetic language, actually overly poetic for my taste. But I was having problem after problem with it. The 3rd person omniscient narration that occasionally lapsed into first person for a bit of writerly intrusion. No sense of where scenes were happening in time (within the timeline of the novel). Having to re-read bits to disambiguate pronouns. No discernible plot emerging in the chapters I read. Being utterly indifferent to the characters.

I know this is...more
Jennifer
I read this book about 15 years ago -- long before I was married and/or had kids. Salter is just a beautiful writer and I recall loving how he put words together even though the subject was foreign and the characters not all that likeable. I was just thinking about this book recently and then started the book by Julia Glass (which I'm loving) and there was a quote from this book at the front. So I'm putting it back on my to-read list which I don't do very often.
David
I loathed this book. Privileged narcissists commit adultery and their marriage breaks up. The characters were so vapidly self-centered, I couldn't bring myself to keep reading this lushly written chronicle of solipsistic privilege.

Salter's short story collection "Last Night" featured similarly narcissistic characters. Reading about rich a**holes might be tolerable for 20 pages at a stretch; beyond 100 pages it's pure purgatory.

John Pappas
I don't think I've read a book so unique in its portrayal of devastation but so universally relevant in its pathos, ever, at least since Yates's Revolutionary Road. This novel, which follows the unwinding marriage of Nedra and Viri (two well-off suburbanites who live on the Hudson River) dares to ask the question, "How do you go on living when your best years are so obviously behind you?" When you haven't fulfilled your promise, or pursued your dreams, and when you realize your passion has dwind...more
Beth
Jul 21, 2013 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: michelle rogers, ryan hamilton
Shelves: library-book
As a preface, a couple years back I pulled A Farewell to Arms off of my bookshelf and flipped to my favorite romantic passage with Katherine and Frederick. My heart swooned; I flipped back and started back at the beginning for the first time in many years. Much of it just fell terribly flat and came off as wooden and strange. I used to love Hemingway so it was unsettling to me. How could I have fallen out of love with his writing style? What had happened to me that this could even be possible?!...more
Bart
This is an extraordinary novel that brought me closer than any novel has to the following action: At the completion of its final page, flipping the book back to page 1 and beginning again.

The introduction of this edition of Light Years is written by master craftsman Richard Ford, and he is not brief or miserly in his praise for James Salter's talent. Nor should he be. This novel is an enduring work because it treats a generation of Americans as they actually were, not as they aspired to be seen...more
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James Salter (b. 1925) is a novelist, short story writer, and screenwriter. Salter grew up in New York City and was a career officer and Air Force pilot until his mid-thirties, when the success of his first novel (The Hunters, 1957) led to a fulltime writing career. Salter’s potent, lyrical prose has earned him acclaim from critics, readers, and fellow novelists. His novel A Sport and a Pastime (1...more
More about James Salter...
A Sport and a Pastime All That Is Last Night: Stories Dusk and Other Stories The Hunters

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“Their life is mysterious, it is like a forest; from far off it seems a unity, it can be comprehended, described, but closer it begins to separate, to break into light and shadow, the density blinds one. Within there is no form, only prodigious detail that reaches everywhere: exotic sounds, spills of sunlight, foliage, fallen trees, small beasts that flee at the sound of a twig-snap, insects, silence, flowers.
And all of this, dependent, closely woven, all of it is deceiving. There are really two kinds of life. There is, as Viri says, the one people believe you are living, and there is the other. It is this other which causes the trouble, this other we long to see.”
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“The book was in her lap; she had read no further. The power to change one’s life comes from a paragraph, a lone remark. The lines that penetrate us are slender, like the flukes that live in river water and enter the bodies of swimmers. She was excited, filled with strength. The polished sentences had arrived, it seemed, like so many other things, at just the right time. How can we imagine what our lives should be without the illumination of the lives of others?” 12 likes
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