"Bonjou, Tristesse" or "Hello, Sadness",is not as sad or depressing as the title suggests.There's no debate whether you should I slash your wrists or"Bonjou, Tristesse" or "Hello, Sadness", is not as sad or depressing as the title suggests. There's no debate whether you should I slash your wrists or put a bullet in your cranium. Nothing like that. It's French riviera, adultery, streaming sun and first kisses. All followed by a cynical, but necessary in my opinion, ending.
The book is mighty short mind you, and the writing surprisingly mature. Sagan was 18 this was published, did you know? I didn't (not until I was done with the book).
In all my ignorance, I was under the impression that this was written by an old Nabokov like creep. The lovely detailed descriptions of Côte d'Azur (I almost felt sand in my hair and sun on my face as I read it, and it's snowing over here now), the acute portrayal of a 17yo spoiled girl (in this aspect, I believe Sagan's age was mightily helpful), the in depth analysis of peoples motives and behaviors - that's what must have led me astray. The tantrums, the hatred, the constant scheming, the egoism, the lies, the father worship, the adultery, the avoidance - it was all pointing out to a well aged male writer, not to a young debutante. And the writing was superb, did I mention it yet? Well, ok, dialogs excluded, those felt tad unnatural and lengthy, in my experience simple constructs and short sentences work best in speech, but I'm prepared to blame the nameless translator for that. When in doubt always blame the translator. That's my rule.
Apart from the exquisite imagery, the main strength of Bonjou, Tristesse is the seventeen-year-old Cécile. She considers herself superior, sophisticated and oh so mature. Which, of course, entitles her to meddling in other people's affairs, taking lovers (twice her age would be most appropriate) if only she wishes, and disregarding any advise. Cécile is snooty, temperamental and a typical teenager. But most importantly so much more real that the idolized Bella (for those of you who are keeping up with the Twilight extravaganza).
So why the so-so rating, would you ask. Well, first of all, it's not my favorite book. Tad snooty and never too cheerful with that inherently French ideas of love and adultery, it was hard for me to like. Besiedes, I appreciated what it stood for, I appreciated the talent behind it, but I enjoyed only parts of it. Yet, even though I did not quite love it, I would still recommend it to those with a preference for literary fiction - it's a nice French gem (an overnight sensation back when it was first published) that should not be forgotten. ...more
It’s a little crazy - the title of this book, don't you think? A little nuts. Asking me to shoot the kids! The kids!!! You run around with an axe, burIt’s a little crazy - the title of this book, don't you think? A little nuts. Asking me to shoot the kids! The kids!!! You run around with an axe, bury it left and right in brain matter, why don't you. And while you're at it, ruin my flowers. Nutz!!! Say, what? The kids are like the buds? It's wrong? Nonsense. You're overusing that pretty head of yours. Remember Golding? The guy had a point!!! Nothing like the buds!! Shoot them. Shoot them all!!!
OK. Time out. Lets put the juvenile and the split personality to rest, you probably want to know whether the book was any good.
Well it was bloody awesome! Violent from start to finish, with chapter titles way too revealing, and male genitals shrinking in the cold time after time over and over - stuff like that makes me cringe, stuff like that can cross prominent authors off my reading list for good, stuff like that done right apparently can earn you a Nobel Prize but my aproval? You have to try harder, and spartan sentences and male first person narrative aren't helping either. So what is it about this book that made it so appealing to me after all? Maybe it's the setting: Japan during WWII, isolated snow buried little village. Maybe it's the disease - ever since the Plague, I have the unhealthy fascination with sickness and love when my characters suffer even die. Maybe it's true an honest, spot on portrayal of kids and adults, boys and girl, foreigners and locals, the educated and the stupid mob. Maybe it's all of it, together with the despised brutality and raw emotions. But whatever it is, it makes the book damn good.
And two more things before you go. One, judging from reviews here on GR, English translation leaves a lot to be desired. I read it in Polish and voice no complaints, my translation was fine, sorry if you get a shitty one. Two, all of the Lord of the Flies references - they don't give this book justice. Nip the buds, shoot the kids is not a LOTF-repeat with a different setting and Japanese customs thrown in for distraction. What the two books have in common is young boys in isolation and a level of violence which you usually don't associate with kids, but that's it. The message Oë passes on with his book (and he passes it well) is the opposite of what Golding tried to convey. So it is fun to make a literary comparison between those two, but it's fun not because of the similarities, but because of the differences: both books disagree on the most essential matter, both deliver strong arguments and make a stance. So before you think of Kenzaburo Oë as a William Golding wannabe, think twice, the guy deserves his own moment in the spotlight. ...more
My Japanese friend, 30-ish, former competitive cross-country skier*, now a sushi-man working in Poland, moved all the way from the other side of the wMy Japanese friend, 30-ish, former competitive cross-country skier*, now a sushi-man working in Poland, moved all the way from the other side of the world to Warsaw, just to make sushi for local yuppies. Can you imagine? In order to escape Tokio's corporate nightmare, he swapped continents, traded cultures, left his family behind and moved to this obscure little country called Poland. I mean I like it here, but it's not the most foreigner friendly place. Especially not if you are a slender Japanese dude with long silky hair and a cute pudgely face.
Just to give you an example, this friend of mine gets giggled at by teenage girls just because of his androgynous fashion choices and petite builds, I'm guessing he confuses the shit out of them, but come on, grow the hell up girls. Then he gets mean stares from clerks because his Polish doesn't live up to their snooty standards. Oh and he gets hit on while in clubs by hoards of horny women who want to satisfy the itch for something exotic. Just to be even, he gets hit on in clubs by horny men too**, again I think it's all about the curiosity and the exotics. All that is minor annoyances, the most worrisome is that my friend gets looked down by his coworkers. Even though he's the most involved of all the business partners, had invested the most $$ and is the only one among the bunch with the intricate knowledge of sushi making, he is treated as someone less worthy. Nothing better than racist colleagues, is there? People sometimes suck.
And if you put all that crap he's dealing with on top of the regular ex-pat maladies (homesickness, scarcity of home food, cultural misunderstandings, etc), it can really get nasty. So it made me wonder***, for him to put up with this crap every single day, how bad the typical Japanese workplace can be? How awful Tokyo's corporate overlords? To my understanding my friend was just a regular guy, living normal life - no Yakuza, no kink.
Amélie Nothomb gives some answers to that, she did the opposite of my Japanese friend has done. She left her native Belgium to live and work in one of Tokyo's major corporations. From her book you get a taste of what work in such an environment is like, what's expected from a newbie and why some might find daunting. The book's funny (I got quite a few laughs), lyrical at times (much appreciated melancholic descriptions from time to time, and well crafted description at that) and a little... fake.
Nothomb lies her ass of. That's her writing style. Most of it is exaggeration and fact twisting, I'm sure it's done for comical relief and to prove a point, but still, to me that to a degree undermines the credibility of her story. In short, if you can live with shameless exaggeration, you'll enjoy the book. Otherwise - prepare yourself for a whole lot of teeth grinding.
___________________ * He was serious about it: medals, international competitions, crazy training sessions... ** Some of it is due to confusion with his sex (he blames his haircut), some of it isn't. *** We're finally getting into the proper review part of this review...more
This story, I've heard it before*. Plagiarism? Not necessarily, it might be simply that both writers based it on something in the public domain**. DidThis story, I've heard it before*. Plagiarism? Not necessarily, it might be simply that both writers based it on something in the public domain**. Did it ruin the experience for me? Somewhat. This is a really short book, I was done with it in an hour, so I did not have to suffer the agony of knowing all the little twists and turns beforehand. And it's not like both of the stories are 100% alike, little differences abound. But main revelations, the premise, the buildup, the ending - I've heard it all from Takashi Matsuoka already, he made it a part of a larger, epic story, chopped this love story to pieces and delivered it in small chunks, but it was all there alright. Was Matsuoka's story better? To me, it was. If you enjoyed Shogun and overall lean more towards eventful, fast paced historical fiction, Matsuoka is your guy. If, on the other hand, you're more of a romance kind of person, you'll probably prefer this rendering. And this is a neat, fresh rendering: a brief historical romance with a twist (with literary leanings, if that's what you go for). Highly likable overall. And despite the deja vu factor, I still did enjoy it. ___________ * It was either in Cloud of Sparrows or Autumn Bridge by Takashi Matsuoka **I'm too lazy to research this theory. Sorry! We'll leave that one unsolved......more