Roger Brunyate's Reviews > The Prince's Boy

The Prince's Boy by Paul Bailey
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A Memory of Love
The story I have to tell now is the strangest of my life. I am not even sure that I will be able to account for it. The events I am going to relive and relate took place forty years ago when I was green in the ways of the flesh and the complexities of human intercourse. Let me say, simply, that the writer-to-be Dinu Grigorescu was innocent about the random nature of everyday living.
I picked up this little novella at random, with no idea that it would be a gay love story. But it was the style rather than the subject that at first made me reluctant to read on. Its self-conscious artificiality reminded me of my own writing after I had first encountered Proust (in the Scott Moncrieff translation) at 19, and could not write a normal unperfumed sentence for months after. But it may be appropriate here. For the similarly-aged Dinu Grigorescu, son of a rich Bucharest lawyer who sends him to Paris in the summer of 1927 for a taste of La vie de Bohème, is also besotted with Proust. And when he meets a man who has actually shaken the great writer's hand, he falls instantly in love. Never mind that he makes this encounter in a "House of Naughtiness," run by an aging Pandar to cater to the less normal needs of discerning gentlemen. In other words, a male brothel.

This man, Razvan Popescu, leaves the brothel to take a more normal job, so that he can spend more time with Dinu, with whom he has fallen in love. And it is mutual. Razvan, 15 years older than Dinu, is the Prince's Boy of the title. The son of a farm laborer (and still showing this in his physique), he was adopted by the local landowner, a Romanian prince, taught to speak impeccable French, and educated to appreciate the finer things in life. His patron is now dead, leaving him a Paris apartment and a small amount of money, though not enough to live on. A polished peasant in a foreign city, he feels something of a freak, a situation that attracts him to Dinu, who is experiencing his own kind of isolation. I have to say that Paul Bailey handles the relationship remarkably well. You soon forget its stranger features and read it as a simple love story. And while Bailey is quite open about the physical nature of their love, he does not alienate the straight reader with anatomical detail.

Eventually, the summer ends, and Dinu returns to Bucharest. There are still a hundred pages to go. And in them, a curious thing begins to happen. Gradually, the exotic quality of the first fifty pages disappears, to be replaced by something much closer to a normal memoir: a young man beginning his career as a scholar, coming to terms with his family, watching everyone around him getting sucked into the allure of Fascism, eventually fleeing to Paris in order to be able to breathe. The last thirty pages, in London in the sixties, long after Razvan has died, were so real that I could not believe I couldn't simply Google the character and find out more. It gives the book a curious trajectory, from the extraordinary to the everyday. But then that's life.
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Reading Progress

November 17, 2014 – Started Reading
November 18, 2014 – Finished Reading
May 22, 2016 – Shelved
August 3, 2017 – Shelved as: gay-lesbian

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