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Published on : Sunday, June 25, 2017
In multiple ways this may appears as a very old-fashioned novel. Jerome is 53, and a monotonous professor living at Columbia. Sylvie, 35, his wife is a previous topless dancer and aspirant film-maker. Sylvie has a dog but aspires to have a baby. The couple together will cross the former Soviet bloc looking for a child of their own, regardless of the fact that Sylvie having already underwent three abortions: Romania is their finally selected destination, where, of course, orphans are two-a-penny.
There is much to approve it; however, the clever bits aren’t funny and the funny bits aren’t clever. The novel is besieged with various references to continental theorists. Blanchot, Lefebvre, Baudrillard, Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan all show up — poor old Derrida, left out! — but they are as logical window-dressing. Their concepts are neither questioned nor discovered. It’s not the point. The protagonists are arch and aching, awed and awkward.
Sylvie flits on the edges of terrible parties. On the other hand, her husband Jerome capitalizes on his close proximity to the Parisian intellectual elite. He also falls short to write his book —The Anthropology of Unhappiness — about his unrelenting failure to deal with what the Holocaust might ‘mean’.