Enough About Love Paperback – Feb 1 2011
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“Enough About Love is awfully cute. It is also absorbing and witty, and the more impressive for its formal constraints.” —Lorin Stein, Harper’s Magazine
“What could be more romantic than falling in love in Paris? Unless you are already married, in which case it’s a little more complicated, as in Hervé Le Tellier’s Enough About Love …Le Tellier writes about middle-aged desire and its consequences with empathy and humor.” —Washington Post
“It is a complicated novel, artfully told and translated and eerily familiar, the way love stories so often are.” —Los Angeles Times
“At least as intriguing as how the French make their bread taste so good is how they manage all those extramarital love affairs they’re said to have.” —The New York Times
“It’s a French intellectual sex romp, an updated Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice if they had Lacan, Queneau, and Barthes on their analysts’ shelves…Fluidly translated by Adrianna Hunter, Enough About Love graphs love’s disruptive geometries in a playful manner.” —Bomb Magazine
“The prologue warns, ‘Any man — or woman — who wants to hear nothing — or no more — about love should put this book down.’ We’ll be surprised if it leaves your hands.” —Daily Candy
“This is a book about love, certainly, but it is also a book about love stories, and the way in which those stories play out according to their own logic. Watching Hervé Le Tellier conduct that process as he leads his characters in and out of love, one is reminded that literature, too, is an affair of the heart.” —World Literature Today
“A wise and witty writer, [Tellier] brings Parisian flair to this tale of romantic entanglement.” —BookPage
“A touching and thought-provoking study of attraction, responsibility, and love.” —Publishers Weekly
“Two love triangles (equal one love hexagon?) that reveal much—or at least enough—about love… Le Tellier examines the possibilities of love after 40, and he deals with this issue with patience, understanding and bemusement.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Both thoroughly complex and utterly simple...Middle-aged romance has rarely seemed so intriguing.” —Booklist
“Elegantly constructed, and with humor, wit, and touching honesty, Hervé Le Tellier tells a classic love story tweaked with a modern sensibility. I loved this intelligent and beguiling French novel, infused with that ‘Je ne sais quoi’ and a pleasure to read from the first page to the last.” —Katharine Davis, author of Capturing Paris
“A grab bag of luminous angles and viewpoints of the kaleidoscope of love.” —Marie Claire (France)
“If there was to be only one quintessential 'French novel' this fall, it should be this one.” —Elle (France)
“A novel that's full of surprises and strikes out against banality, cliches, and platitudes.” —Lire
About the Author
Hervé Le Tellier is a writer, a journalist, a mathematician, a food critic, and a teacher. He has been a member of the Oulipo since 1992 and one of the “papous” of the famous France Culture radio show. He is the author of more than twenty books. His latest publications include the short-story collection, The Sextine Chapel, and a novella, The Intervention of a Good Man, which earned him the Prix Guanahani.
Adriana Hunter studied French and Drama at the University of London. She has translated over forty books including works by Agnès Desarthe, Amélie Nothomb, Frédéric Beigbeder, Véronique Ovaldé, and Catherine Millet, and has been short-listed for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice. She lives in Norfolk, England.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The novel's main action consists of two overlapping love triangles involving two married couples and two single men, all middle-aged. The constantly morphing relationships illustrate various forms of love, including married love, adulterous love, and jealous love. The overall effect is kaleidoscopic, the characters' ever-shifting emotions and interactions slide against each other to reveal different shades and nuances. Enough About Love's complex structure supports and enhances its story, and Adriana Hunter's adept English translation delivers all the playfulness and complexity of the original.
Within the novel's larger framework, Le Tellier cleverly embeds a couple stand-out set pieces. One is a public reading by Yves of an essay he wrote on "foreignness" juxtaposed in two-column format with a running internal monologue by Yves's lover's husband, who's decided to attend the reading in an act of curiosity or martyrdom or both. The second set piece is a book written by Yves's for his lover Anna composed of forty of Yves's most significant memories of Anna. In an audacious move, Le Tellier includes Yves's entire book (all 25 pages of it) within this novel. The result is a stunningly intimate portrayal of love, leaving the reader feeling like a voyeur who stumbled upon an open bedroom window, uncomfortable and thrilled at the same time.
The two female protagonists, Anna and Louise, share too many similarities, including fashion tastes, high-powered careers, and dominant personalities. More contrast would have been welcome in these characters, but this is a small complaint in a book filled with so many wonders. Highly recommended.
The novel has a distinct upper middle-class vibe. The two leading characters are well-educated, highly refined, forty-something Anna, a psychiatrist, and Louise, a lawyer. Anna's husband is a noted surgeon and Louise's husband is a renowned scientist. Louise does not know Anna, but coincidentally it is Anna's psychoanalyst, Thomas, who has taken her breath away. In Anna's case, she has become totally infatuated by whimsical, lesser-known, writer, Yves.
The author captures so well the intoxication that overwhelms these connection-starved women. In a series of vignettes, the excitement, the simple, lusty pleasures, of the first few weeks of meeting are glimpsed. But there are sobering considerations when their thinking turns to the question of whether a new life with their lovers is possible. The past must be reassessed - is love truly gone. Can disrupting a family be justified? Can their lovers really meet their expectations, will they disappoint? Those considerations do have an impact in this story.
Two of the more poignant scenes are where the husbands first see or meet their rivals. Anna's husband secretly attends an address given by Yves, on, of all things, the meaning of "foreign," only to discover Anna in attendance in a front row seat. Louise's husband schedules a session with Thomas under a false name, which fools no one. The author also uses an inventive technique of splitting a few pages into columns to show simultaneous trains of thought on a particular matter.
The story is very compelling; Anna and Louise are sympathetically portrayed, though their shortcomings are not ignored. By design the story is presented in almost outline form - a definite "facts-only" motif. In that structure, much gets left out, such as any real feel for the husbands. But in relatively few brush strokes the author captures the emotional, irrational, unstoppable pull of desire once unleashed. The author's conclusion is hardly one that tragedy has occurred. It is more that desire is real and maybe for the health of the human psyche it must be fulfilled. There may be some broad social lessons there regarding monogamy and affairs.
"Everyone should have analysis. It should be compulsory, like military service used to be."
Or, let's say you are jealous of a woman and want to share a canny reproach with a friend:
"She sees herself as slim, lives being slim as synonymous with being rigorous. Gaining weight, she is convinced, is always a lapse."
Lots of light, saucy bon mots flash through this story, but there are small earthquakes that convulse now and then. At 228 pages and 51 short chapters (and an epilogue), most chapters are structured in pairs, such as "Thomas and Louise" and "Anna and Yves," alluding to couples, as well as Abkhazian dominoes, a game that is close to Yves' heart. "He is a writer who has readers, but not a true readership." He may obscure himself further by titling his next novel after that titular game.
Throughout the wry novel, the coupling and uncoupling of husbands, wives, and lovers overlap and cross, and sometimes meet. The themes and ideas may be common but the characters are genuine and close. The dialog is inspired, not prepared or clichéd. The prose slides creamily off the tongue, like a filled croissant, and is peppered with paradox and the double entendre, pointed aphorisms and learned allusions. And life can be turned into aphorisms, instructs Thomas to his patient, Anna, as a way of fixing life into words.
"...what attracts us about another person has had more to do with what makes them fragile...Love is kindled by the weakness we perceive, the flaw we get in through, wouldn't you say?"
There's a gravitas that manifests subtly, an accretion of observations and details that examine love from every curve and angle. You can visualize this dialog-heavy book as a film, or a play. There is no way not to compare Le Tellier to the best of Woody Allen--a little bit Lubitsch, a little bit Jewish, some Annie Hall, some Stardust Memories, a profusion of Freud. But this is French, and you will imagine that you are walking through Jardin du Luxembourg or running across the Quai des Grands Augustins on a grey, Paris day. It's eclectic, though, with American as well as other infusions. The savvy prose serves up a savory atmosphere, drifting through outdoor cafés and public squares. Some of the time, though, you are indoors, near a bookcase, and often a bed...
Cultural icons, such as François Truffaut, are included, not just as a reference, but as meaning to the story at hand. Thomas emails Louise, after they first meet, that doesn't a scene in Stolen Kisses anticipate the future of email? But the scene he shares, in detail, is the buttering of his desires.
There is even a postmodernish, double-column chapter; on one side is Yves' dry, but increasingly inventive lecture of the word "foreign," with emphasis on the fact that the French have only one word for it, l'etranger. Juxtaposed on the other side is the cuckolded Stan, seated in the back row, agonized in a stream of invective consciousness. The linguistic stunt work by the author is more than a showcase; it concludes in a probing, poignant place of alarm and discovery.
The characters in these triangular love affairs share universal elements-- sex and death, guilt and virtue, grief and ecstasy, illusion and certainty, passion and ennui. And, of course, love. But enough about love.
Eminent credit goes to Adriana Hunter for her luminous translation from the French.
The opinion-less narrator is essential for this novel because most of the characters act less than morally. In fact, Enough About Love to me wasn't really about love in the truest sense of the word. It was instead about sex, secrets, and regrets. Full of affairs and psychoanalysis, this novel focuses on the negative sides of long term relationships.
Hervé Le Tellier should be commended for his quality and unique writing style. Enough About Love tackles the large question can we ever really know the other person in our relationship in a real and honest way.
But it was this honesty that made the novel difficult to read at times. Just like our real love affairs Enough About Love was gritty and complicated.
With a structure borrowed from a game of Abkhazian dominoes - discussed briefly in one section of the book - the various characters (Anna and Louise, their husbands, and their lovers) find themselves interacting in all kinds of combinations. We see, for example, Louise with Thomas (her lover), followed by a chapter with Louise and Romain (her husband), followed by another chapter of Thomas and Romain...and so on.
There are a few chapters that stand out for their audacity and their elegance. In one of them, Yves (the author and lover of Anna) is conducting a public reading on the subject of "foreignness." In the audience is Stan (the husband) who feels like the ultimate foreigner as he puzzles why his wife would be attracted to this man and castigates himself for letting the magic slip away. The juxtaposition of these two men is displayed in a two-column "split screen", visually communicating the differences between them.
In another, Yves is signing copies of his book when a man who he presumes is Anna's husband enters the bookstore. He lectures Yves on one of the author's former books, stating, "...he also suspects she loves him because he embodies unpredictability, a sense of adventure she always longed for, but he exploits her dreams to draw her in. It's a woman thing, like Emma Bovary meeting her Rodolphe." He forces Yves to hold a mirror to himself. And, in a somewhat parallel story, Romain visits Thomas, the analyst, under an assumed name. Thomas quickly realizes to whom he's speaking and the dialogue between them becomes searingly unforgettable.
In yet a third vignette, Yves presents Anna with a book he wrote about her - Forty Memories of Anna Stein - bursting with intimacy and immediacy. As readers, we become compliant in the affair, being titillated with the passionate details.
And so, love in all its interactions is explored - married love, adulterous love, rejected love, mundane love, love that endures, love that dies out. There are many, many pithy lines and startling revelations from an author who is obviously confident and even playful in his craft.
As someone who married late in life, with an understanding of the fragility of relationships and the false euphoria of "love" flirtations, the cavalier attitude of the characters was sometimes unsettling to me. It is a testament to the power and mastery of this work that I placed my own value system aside and read on, enchanted, with no doubt in my mind that this was an intelligently-crafted, beautifully rendered work. In the end, it is a delicious read.