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As best as I can tell, Charles Ferdinand Ramuz' ( the "z" is silent) 1936 novel, The Young Man From Savoy, is the first and only work of the French-speaking Swiss writer translated into English.
Joseph Jacquet is a fanciful young man. Engaged to the lovely Georgette, Joseph makes a last-minute dash for adventure when he takes off to become a crewmember on the cargo ship Vaudeere. The novel opens with Joseph and his shipmates returning to port. Instead of going drinking, Joseph wanders into town and sees a circus.
Instantly, he is drawn to the high-wire act of Miss Anabella. He falls head-over-heels for the white-and-pink powdered, ethereal embodiment of womanhood. When the circus leaves, Joseph tries to follow, but cannot keep up. Before long, Miss Anabella has disappeared from Joseph's world.
Unable to capture the figure, Joseph decides to return to his former life and proceeds with plans to marry Georgette and live in the apartment above his mother's home and tend the land. Subsequently, Joseph's dreaminess causes him to do further wandering and thinking.
Ramuz' treatment of thought and dialogue, in that quotation marks are used for both, make the reader focus more on which format is being used--thoughts versus spoken words--than the plot. This format also makes the reader so busy trying to ascertain thoughts from speech that it deflects the story's meaning and affect.
This short novel, a mere 148 pages, packs a wallop of a storyline. Two suicides and a murder takes place in addition to Joseph's decisions about the fair Georgette and his days at sea.
Ramuz, who died in 1947, is considered one of Switzerland's more important literary figures of the twentieth century. Many of his other works have been made into movies. Ramuz was so influential that his face appears on the 200 Swiss franc note, although it is not in current use.
Armchair Interviews says: Good storyline, distracted by method used for thoughts and dialogue.
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Midwest Book Review
- Published on Amazon.com
A simple man can change even the more extraordinary of lives. "The Young Man From Savoy" is masterfully translated from the original French by Blake Robinson, follows the life of Joseph Jacquet and his fascination with an acrobat known to him as Miss Annabella. Riveting and inspiring, the story takes many turns that will give readers much to relate to. "The Young Man From Savoy" is solid world fiction to anyone who enjoys how France does its literary fiction.