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Unexpected Man [Paperback]

Yasmin Reza , Christopher Hampton
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 1 1998
A train compartment. A man and a woman. In a series of dazzling internal monologues, the man, a novelist, muses on his latest work, and considers life and the futility of writing. The woman thinks of her life in the full knowledge that the man she is facing is the novelist she admires and whose latest work she has tucked in her handbag.

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Review

"Enthralling . . . A stimulating, amusing, perceptive play." --The Daily Telegraph

"A consummately elegant translation by Christopher Hampton." --The Independent on Sunday

"Crisply translated . . . Delicate, witty, neatly constructed and peppered with irony. It captures the slippery, fleeting nature of the possibilities that surround us." --Financial Times

About the Author

Yasmina Reza, born in Paris in 1959, is an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, and novelist. Her first play, Conversations Après un Enterrement (Conversations After a Burial) won her the 1987 Molière Award for Best Author along with a Johnson Foundation Award and a SACD New Talent Award. Her other works for the theater include Art and The Unexpected Man, among others. She lives in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful. May 20 2002
Format:Paperback
I found this book, ironically enough, by an entirely freak sort of chance - just browsing the bookstore, hoping to expend my gift certificate on good, rich, lavish, read-worthy material - I have not yet arrived at the second book I purchased (being that this occured this evening), but the first among the two, The Unexpected Man, certainly affirmed my expectations. I intend to search out more of Reza's work.
"The Unexpected Man" is, quite simply (although, as The Woman says, nothing is truly 'quite simple') true. True to many things - true to life, true to the human conscious, true to emotion, true to tension, just - true. The digressions, the personalities, the ending, the million-to-one premise - all of it is undeniably true. And yet, about all of this truth their exists and underlying mysteriousness - the ambiance is not casual - it is tense, and somewhat poetic (though it does not STRETCH the truth - do I repeat myself? har har har.) - all in all, The Unexpected Man provides a conflux of many elevated elements that are difficult to intertwine - successfully. But success is so, for Reza.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book to be savored. May 2 2000
Format:Paperback
After seeing the play and reading Yasmina Reza's 'Art' I went looking for other works by the author and found 'The Unexpected Man'. In 71 spacious pages, Reza manages to concoct a rich desert of fate, chance, fantasy, reality, past, present, and future which immediately invites a re-reading or 'second helping', if you will. I think that if you enjoyed the humor, irony, and contradiction in 'Art' you will find 'The Unexpected Man' a case where perhaps less is even more. A book to be savored.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I stumbled upon on a run of The Unexpected Man while in London, but it is sometimes the stories you stumble upon being the greatest. After the play I was so mesmerized by Reza's story I purchased the book right away. The magic and feeling Reza evokes through the man and the woman on the train is amazing, since the two hardly speak throughout the story. For anyone who has ever had a favorite author, the reality of what one would and would not say upon meeting him or her is perfectly captured in The Unexpceted Man. The woman's life is also revealed beutifully. Yet another wonderful play and story from Reza that captures the contradictions one feels in society and throughout life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yasmina Reza, excellent playwright and storyteller once agai Dec 26 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I stumbled upon on a run of The Unexpected Man while in London, but it is sometimes the stories you stumble upon being the greatest. After the play I was so mesmerized by Reza's story I purchased the book right away. The magic and feeling Reza evokes through the man and the woman on the train is amazing, since the two hardly speak throughout the story. For anyone who has ever had a favorite author, the reality of what one would and would not say upon meeting him or her is perfectly captured in The Unexpceted Man. The woman's life is also revealed beutifully. Yet another wonderful play and story from Reza that captures the contradictions one feels in society and throughout life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "You've given me a nostalgia for what's never taken place." Aug. 4 2004
By Mary Whipple - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sharing a compartment on a train from Paris to Frankfurt, novelist Paul Parsky and a woman named Martha each occupy their own worlds. Though she recognizes him immediately as a writer whose works she "loves," and though she has his most recent novel, The Unexpected Man, in her purse, she does not speak to him and is too embarrassed to take out his book. Each character speaks his thoughts aloud, the separate monologues constituting the "action" of the play. Parsky is bitter about life and thinks of himself as something of a personal and professional failure, preoccupied by minor health problems, the disconnects between himself and his children, and the remarks made about his books by critics and friends. Martha reminisces about her own life and how Parsky's novels parallel her real life experience and that of her friends, especially Serge, a dear friend who died at seventy-six.

While Parsky is mulling over comments on his work and thinking that his observations have "no value in the practice of literature," Martha is silently conversing with him, telling him that "you personally invent protective misunderstandings, because you're haunted by the fear of being understood." While he wonders if there is "anyone in the whole world who might know how to read [The Unexpected Man]," Martha is revealing her superior understanding of both him and his book, which she finally takes from her purse to read. When, at the end of the "play," an awkward conversation finally begins, Parsky, not admitting his identity, tries to persuade Martha that the author of the book is irritating, selfish, and unable "to turn a single moment into an eternity."

Published in 1998, and translated from the French by Christopher Hampton, Yasmina Reza's "play" is not a play in the traditional sense. Though the audience comes to know both characters through their monologues, they do not interact until briefly at the end, and though both may learn something, especially Parsky, the moment of recognition--in which light dawns on one of the characters as a result of the action in the play--is so brief it is almost unrecognizable. Witty and filled with thoughtful comments about life, eternity, and the meaning of literature, this subtle drama leaves most of the action up to the viewer's imagination, creating, ironically, "a nostalgia for what's never taken place." Mary Whipple
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely beautiful. May 20 2002
By "tabby577" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I found this book, ironically enough, by an entirely freak sort of chance - just browsing the bookstore, hoping to expend my gift certificate on good, rich, lavish, read-worthy material - I have not yet arrived at the second book I purchased (being that this occured this evening), but the first among the two, The Unexpected Man, certainly affirmed my expectations. I intend to search out more of Reza's work.
"The Unexpected Man" is, quite simply (although, as The Woman says, nothing is truly 'quite simple') true. True to many things - true to life, true to the human conscious, true to emotion, true to tension, just - true. The digressions, the personalities, the ending, the million-to-one premise - all of it is undeniably true. And yet, about all of this truth their exists and underlying mysteriousness - the ambiance is not casual - it is tense, and somewhat poetic (though it does not STRETCH the truth - do I repeat myself? har har har.) - all in all, The Unexpected Man provides a conflux of many elevated elements that are difficult to intertwine - successfully. But success is so, for Reza.
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