Thursday, August 27, 2015

Reader For Hire - Raymond Jean

Translated by Adriana Hunter.
This is one of the few Peirene titles I really haven't got on with. For want of a better explanation it's just so... so very French - a perfectly reasonable thing for a French book to be but I can be a bit of a francophobe and found myself out of sympathy with it almost from the beginning.

Originally published in 1986 as 'La Lectrice' and made into a film a couple of years later I read somewhere that 'Reader for Hire' was written with the intent "to debunk literary deconstruction theories in the 1980's" (it's in the comments of Parish Lantern's review) which is intriguing, but something that I know absolutely nothing about, so I was left to read it as French farce instead and for whatever reason that brings out the prude in me.

The reader for hire is Marie-Constance, an attractive woman in her 30's with a beguiling voice. After a friend suggests it she runs an add in the local paper: "Young woman available to read to you in your own home. Works of literature, non-fiction, any sort of book you like.' Then comes my telephone number." Ignoring the advice of the agency man taking the copy who points out most people reading it would assume she's offering more than a reading service she sits back and awaits results.

The results are predictable. Everything Marie-Constance involves herself with becomes complicated. Probably because she seems to be recklessly selfish and irresponsible, but then what is she but a voice and a body? A blank canvas for her listeners to impose their own fantasies upon. The men Marie-Constance reads to don't listen, they look, tolerating her reading as a kind of foreplay which I find depressing rather than sensual.

There are more appreciative viewpoints here at Tony's reading list and here at Parrish Lantern. And there is at least something to be said for challenging myself with a book that even if I don't like it, still gives me something to think about.    

No comments:

Post a Comment