Men – Marie Darrieussecq (Translated from the French by Penny Hueston)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…waiting began again, waiting as a chronic disease. A sticky fever, a torpor. And, between the times she saw him, the reinfections, she slowly immersed herself in the paradox that she was waiting for a man she was losing sight of, an invented man. The waiting was the reality; her waiting was the proof of his life, as if the body of this man, when she held him in her arms was made of the texture of time, fatally fleeting.”

Yes, Solange knew all to well about waiting. As a French actress living in Los Angeles, she was use to “waiting between films, between takes.  But  this waiting was different.  She lived only for his approval.  She waited for life to start up again.”

, Her long-time friend defined her “waiting” as a mental female illness.

Solange’s obsession is with Kohouesso, an actor and filmmaker originally from Camaroon, raised in France, who later identified himself as a Canadian. They both ended up as foreigners in the United States.  “As if they knew each other already through intervening countries. ” However their cultural history is so much different.

He shoots a feature film in Cameroon, and Solange not only learns more about waiting, but also how the real Africa is so much different than the romanticized one in  the movies. She hopes to learn more about Kohouesso, the man.

You’re probably wondering why I am quoting so much from the novel. In fact, I would even like to give you more examples of the luscious prose and/or translation, which, along with the story, kept me addicted to each page. Emotions run strong in this novel.

Men is advertised as “A Novel of Cinema & Desire”. The  politics of the film industry is realistically portrayed and the story often reads like a memoir.  The only downside of the novel is that I felt that the time in Cameroon was too drawn out on the cinematic side; though the cultural aspects and differences add to the story. The ending is predictable, though it makes perfect sense and doesn’t take away from the story.

I recommend Men for readers who enjoy literary fiction with an emotional punch.

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