Does a book lose something in translation? Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind, translated from the original Spanish, is one of my favorite reads – none of my excitement was lost in the wording, but I had a hard time getting involved in Elegance of the Hedgehog, translated by Anderson from Barbery’s original French. Usually, I’m not aware of a book having been transformed – sometimes never – until I inadvertently discover the author’s background. I’ve even wondered about the discrepancies between the original Harry Potter books with colloquialisms changed for the American versions (philosopher vs sorcerer; tinned vs canned soup) – but it never diminished my love of the stories.
But in Herve le Tellier’s Enough About Love, I was yearning to read and understand the story in the original French. Maybe the subject of love has a different flavor in French, or maybe it was the little French phrases scattered in the story, or those comments footnoted into English translation that didn’t quite make it –
“Si tu crois xava, xava, xava xa, xava durer toujours la saison des za la saison des zamours…”
became in the footnoted explanation…
“If you think it’ll, it’ll, it’ll, go on forever, this season of, unov, unov, season of love…”
The story’s characters form two love triangles with lives serendipitously crossing paths. Anna, married to Stan, the brilliant doctor, meets Yves, the writer. Louise, the formidable lawyer, married to Romain, the brilliant scientist, meets Thomas, the psychoanalyst. Both women are yearning for more excitement in their pedantic lives; they are bored, and suddenly meet men who spark youthful passion and the excitement of the forbidden affair. Thomas, Anna’s psychoanalyst, listens to her talk about her new-found feelings for Yves, thus motivating his own need for some passion in his life – when he conveniently meets Louise. It may sound like a French farce, but Le Tellier is serious – “wanting someone isn’t the same as loving them.”
They are all middle-aged professionals, but they could be anyone in that window of married life when daily routine can dull emotions and expectations. Le Tellier flips around from couple to couple – labeling each chapter, so you can keep the action straight. He cleverly has life and death intersect – the fathers of two of the men die on the same day, and attendance at their funerals becomes a crisis. In another scene, the men secretly seek out and observe, even confront, their rivals.
Through the affairs, the planned trysts, the accidentally on purpose meetings, the confessions on the analyst couch, you wonder if they will all get together. In the end, Le Tellier has them all together at one place, but now how you would expect. This is not the movie Bob, Ted, Carol, and Alice. Le Tellier has more to say about love than passion and betrayal.
Enough About Love has that urbane Oscar Wilde quality with a definite French flavor – thought-provoking, wry humor, even soul-searching. It is an engaging story not only about the fragility of love but also about what it means to love. The assumptions and lies protect as well as hurt.
I may be too much of a romantic – but if I were reading this book in French, the beauty of that sensuous language may have softened the
Rodin's The Kiss
harsh realities. But then I probably would not have caught all the translated nuances and I would have missed so much “about love.”