The Last Match by David Dodge
"M. l'Inspecteur would indeed, unhesitatingly and unequivocally. He would further personally guarantee, on his parole d'honneur, that M. le Marquis would receive not only a fifty percent return on his money but the Legion d'Honneur; not the mere ribbon of a lousy Chevalier, either, but the médaille of a full Officier. Perhaps, even -- through this, regrettably, M. l'Inspecteur could not personally guarantee -- perhaps even the baton of a Maréschal! With a public kiss of gratitude from M. le Président de la République! Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité and cost-plus patriotism, with the elegant chords of La Marseillaise thundering in the background.
"`The boob will be wetting his pants with eagerness before we finish,' Bernard said."
That's rather nice, I think, as is this, from the same narrator/con artist: "I was long gone when the pot aux roses was découvert, as the French newspapers had it."
Sure, italic type is a convention to indicate foreign words, but Dodge makes it a wink from narrator to reader, a reminder of his blithe American con artist's amusement at the scams he pulls among rich and greedy habitués of the French Riviera. (He also makes it as lively a lesson in French as non-French-speaking readers are likely to get from any novel in English.)
And there is subtlety to Dodge's use of the device. He employs it not at all in the narrator/protagonist's opening confrontation with a jealous husband, sparingly in scenes between the narrator and an older, rich woman to whom he is an oddly good-hearted gigolo, and just occasionally when our hero meets up with the novel's femme fatale -- or should that be femme fatale? It is only once the scams are in full swing that the vocabulary becomes peppered with French words and the pages with italic type.
I find myself smiling when I see the italics, because I know something is up.
© Peter Rozovsky 2007
Labels: David Dodge