Friday, May 01, 2009

Sex and the country

A scene near the beginning of Pierre Magnan's The Messengers of Death nicely exemplifies an observation I made after reading his Death in the Truffle Wood. The observation concerned Magnan's convincing portrayal of rural life's human texture. Here's the Messengers of Death example that brought it back to mind:

"`Perhaps you could teach these things to me directly?' Prudence said.

"Rose's mouth fell open and stayed open. As it happened, for quite some time now she had regretted the fact that her enriching experiences still lacked an essential spice. ... [Prudence] was the one who dragged her, pushed her, willing and eager, towards the little bedroom behind the shop. And there, both of them had their first and definitive lesbian experience. After that it it was nothing more than a habit dependent on the whim of the moment.

"That's how you fight boredom in these sleepy villages."

I like the deadpan humor, the slow buildup to an unexpected punch line that you just know Magnan enjoyed as much as his readers will. (He uses the technique at least once elsewhere in the book's opening chapters, possibly to even better effect.)

I also like what the passage implies about the pace of life in Magnan's rural Provence. I'm not sure extra-marital liaisons are any more common in Magnan's work than in fiction set in cities, but they are far less fraught with anxiety, at least of the immediate kind. Consequences unfold slowly, if at all, and characters accept them stoically or with good-humored resignation or silent suffering or secret relief. The consequences are more like glaciers than volcanoes. Or maybe more like seasonal winds.

Hmm, why do I have this sudden urge to read the Book of Ecclesiastes?

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...

So we dont get any hot girl on girl action? Doesnt he want to shift any units? I have to admire his diffidence.

It was explained to me once that the Book of Ecc. is the only truly atheist book in the Bible which is an interpretation that does hold up for much of it, but I still say he should have gone the Song of Solomon route.

May 02, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That passage is on page five, and no hot girl-on-girl action yet, through page seventy. The section I glossed over with an ellipsis (for reasons of space, not delicacy), though, does include the phrases "tongue was so insistent" and "gripped her fiercely with thighs like a strong, thin goat." Nothing salacious, though.

My favorite theory about the Book of Ecclesiastes is that it's a big jape, a satire of wisdom literature. So Old Solomon was quite the man for wisdom, jokes and salacious fruit metaphors.

May 03, 2009  
Anonymous May said...

I had to google Pierre Magnan to realize why his name sounded so familiar. My husband is from his town! Magnan happens to be the less-loved second son, overshadowed by Jean Giono. I've never read any of Magnan's works - crime fiction or otherwise - except for a company biography that he wrote for L'Occitane. It certainly did not encourage me to look into his other writing.
But the passage you mentioned in The Murdered House about the gueule cassé is fabulous. I think I'm going to give him a shot.

May 09, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Ha! I had not known that L'Occitane: The Essence of Provence was a company biography. I now understand where the essence in the title comes from.

Yes, I would urge you to try his crime fiction, which create a rich, gorgeous sense of place -- wonderful stuff, full of surprising passades like the one about the geule cassée.

May 10, 2009  

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