Another mordantly hysterical tale from the author of the cult favorite How I Became Stupid
A funny yet poignant tour of one young man's existential crisis, The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection is another short novel from France's Martin Page. Virgil comes home from work one day to a message on his answering machine-his girlfriend is breaking up with him. This news should be devastating, but instead it's deeply troubling, because Virgil doesn't know the woman and doesn't have any memory of being in a relationship with her. The event sends Virgile into a tailspin of unrelenting self-analysis, causing him to question his memory, his sanity, even his worth as a lover. The seamless translation by Bruce Benderson perfectly captures Page's delicate, witty style, bringing this audacious gem of a novel to English-speaking audiences.
Lots of girls have dumped Virgil, a 31-year-old advertising copywriter who lives in a Parisian apartment building occupied primarily by prostitutes, but only one, Clara, has dared to do so before she even dated him. Virgil can't remember meeting Clara, the woman who leaves a message on his answering machine that ends their imaginary relationship and sends Virgil on an emotional and sometimes existential journey that prompts him at one point to conclude, in the great absurdist tradition, that he “understood Clara's decision.” Although the story's central conceit provides a vehicle by which Virgil can explore the realms of failed relationships, identity, imagination, and invention, his aimless wanderings through a Paris inhabited by mere shades of fully fleshed characters, and his unearned shifts in outlook, suggest that the strengths of this sometimes funny and insightful tale would be better demonstrated in the tighter confines of a short story. (Feb.)