Le Jeu des quatre coins : abroad/ à l’étranger

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Foreign rights : Heidi Warneke, Grasset editor. Ph: 0033 144392212
E-mail : hwarneke@grasset.fr
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“The hero of this remarkable second novel is Paris, a city where one character (a Corsican named Pierre) finds a disciplined, lonely success, and another Corsican, Dominique, loses everthing, including the will to live. This is the city where, as Valéry noted in Monsieur Teste, people practice the “delirious professions” which are based entirely on “l’amour-propre”; for that very reason in Le Jeu des quatre coins, the characters are cultural journalists, fashion leaders, art merchants, choreographers – people who must make thousands of tiny decisions every day based on nothing more solid than taste pronounced whith an assurance founded on vanity alone.
The plot is as intricate as Schnitzler’s La Ronde, except here the lovers do not move slowly and elegantly in a circle but double up, betray one another or bed down in a bisexual polygamy best suggested by the chlidren’s game named in the title. Dominique, the Corsican music critic, falls in love with Stephane, an older fabric merchant, who lives with Rachel, a divorced expert in art contemporain. These three love one another buth cause one another endless pain – the pain of being the excluded middle, the guilt-inducing pleasure of playing in turn the sultan and the favorite of the harem. Something of the ambiguity of their pleasure and pain (…) reminds us that CLAUDE ARNAUD is also the author of the magisterial biography of CHAMFORT, that brilliant pessimist.
If i started out by saying that this is a novel about Paris, i did so because only the capital provides the stage for the promising but usually unsuccessful experiments in love and sexuality that this tolerant if pessimistic book focuses on. Only in Paris ambition crowned by fame – or more usually by bitter, inconspicuous disappointment. In thinking about Pierre’s ambitions as a choreographer, Dominique realizes that only one out a hundred aspirants in Paris ever meets with success- which turns out to be all the more ironic, since Pierre is precisely the lucky hundredth. Only in Paris is success worshipped to such a high degree, but likewise only Paris offers so many fascinating distractions that the search for success begins to seem less temptating than love and pleasure and the consumption of art.
(…) It is this very richness and complexity that CLAUDE ARNAUD renders so faithfully, not only in the diamond-hard dialogue or in the jeu des quatre ou cinq ou six coins but also in the very structure of the book, which regularly alternates between the early eighties and the present. This form proves, as elegantly as any mathematical demonstration, that today’s fresh young provincial is tomorrow’s blasé Parisian, and that the victim always becomes the bourreau.” EDMUND WHITE
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