Sebastien Japrisot | Critical Review by Charles Mackey

This literature criticism consists of approximately 3 pages of analysis & critique of Sebastien Japrisot.
This section contains 627 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Charles Mackey

SOURCE: A review of La Passion des femmes, in The French Review, Vol. LXI, No. 6, May, 1988, pp. 991-92.

In the following review of La Passion des femmes, Mackey suggests that while much of the novel is captivating, it is, finally, not entirely satisfying.

The novelist Jean-Baptiste Rossi, whose anagrammatic nom de plume, Sébastien Japrisot, is more widely known, published his eighth novel in 1986, which found its way immediately onto the best-seller lists in France. With the renown of L'Eté meurtrier and the hugely successful film, a certain following has apparently been sustained by the commercial reclame of La Passion des femmes.

It is a love story, a work of suspense and pursuit, a collection of often erotic encounters that examine the biases of our perceptions, a surreal glimpse into the question of ultimate reality. It easily ensnares the reader into its strange fiction where different mirrors cast differing versions along a very long road indeed. A young man rises from a sandy beach, his shirt stained by a wound as reddening as the setting sun on this later summer afternoon. One by one images of various young women seem to appear, each taking a turn on a teetertotter from nowhere. Why this wound? Why these apparitions?

Facets of the young man's story (or stories) are revealed through the recollections of seven disparate women, who in turn relate their stories and how their lives have been touched by the appearance of the mysterious stranger. On the eve of World War II a man, perhaps unjustly condemned for murder, escapes from a military prison in the South of France. His first encounter is with Emma, whom he kidnaps on her bridal night, leaving her with a much softer memory than had she spent it with her middle-aged lecher husband. Belinda and Zozo follow, filles de joie whose hearts may not always be of gold, yet they love and are beguiled by the macho vulnerability of this odd young person in their midst. Next is Caroline, the young widow whose repressed sexuality is waiting to be ignited by the intrepid bagnard and to whom is revealed the reasons for his judgment and for the pursuit, Javert-like, by the ignoble Captain Malignaud, his accuser and jailor. Months pass, the war has begun and Frou-Frou, a vapid if passionate starlet of the Hollywood B movies Lips and Legs, secretly harbors the renegade on her director's yacht, Pandora, as it sails into the war-torn seas of Southeast Asia. New adventures there await him on an alien island in the avid embrances of Yoko, the Chilean-Japanese survivor of Pacific battles, and thence to Burma and to the less sexually demanding and more pliable American nurse who hails, eponymously, from Toledo.

These recollections have all been assembled by Marie-Martine, the young man's first lover, who has become a lawyer during his peregrinations, and who has now gathered these testimonies, and her own, for his defense. But something else is working here. Why does each woman recall a different name for the man? Vincent, Tony, Francis, Edouard …? Why do several encounters end with a gunshot and a return to an image resembling that of the opening pages? Given the ending that raises still more questions and which is meant to be woven into the opening chapter, one wonders (and hopes) that there are deeper intentions at issue in these prolix confessions.

Japrisot has examined the chiaroscuro of these relationships, the masks men and women wear, the ambiguities of reality and truth. His women speak with a voice and diction that carefully evoke their milieus, but at bottom there is an exasperating dissonance in their conception, a jarring shallowness in their "passions" and in the elusive truths that each of our mirrors tries to capture.

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This section contains 627 words
(approx. 3 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Charles Mackey
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