From Publishers Weekly
A disaffected French teenager identifies with the "slightly retarded" girl he watches from a distance in this elegant and strangely absorbing novella. The text is one very long paragraph, in which the 12th-grade narrator, stuck in the uninspired backwater town of MontpeÌürilleux, observes the girl, "locked in her state of unteachable ignorance," being led each morning by her mother to the bus stop. The narrator finds "ineluctable similarities between her predicament and my own," namely that the two are bound as outcasts against a harshly critical, unjust world that doesn't understand or appreciate them. The drab, oppressive society-- full of phony adults, misunderstanding, wasted talent, and general failure--grates against this youth who, save a nascent desire to become a writer, feels generally deficient and finds a kind of tormented reprieve in the "sorrowful compassion" he feels for the girl who can't return his love. Valtat's narrative proves to be a moving experience of being in someone else's shoes.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Any book tagged as "experimental" runs the risk, fairly or not, of limiting its intended readership. Valtat's 03
--at under 100 pages, as much a sketch as a fully formed portrait--is one of those books, combining elements of the French nouveau roman
and an aimless, philosophically inquisitive "story" that calls to mind the plotting of a Seinfeld episode more than that of a Dickens serial. A powerful, quirky study of adolescence, even if some scenes misfire when they slip into melodrama and "half-baked philosophizing and glib aphorism" (Boston Globe
nonetheless showcases Valtat as a risk taker and a lyricist, a trait no doubt even more evident in the original French. Valtat's recent Aurorama
, a Steampunk novel set in the Arctic, has been well reviewed.