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A Remarkable Book Filled with Wonders
on February 8, 2011
In true Oulipo fashion, Hervé Le Tellier's latest novel, Enough About Love, is a constraint-filled endeavor. With a structure inspired by a game of Abkhazian dominoes, Le Tellier's six protagonists combine and recombine in every possible two-person configuration in short chapters titled according to their major players (e.g., Yves and Anna, Thomas and Louise). The chapters follow quickly upon one another and, as they are often dominated by dialog, give the flavor of a dramatic performance rather than a traditional novel. Indeed, Enough about Love would make for a very entertaining play, and Le Tellier's self-imposed constraints never get in the way of the story.
The novel's main action consists of two overlapping love triangles involving two married couples and two single men, all middle-aged. The constantly morphing relationships illustrate various forms of love, including married love, adulterous love, and jealous love. The overall effect is kaleidoscopic, the characters' ever-shifting emotions and interactions slide against each other to reveal different shades and nuances. Enough About Love's complex structure supports and enhances its story, and Adriana Hunter's adept English translation delivers all the playfulness and complexity of the original.
Within the novel's larger framework, Le Tellier cleverly embeds a couple stand-out set pieces. One is a public reading by Yves of an essay he wrote on "foreignness" juxtaposed in two-column format with a running internal monologue by Yves's lover's husband, who's decided to attend the reading in an act of curiosity or martyrdom or both. The second set piece is a book written by Yves's for his lover Anna composed of forty of Yves's most significant memories of Anna. In an audacious move, Le Tellier includes Yves's entire book (all 25 pages of it) within this novel. The result is a stunningly intimate portrayal of love, leaving the reader feeling like a voyeur who stumbled upon an open bedroom window, uncomfortable and thrilled at the same time.
The two female protagonists, Anna and Louise, share too many similarities, including fashion tastes, high-powered careers, and dominant personalities. More contrast would have been welcome in these characters, but this is a small complaint in a book filled with so many wonders. Highly recommended.