This lovely book -- winner of France's highest literary award -- is an unjustly ignored masterpiece, and one of those books that comprise my 5 or 10 personal favorite novels of all time. The tale of two friends who were stationed together in French Vietnam, the book is mostly about the effect the one friend -- vibrant and full of life -- has on the other, who is quieter, more philosophical and introspective. Full of contemplation, atmosphere, and starkly beautiful poetry, the novel builds up to a meeting of the two friends in the middle of the north Atlantic many years after their friendship has waned, and becomes a tale of what one does with one's life. what influences people have upon each other, and a reckoning of what one's done with one's talents. I discovered this book quite by accident in the library one day years ago, and have been recommending it to people ever since. If you're lucky enough to happen upon it yourself, I hope you find it as meaningful and profound as I have.
This is the source of Schoendoerffer's fine film LE CRABE TAMBOUR. The novel is an altogether richer experience, melding a fine description of life on a destroyer in the North Atlantic with the French crew's memories of Viet-Nam and Algeria. Should be much better known.