If you´re reading this, I bet your first question is: how did she come up with the young angst theme? Well, as always, it kind of came to me. I actually intended this month´s book club to be dedicated to Romanian authors. I started off with a classic – Romanul adolescentului miop and quickly finished it in the Frankfurt airport on my way to Romania. Once in Romania, I intended to read some more classics, but then life happened. I raided my best friend´s grandma´s library and took home no less than 29 novels that I cannot wait to read. And while there were plenty Romanian once, I actually decided to start reading Colette´s End of Chéri. Just when I thought I had broken the theme, I realised I had stumbled upon another. Both novels explored young angst – the first, of a teenager who won´t quite fit in at school, the second of a youngster that won´t find love and fit in with women his age. I loved both books and sped through them super fast, so I am a bit confused about how I didn´t get to read more books this month, but I am determined to catch up in the upcoming cold months. In the meantime, here´s what I thought about the two books I read in September.
Mircea Eliade´s Romanul Adolescentului Miop
I should start off by mentioning that this was at least the second, if not the third time I read this book. And that doesn´t happen often, as I have a gazillion books on my to read list and rarely repeat one! Romanul Adolescentului Miop (Diary of a Short-Sighted Adolescent) is a book we usually read in highschool in Romania. And while I actually didn´t even open the majority of the books we had to read in highschool (quite a rebel, I know), I enjoyed this one enough to read it again and again. Eliade´s writings have in the meantime become way heavier – both because of his style and topics he covers (he writes a lot about religion and philosophy) and while he has some unequivocally brilliant books, this novel which he wrote in his teenage years, telling the story of his literary ambitions and angst that went with them, is perhaps still one of my favourite books by him. Anyone whose search for identity is borderline pathological will relate to the narrator´s obsession for discovering himself. What is fascinating is that while this book was written almost a century ago, the essence of the highschooler and his/her fears and successes remain universal and utterly relatable. I give it 4 stars!
Colette´s Chéri and The Last of Chéri
Two novels in one, Chéri and The Last of Chéri tell the story of love between young Chéri and much older Léa. It´s probably an odd thing to say but I don´t think I´ve ever read anything that was as French as this book. Chéris is a 25 year young and wealthy Frenchman, involved in an affair with equally wealthy but twice his age Léa, a courtesan who is at the same time best friend and competitor of Chéri´s mother. From the very start of the novel, Chéri is destined to marry Edmée in an arranged marriage, hereby ending his six year long affair with Léa. Léa is devastated, as she probably realises both that she actually loves Chéri but also that her life is nearing an end from a romantic and sexual point of view. (Colette was 47 as she wrote this book and it is rumoured she inspired it from her own life). Next comes Chéri´s time to be devastated as Léa leaves him and is rumoured to have run off with someone else. I find the way Colette depicted his angst at this stage to be so beautifully written, and yet I´ve also read a review of someone criticising exactly this – the lack of emotion exploring in the novel. I personally could not see what this review meant and loved the rawness of it all. Moving on, in a very French way, the novel witnesses the coming and going of both Chéri and Léa until the affair is finally consummated after a couple of years´ break during the war. The book is so easy to read and entertaining that I read it in a heartbeat, always with a glass of wine in my hand and a smile on my face. I should also mentioned that I first learned about Colette from Nonna, my adoptive grandma, who actually personally knew and loved Colette, and so her writing is even more special to me. I give it 4.5 stars!