Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Devil in the Flesh

The Devil in the Flesh is the debut of Raymond Radiguet, set in France during World War I and tells the story of a 15 year old boy who falls in love and begins an affair with an older woman married to a soldier. It was quite the scandal at the time, particularly since people suspected from the start that it was autobiographical.

The love affair quickly becomes something resembling an amour fou more than anything. There's no way it can last or will ever be accepted by society, although the protagonist's father at least seems very accepting of almost everything his son does. They have unconditional faith in their love, even with all the problems, like nothing can hurt them.

I'm less than fond of the way the female characters are portrayed. Marthe comes back to Francois whatever he does and however badly he treats her. Sometimes this borders on an abusive relationship. She's content with letting him plan everything, starting with letting him chose the furniture for the flat she and her husband will live in.

There's also a scene where Francois meets with a young woman who is a friend of Marthe's. He tried to seduce her and while she's willing at first, she tries to make him stop when things get serious. He does stop eventually, but he also holds her down while she struggles and kisses her. If that isn't abuse, then I don't know what is. It also cemented my view of Francois as a complete and utter asshole. The fact that he's young is a lame excuse at best. What is strange to me is that no review I have read of this book acknowledges this. Does everyone else find this perfectly acceptable?

It still is a book worth reading, but I would wish for less gushing about Radiguet's talent (and yes, he had plenty) and some more attention to and maybe critical comment on the actual story.

Reviews 2012

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