Desolationby Published 12 Oct 2018
From the internationally acclaimed playwright and author of Art comes a first novel of extraordinary brilliance: the outpourings—at once eccentric, dark, and exceedingly funny—of an old man reflecting upon his life, marriages, friendships, love affairs, and the enragingly separate existence of his spoiled, and lost, only son.
He has had a full life, and now, in his later years, retired, his second wife getting on his nerves, love affairs a distant memory, he has a few things that he'd like to get off his chest.
As he talks—half to himself, half to the son he can't understand—we're introduced to Nancy, his too-happy wife; to their housekeeper, Mrs. Dacimiento, who still can't put the bag properly over the rim of the garbage can; to his chum Lionel; to his daughter and her wannabe-truly-Jewish husband; and to the heartbreaking Marisa Botton, his idiotic, irresistible mistress. Finally, we witness his chance re-encounter with the charming Genevieve Abramowitz, who in telling him a story of her own leads him to his final overtures.
Yasmina Reza has written a symphonic monologue—a passionate kvetch, a truly original work.
Author Biography: Yasmina Reza is a playwright and novelist whose plays have all been multi-award-winning critical and popular international successes, translated into more than thirty languages. Her plays include Conversations After a Burial, The Passage of Winter, Art, which was awarded a Tony in 1999, The Unexpected Man, and Life 33. She is also the author of a translation of The Metamorphosis; a novel, Hammerklavier; and a film, Lulu Kreutz'sPicnic. She lives in Paris.
I will never forget this book,especially how candid it got.It was so hilarious to me,I have the front cover of the book,with the middle finger of this old man who has lived his life in so much despair and stuff saying Fuck life.Anyway in all seriousness,it was deep.He talks to his son about how he views life and finds it idiotic that he would want to spend time traversing the earth tasting stuff,lying or rather convincing himself that life is full of happiness and freedom,while he knows that his life has pretty much been boring,lonely,filled with solitude,having to make accommodations and compromises.He just doesn't get how people can convince themselves that everything is worth it.Not when when all said and done,back to ashes,back to oblivion.I loved this book.
What a voice! She is so obviously a playwright. Being a curmudgeon myself, I found the first-person narrator (a fairly loathsome character) to be a kindred spirit.
Un anziano padre si rivolge in un lungo monologo al figlio, lontano per ubicazione e condotte di vita, forse anche per via dei loro passati contrasti. Gli racconta la sua lotta contro la desolazione della vecchiaia, cioè contro l'arrendevolezza e la passività che con gli anni tendono ad imporsi: no, lui ritiene che si debba continuare ad agitare la vita, anche a costo di risultare intolleranti, scontrosi, prevaricanti: meglio così che piatti, sostiene convintamente. Anche se... con il figlio... un po' d'arrendevolezza, magari... Potesse davvero parlargli, forse finirebbe pure col dirgli "Bravo. Fai bene. Se soltanto ti levassi quest'arietta di superiorità, quest'arietta...". Bel romanzo, lettura appagante, scrittrice da approfondire.
An old man, close to death, looks at his life and considers his legacy, a son, to whom the entire book is a monologue, and a daughter he has little time for. The son he acts as if he has even less time for and yet he does at least direct this one last appeal to him. The boy is a disappointment to his father and yet he has found what the old man seems to have missed out on. It is not that he doesn’t wish his children to be content, he does, but he doesn’t understand why the things they do, especially his son, brings them happiness.
The book has the brutal honesty, or at least a decent stab at honesty, the kind of honesty that a man who has little time left can afford. Sometimes he mutters away as if to himself, other times he launches into lengthy rambles, recalling his neighbours and people from his past.
I had high hopes for this book when I first bought it but only read through about thirty of the one hundred and thirty-six pages before putting it aside. This time I struggled through to the end. It would have made a good short story. I liked the character and how he expresses himself but there was too much. It felt like one of those phone conversations where you only hear one side of things. Perhaps rather than a short story this man and his views would have been served better as a theatre piece with other characters, imagined if necessary, for him to rub against.
I came across this title because of the translator, Carol Brown Janeway, has translated such wonderful and brilliant writers as Thomas Bernhard and Sándor Márai in addition to Yasmina Reza. I felt that if Janeway translated these two literary giants there must be something redeeming for her to translate Yasmina Reza. Reza is from a different vein, but still extremely sophisticated in her approach to fiction on the page. Some reviewers have remarked that she is no Beckett, and I would agree but for what reason she would be compared to Beckett is beyond me. The best and most important writer she reminds me of would be J.D. Salinger. Much of her writing is monologue and takes place in the course of a single day although the memories and experiences presented are taken from another moment of the past. I find her writing to be relaxed and intelligent, offering a point of view I may or may not have previously considered. Her writing is refreshing as is the cantankerous and often venting characters she chooses to have lift their heavy burdens off their chests. Reza often writes in the voice of a male protagonist and I find her work remarkably believable. I am not sure why she isn't more revered here in the USA. This was the first book I have read by her and I am eager to read many more. Yasmina Reza has swiftly become one of my favorite female writers.
In Desolation the old man questions not only his spoiled son's idea of happiness but even consequently his own idea of it. There is much he does not understand and as he thinks aloud there is much he wants to get to the bottom of. The last third of the book is an adventure with an old lady friend who he meets for a long lunch and conversation. A purely enjoyable read and one I highly recommend for both sexes.