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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Do Not Touch

Éric Laurrent

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To purchase Do Not Touch

Title: Do Not Touch
Author: Éric Laurrent
Genre: Novel
Written: 2002 (Eng. 2009)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Do Not Touch - US
Do Not Touch - UK
Do Not Touch - Canada
Ne pas toucher - Canada
Ne pas toucher - France
  • French title: Ne pas toucher
  • Translated by Jeanine Herman

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Our Assessment:

B+ : small, very nicely told tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
World Lit. Today . Summer/2002 Emile J. Talbot

  From the Reviews:
  • "Laurrent is outstanding at closely detailing the subtle psychological processes at work as Clovis attempts to counter his desire while living in the bridal suite with his associate's alluring new wife, who makes no attempt to hide her ample physical charms and seems to invite a relationship. (...) Though captivating, Ne pas toucher is nevertheless aimed at a highly cultured audience. Learned references, winks to the cognoscenti, such as unmarked quotations of Mallarmé's "sonnet en yx," the presence of paintings from classical mythology that classical buffs will recognize as representing tales of love and death, and the insertion of various pieces of classical music that mysteriously emanate from car radios but might be read as commentary on the story can add to the pleasure of the reading as the reader congratulates himself on his own sophistication at the discovery. Still, this writing strategy sometimes broaches on mannerism." - Emile J. Talbot, World Literature Today

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Do Not Touch begins with a young Clovis Baccara making preparations for a suicide attempt. He gets his hands on a gun, but is saved in the last instant by the recently released from prison Oscar Lux -- who immediately has a much better idea of what to do with the gun ("All we need now is a means of transportation, a large, sturdy bag, and a pair of nylon stockings"). They team up and within a short time are the closest of associates, Clovis an increasingly important cog in the crime machine Oscar builds up -- especially as he eventually proves to be particularly adept at money laundering.
       After some two decades of successful teamwork Oscar decides it's time for him to get out of the business and settle down. He finds a woman, Veronica, and marries her -- with, of course, Clovis as his witness (i.e. best man); unfortunately, Clovis is quite taken by Victoria -- indeed completely overwhelmed. But, since she is Oscar's wife, she is completely off limits. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if Oscar didn't immediately get himself arrested -- and didn't ask Clovis to look out for his new wife until he can sort things out.
       So it is Clovis that flies to with Veronica to the honeymoon destination of Los Angeles, and finds himself increasingly torn between his very strong urges and his duty to his friend. As it takes longer and longer for Oscar to sort things out Clovis' torture goes on and on ..... As Clovis realises, there's no way for this story to come to a happy ending .....
       This is a small, simple tale, but the great pleasure of Laurrent's text is the way it is told, a style that is both light and dense, allusive and yet seemingly crystal clear, circling around a subject (with parenthetical asides) and then pinning it down. It works surprisingly well, even in translation.
       A fairly typical passage will often include a sentence such as:

     It's just that, at this sort of party, because of setbacks and disappointments (vestes, as they say) that threaten to turn into a sexual Berezina (or, an utter catastrophe), there is always a moment when despair ends up undermining the precepts people pretend to have to give some semblance of rigor to the practices of love (though, as we know, on the topic of love, there are no lasting codes of conduct).
       Laurrent spins out these ideas and asides in his description and analysis of the small gestures and emotions and events that make up the story, and it's a very effective technique -- especially in what is on the one hand such a simple story, on the other hand one of such complexity (those overwhelming but at-odds feelings of lust and love and loyalty tearing poor Clovis apart) .
       A nice bit of work -- and certainly an author to look out for (Do Not Touch is the first of Laurrent's novels to be translated into English, but he has published at least seven more to date).

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Do Not Touch: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Éric Laurrent was born in 1966.

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© 2009 the complete review

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