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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Emmanuel Bove

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Title: Armand
Author: Emmanuel Bove
Genre: Novel
Written: 1927 (Eng. 1987)
Length: 111 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Armand - US
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  • French title: Armand
  • Translated by Janet Louth

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Our Assessment:

A- : nice air of self-destructive inevitability to it

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       At the outset of this slim novel Armand runs into a friend he hasn't seen in a year, Lucien. Armand has escaped that orbit: he's taken a well-off lover, Jeanne, and no longer lives in near-abject poverty. And: "The comfort in which I had been living for twelve months had brutally put an end to all my old habits."
       Armand can't simply dismiss Lucien, but his flailing efforts to help him are half-hearted at best. Armand should just let go, but can't. Their encounters are of exquisite awkwardness, two men who have little in common except for the milieu in which they once lived. Armand invites Lucien for dinner, and goes to visit him, and each meeting is strained and painful.
       In Lucien's abode Armand reflects on his superiority:

     No, I was not the one who lived there. I was a man now. If anything happened to me, people, Jeanne, her brother, her friends, would have come to my assistance.
       That he is a kept man does not undermine his sense of self -- nor does his dependence on Jeanne and her family. Appearances are all that matter, and as far as appearances go Lucien lives in a dump and Armand is a man.
       But Armand can't simply accept the new order of things. He wants to prove himself, he needs to be understood, even as he makes a mess of everything he approaches:
     Seeing him like that, sad and tired, I wanted to tell him how much I felt for him in his sufferings in spite of what it looked like. I wanted him to get rid of the impression he was forming of me. He would have loved me if he had been able to guess what I really thought of him.
       But Armand is incapable of expressing himself, either, unable to convey all these things he wants to get across. He knows better, too, but he can't stay away:
     I had no intention of going to see Lucien. Nevertheless, without thinking about it, I avoided the streets which would have taken me away from his home.
       Pride comes before the fall, and Armand is all self-involved pride. He's found himself an ideal situation -- "The course of my life was unfolding peacefully" -- but he's not satisfied, his self-destructive instincts easily getting the better of him. Instead of winning anyone over, he pushes them all away, even as he can pretend to himself that he's doing right.
       There's an air of inevitability to Armand's fumblings, and it's clear all along where all this is going, but Bove does a beautiful job of allowing Armand's fall to unfold. Well worthwhile.

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Armand: Reviews: Emmanuel Bove: Other books by Emmanuel Bove under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Emmanuel Bove lived 1898 to 1945.

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