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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Winter's Journal

Emmanuel Bove

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To purchase A Winter's Journal

Title: A Winter's Journal
Author: Emmanuel Bove
Genre: Novel
Written: 1931 (Eng. 1998)
Length: 215 pages
Original in: French
Availability: A Winter's Journal - US
A Winter's Journal - UK
A Winter's Journal - Canada
Journal écrit en hiver - Canada
Journal écrit en hiver - France
Journal, geschrieben im Winter - Deutschland
Diario in inverno - Italia
  • French title: Journal écrit en hiver
  • Translated by Nathalie Favre-Gilly
  • Afterword by Keith Botsford

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Our Assessment:

A- : fascinating observation of a relationship train-wreck

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Spring/1999 Brian Evenson

  From the Reviews:
  • "Because of Grandeville's self-destructive honesty, because of his constant psychoanalyzing of himself and his wife, A Winter's Journal is at once a painful and perceptive read -- satisfying in much the same way as Scott Zwiren's God Head or Evan Connell's The Diary of a Rapist. Stylistically, the novel is quite simple, the language neither flashy nor showy, the action moving forward from one day to the next while the marriage is relentlessly taken apart." - Brian Evenson, Review of Contemporary Fiction

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:

       A Winter's Journal is kept by Louis Grandeville, a well-off man of leisure who is married to Madeleine and who, being a Bove-(anti-)hero, is, of course, dissatisfied with his life and does everything he can to undermine his happiness. Because Louis doesn't have money woes (he can even afford to lose investments) like Bove's usual down-and-out protagonists, A Winter's Journal is in many respects a cheerier work than most of Bove's novels, and it's easier not to feel quite so bad about Louis' failings and fallings.
       Louis is a typically ridiculously introspective and self-absorbed Bove-figure:

Rather than letting myself be filled with happiness, I thought of myself. To console myself, I went so far as to imagine that I was perhaps the only man so alone and unhappy.
       Money and a beautiful wife certainly aren't enough. Indeed, nothing he can conceive of would be adequate: desire and jealousy fuel his passions, but once he has possession or control he effectively loses interest. It's a peculiar life:
     I asked myself whether a life devoid of any affection, of any goal, a life one fills with a thousand trifles intended to relieve its monotony, populated with human beings one seeks out in order not to be alone and whom one flees to avoid being bored by them, whether such a life isn't ridiculous, whether anything whatsoever wouldn't be preferable.
       But he can't change the way he is, and so, of course, he makes a mess of his relationship. Madeleine, it must be said, is a piece of work -- though in many ways a good fit for Louis. She's the type where:
Whenever Madeleine finds herself somewhere where people are enjoying themselves, she is immediately unhappy.
       Louis, of course, has his own ideas about her -- and his own attitude towards her:
I alone can understand her, forgive her, protect her. Instead of doing so, I'm behaving as any man would with any woman. I hound her, knowing that she is defenseless, and that I am stronger.
       Part of the appeal of Bove's fiction is that his narrators are always so brutally honest with themselves (or the reader) -- yet also so completely unable to act any differently. The resulting train-wreck here is entirely predictable, yet fascinating to follow as it unfolds. A Winter's Journal is, in many respects, a tragic tale, but it reads like a comic novel. The absurdity is almost beyond belief, but the tone is so spot-on that it is entirely convincing. It's a brilliant piece of writing.
       Certainly recommended.

       The Marlboro Press edition (1998) comes with a lengthy Afterword by Keith Botsford. It begins disastrously, as Botsford wonders about writers who have fallen into oblivion and asks:
Celebrity during his lifetime is a help, but no guarantee -- just where are Franz Werfel or Sigrid Unstetter today ?
       'Sigrid Unstetter' has apparently been consigned to such oblivion that he can't even get her name right -- surely he means Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset (conflating her name with that of one of her more famous characters).
       The rest of the Afterword, however, offers a very useful overview and introduction to Bove, and, given the paucity of information about him, is well worthwhile in its own right. The Afterword alone might not quite be worth the price of the book, but packaged together with this particular novel as it is this volume is surely the first Bove-newcomers should get.

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A Winter's Journal: 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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