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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

An Evening at the Club

Christian Gailly

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To purchase An Evening at the Club

Title: An Evening at the Club
Author: Christian Gailly
Genre: Novel
Written: 2001 (Eng. 2003)
Length: 133 pages
Original in: French
Availability: An Evening at the Club - US
An Evening at the Club - UK
An Evening at the Club - Canada
Un soir au club - Canada
Un soir au club - France
Ein Abend im Club - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B : nice touches, but doesn't live up to promising beginning

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
L'Express . 10/1/2002 François Busnel
FAZ . 11/11/2003 Michael Adrian
L'Humanité . 10/1/2002 Claude Lebrun
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 13/4/2004 Jürgen Ritte
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction . Summer/2003 Clarissa Behar
TLS . 15/2/2002 Robin Buss
Die Welt . 4/10/2003 .
Die Zeit . 27/11/2003 Konrad Heidkamp

  Review Consensus:

  Generally impressed

  From the Reviews:
  • "Le onzième roman de Christian Gailly est un morceau de virtuose. Une histoire simple, entre nostalgie et espoir." - François Busnel, L'Express

  • "Alle Mittel seiner Sprachkunst setzt Christian Gailly ein, um diese unerwartete und späte Liebe zweier nicht mehr Junger, zweier innerlich Exilierter zart und diskret und doch aus nächster Nähe zu erzählen. (...) Doch bleibt der ganze scheinbar freie, sprachverliebte Lauf der Prosa im Dienst einer Geschichte, die Gailly sowenig aus dem Auge verliert wie seine Überzeugung, daß die großen Themen Liebe, Opfer, Kunst und Tod ihren Ernst und ihre Würde nur bewahren, wenn man bis zuletzt auch lacht über sie." - Michael Adrian, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "La beauté du texte tient aussi pour une part non négligeable à ces échappées vers différents réseaux de correspondances." - Claude Lebrun, L'Humanité

  • "Und dann, plötzlich, auf engstem Raum, als würden die Finger in akrobatischen Verrenkungen einmal kurz über die Tastatur des Klaviers rasen, vier komplexe, die Modalitäten variierende Tempora. Das ist wirklich gekonnt, und von ähnlicher Meisterschaft wie Gailly im Spiel mit den Zeitformen muss sein Held Simon Nardis auch gewesen sein, bevor er den Jazz aufgab." - Jürgen Ritte, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

  • "The plot is rather clichéd, but it is interesting to see how Gailly, taking up the age-old reflection on the sister arts, tries to create a verbal version of jazz. Gailly uses three methods to build the unique rhythm that, I believe, holds his book together." - Clarissa Behar, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Un Soir au club describes a single series of events, occurring within a short period of time, yet with the wider resonance of a novel, amounting in this case to a wry reflection on chance and morality." - Robin Buss, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Wie Gailly, einst selbst gefeierter Jazz-Saxophonist, das Spiel der Gesten und Töne, das den Musiker und die Sängerin unaufhörlich aufeinander zu drängen lässt, in einen lässigen Sprachrhythmus übersetzt, macht jeden Leser wehrlos." - Die Welt

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:

       An Evening at the Club is narrated at a distance, by a friend of Simon and Suzanne Nardis. Though the events are related in some detail -- exactly what the characters did, what they thought -- the narrator himself only figures briefly in the account itself (though he often reminds readers of his presence).
       The story itself covers barely more than a day. It begins with Simon going out on a routine emergency call. He specialises in maintaining industrial heating equipment, and has been called to a seaside factory, a few hours from his home. The job is a bit more complicated than expected, and he misses the train he had hoped to catch to get back home that afternoon. When they are finally done the grateful local engineer invites Simon to dinner, and then entices him to join him at a club for the hour he has before he can catch the next train.
       On the first page readers are told that Simon was once a great jazz pianist, but that he gave that up -- "Let's say for reasons of health", the narrator says. In the club he has a relapse: the music, the piano, the club owner Debbie Parker: all of it seduces him to stay. He sends the engineer home and loses himself in the music and atmosphere (and alcohol) again.
       All the while his wife is waiting for him at home. He calls to report each missed train, but by that night he knows he wants to reclaim the old life he had left behind -- something Suzanne clearly couldn't accept. And he's fallen in love with Debbie Parker.
       Gailly presents this story well, up to a point. Simon's sudden transformation strains credulity, but Gailly comes close to pulling it off. Simon's vacillations, and the reactions of the various characters -- the musicians who recognise him, the hapless engineer, the annoyed wife -- are nicely presented. The hints the narrator drops, of what is to come, are also fairly effective, suggesting the future but taking his time in explaining exactly what form it will take.
       Things go downhill after Simon spends the night. Another train is missed, and they decide that Suzanne will come pick him up. Events unfold slightly too conveniently here, allowing Simon his easy escape from the life he's been burdened with for the past decade. Gailly isn't entirely comfortable with it either; these are difficult scenes to write, and he can't completely avoid sounding melodramatic. In addition, the asides and details that worked so well in the earlier parts of the books aren't as clever, well-chosen, or effective. The tone, and the semi-distant voice recounting it, is impressive in the first half of the book, but doesn't quite work in the second either. (The presentation is also "jazzy", the play with words and sentences and rhythm meant to evoke similar musical play; it's fairly successful, but not extraordinary.)
       An Evening at the Club is a good, short read, disappointing mainly because it doesn't quite live up to its early promise,

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An Evening at the Club: Reviews: Other books by Christian Gailly under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Christian Gailly was born in 1943.

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© 2004-2010 the complete review

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