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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Man in a Hurry

Paul Morand

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To purchase The Man in a Hurry

Title: The Man in a Hurry
Author: Paul Morand
Genre: Novel
Written: 1941 (Eng. 2015)
Length: 382 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Man in a Hurry - US
The Man in a Hurry - UK
The Man in a Hurry - Canada
L'homme pressé - Canada
The Man in a Hurry - India
L'homme pressé - France
  • French title: L'homme pressé
  • Translated by Euan Cameron
  • With an Afterword by Michel Déon
  • L'homme pressé was made into a film in 1977, directed by Édouard Molinaro, and starring Alain Delon

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Our Assessment:

B : fairly enjoyable if a bit obvious

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 27/7/2015 .
TLS . 2/7/2015 Nicholas Hewitt

  From the Reviews:
  • "(A) shockingly clever farce. (...) This is a strange book, written in prose as speedy as its impossible hero, and Morand deserves to be widely revisited both for the ageless appeal of his style and the specific (sometimes worrying) portrait of human nature at war with 1940s modernity." - Publishers Weekly

  • "There is some initial humour in Pierre as a classic automaton, but it soon becomes heavy to the point of irritating. The nonchalant anti-Semitism in the portrayal of Pierre’s mentor, the “Wandering Jew” Regenkrantz, and the tired racism implicit in the indolent Boisrosés is distasteful, however historically revealing. (...) Patchy as it is, however, The Man in a Hurry is a useful addition to Pushkin Press’s collection of French novels of the period, though it is unfortunate that, for a writer who prided himself on being a stylist, Morand should be let down by Euan Cameron’s often sloppy and inaccurate translation." - Nicholas Hewitt, Times Literary Supplement

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:

       The 'man in a hurry' of the title is Pierre Niox -- and, boy, is he ever. Pierre is an antique dealer specializing in the Carolingian period, rarely bothering with a piece more recent than 1000 AD -- hardly the obvious or ideal career-choice, given his frame of mind and an attitude that is less can- than must-do, forging always, as fast as possible, ahead:

He was made to be an office runner, a motorcycle delivery man, an arbitrager, a screenwriter, a switchboard operator, anything you like, but not a collector of period objects.
       Yes, he's no wizened, patient man obsessed with the old; instead, the thirty-five-year-old is constantly pressing ahead -- at as furious a pace as circumstances will allow. It puts him at odds with his surroundings:
I am cursed with moving at a galloping pace in a universe that moves at a trot.
       Not surprisingly, he's out of synch with the world, leaving even those most tolerant of him, such as his long-suffering (if a bit too obviously named) counterpart and business partner, Placide, unable and at some points finally unwilling to try to keep up.
       The novel opens with an encounter with a Doctor Zachary Regencrantz, who finds Pierre a fascinating subject. Pierre isn't quite ready for a diagnosis, but the good doctor resurfaces occasionally with some advice for the speedster.
       Too fast -- too far ahead of himself -- for self-reflection most of the time, Pierre does slow down enough to wonder what he's rushing towards -- and, in particular, what looms as both danger and attraction: "What will happen to me when I experience love ?" Considering the question, he tries to size himself up:
I believed myself to be a man like any other man, one merely endowed with a little more liveliness. Is this liveliness that I'm so proud of speed ? Or is it a way of dissembling and dragging one's feet, a delaying tactic, a way of avoiding the real answers, of substituting the great leap that every man must make into the unknown with a series of small hops ?
       The story is set in motion -- fast motion -- when the opportunity presents itself for Pierre to purchase the eleventh-century Chartreuse du Mas Vieux, a: "little cloister lost in the depths of the Var". The man with practically no possessions can't pass it up -- even if he's hardly ready to settle down yet. With the owner, Monsieur de Boisrosé, on his deathbed, time of is of the essence: he wants to sell -- for cash -- before he dies.
       Monsieur de Boisrosé had long abandoned his family -- wife and three daughters -- and they're rather disappointed to have lost out on their inheritance. They contact Pierre, hoping that he might see to their getting their fair share, too.
       The family is -- to put it mildly -- "carefree and wonderfully indolent", polar opposites of Pierre. But Pierre is smitten, and can't help but try to insinuate himself into this odd, languid clan. he hires one daughter as a secretary (she's not very good), but it's another, Hedwige, that he really has his eyes on. He courts her, and wins her.
       Divided into two fairly even halves, the first part of the novel had Pierre making his conquests -- cloister, Hedwige -- and the second begins with the couple newly wed. Here, too, Pierre takes an odd approach to things. But, as he had when he was wooing Hedwige, he makes an effort to adapt his lifestyle, promising:
You'll see, Hedwige, I am curable, I'm going to start all over again, I'm going to slow down, I'll dawdle; you'll be amazed.
       Can a man change his skin ? Can Pierre slow down ? Perhaps impending fatherhood can do the trick ? Or perhaps not: excited though he is, he can't help but get ahead of himself, and at the point when he's urging Hedwige to induce labor when she's only seven months along -- "Keeping it two months more than necessary is absurd when one can do otherwise ..." -- one can see where this is all headed.
       Moving between satire and straight out farce, and speeding always along, The Man in a Hurry can't entirely find its footing. Pierre is a flighty character, and the Boisrosés make for an entertaining exaggerated contrast, as does the suffering of sidekick Placide, but Morand pins a bit much on their various excesses, whether of speed or entire lack thereof. There is a good deal of stylish fun here, and the conclusion is unexpectedly and effectively poignant, but, while The Man in a Hurry is a novel that isn't necessarily too rushed, it certainly feels breathless.

- M.A.Orthofer, 10 January 2016

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The Man in a Hurry: Reviews: The Man in a Hurry - the film: Paul Morand: Other books by Paul Morand under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Paul Morand lived 1888 to 1976.

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