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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Adam Haberberg

Yasmina Reza

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To purchase Adam Haberberg

Title: Adam Haberberg
Author: Yasmina Reza
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2007)
Length: 146 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Adam Haberberg - US
Adam Haberberg - UK
Adam Haberberg - Canada
Adam Haberberg - Canada
Adam Haberberg - France
Adam Haberberg - Deutschland
  • French title: Adam Haberberg
  • Translated by Geoffrey Strachan

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Our Assessment:

B+ : well done, if somewhat slight

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 17/5/2005 Hannelore Schlaffer
The LA Times . 25/2/2007 Michael Sims
Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 17/5/2005 Barbara Villiger Heilig
The NY Sun . 3/1/2007 Chloëe Schama
The NY Times . 2/2/2007 Michiko Kakutani
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/3/2007 Caryn James
San Francisco Chronicle . 7/1/2007 Lynn Andriani
Die Zeit . 17/3/2005 Iris Radisch

  From the Reviews:
  • "Deshalb läßt Reza den Helden ihres Romans schließlich doch scheitern und unterhält ihre Leser mit dessen leiser Melancholie. Die Banalitäten, die Adam Haberberg in der kurzen Zeit wahrnimmt, in der die "Krankheitsgeschichte" im Visier der Autorin bleibt (...) hätten denn auch trotz aller Realitätsnähe bestenfalls eine lyrische Träumerei ergeben. Dramatisch macht Yasmina Reza die Geschichte erst durch jene Worte, die der augenkranke und worthungrige Dichter dann doch findet" - Hannelore Schlaffer, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "Haberberg and Lyoc don't so much spend the day as fritter it away; he is too inert to deserve active verbs. (...) Consequently, it is all the more impressive that this novel rolls along so quickly. The relentless drive of Reza's prose captures us with far more energy than Haberberg demonstrates in the entire book. (...) Adam Haberberg is brief, poignant and bitterly funny, and gains by its coalition of all three virtues." - Michael Sims, The Los Angeles Times

  • "Ms. Reza's variation on this theme complicates the matter by asking the question: Who is an artist ? But the complication primarily takes the form of contradiction, and for no apparent reason, except perhaps to emphasize the instability of Adam's identity, which is not something that needs underlining. (...) And, of course, his name is the title of Ms. Reza's novel, prompting the further question: Can a work of art and an artist be the same? The philosophy begins to get absurdly reflexive, but unlike Ms. Reza's plays, it's just not funny." - Chloëe Schama, The New York Sun

  • "(A) polished, pared-down, professionally turned production that appears to tackle big ideas -- Time, Mortality, the Possibility of Human Connection, the Meaninglessness of Life -- but does so with the paint-by-numbers breeziness of a television mini-series. (...) In the end, this is why Adamís long rant has little in common with Krappís or Learís existential rage at the world and everything in common with the late-night bloviating of an angry blogger, eager to whine and vent -- full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing." - Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

  • "(A) step forward, because this captivating and often amusing portrait of a man in emotional distress (...) relies on her keen, miniaturist's eye while minimizing her weakness for abstractions. (...) (A) novel that can be read in one swift, exhilarating rush, a work that goes a long way toward reconciling Reza to her genuine talent. " - Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review

  • "(A) driving, brutal, occasionally witty snapshot of an average Joe's midlife crisis." - Lynn Andriani, San Francisco Chronicle

  • "Haberberg ist der bewährte Antiheld des philosophierenden französischen Kurzromans (Ionesco, Bove, Pinget, Toussaint), ein intelligenter Untergeher, der nur deswegen noch immer oben schwimmt, weil er sich für etwas Besseres hält, als er ist. (...) Ein kleines Kammerspiel, die großen Fragen und das schaurig schöne Gefühl, sie alle nicht beantworten zu können. Wenn man diesem perfekten, kleinen, lebensechten Dramolett überhaupt irgendetwas vorwerfen wollte, dann ist es nur die redselige Wohligkeit, mit der es sich in dieser Kaschmir-Tristesse bequem macht." - Iris Radisch, Die Zeit

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:

       Adam Haberberg covers a day in the life of its eponymous protagonist -- not a particularly good day of what the forty-seven year old would-be writer has come to realise hasn't exactly been a stunningly successful life. He's coming from the optometrist, who has confirmed a diagnosis of a thrombosis in the central vein of the retina, threatening Haberberg's sight in one eye. That makes for his immediate cause for concern (and self-pity), but this first big sign of physical decline is also just another nail in the coffin of his unsatisfactory life. His successful wife works all day and -- she being a woman who "would have liked to live in the shadow of a man" -- has almost nothing but contempt for him, and their two small children aren't enough to give him much purpose or satisfaction.
       So Haberberg has reached the stage where he's prone to reveries like:

He remembers the name in its youth, he remembers how Adam Haberberg used to have quite a different ring to it, it didn't mean what it says today.
       Ah, yes:
When you're named Adam Haberberg you don't expect to write pulp fiction and you don't expect to be laid low by thrombosis at the age of forty-seven before any recognition, however small, however, hybrid, however fatally ephemeral, has occurred.
       He makes excuses for never having written that great book. The one success he had was when he helped out a friend, penning a cheap series-novel of the kind sold at newspaper kiosks, the kind of book published under a pseudonym, not 'Adam Haberberg':
I brought off The Black Prince of Mea-Hor because it's set outside the world. I can't picture the world. I can see only scattered fragments, shards, I can make no sense of it.
       It may be a lame excuse, but he's not entirely wrong. Maybe he's just not trying hard enough, but Haberberg definitely does have some issues with dealing with everyday life -- and he proves it here, running into and falling into the clutches of old schoolmate Marie-Thérèse. He goes home with her, a confrontation with the past and with what became of some of their classmates -- as well as Marie-Thérèse's apparently unresolved feelings for him. Not surprisingly, he's barely up to any of it.
       Reza captures this combination of pathetic, proud, and confused man well -- and with both him and the figure of Marie-Thérèse also conveys how difficult it can be to let the past and past history go. They've both led full lives in the sense of going through many of the steps of adulthood -- marriage, careers of sorts, children (or at least a godchild) to attend to -- and yet seem not to have gotten very far with it, as if it had all been a going-through-the-motions, rather than the real thing.
       Adam Haberberg covers only a day in the life, and so parts seem underdeveloped: Haberberg's unsatisfied wife comes across (largely at a distance) as almost too unpleasant in her dissatisfaction, the two boys seem hardly more than inconveniences. Still, Reza captures this snapshot of a mid-life crisis (or two) well, and there's enough to make for an enjoyable (if slightly uncomfortable) read; indeed, perhaps there's not enough to Haberberg to sustain a full-fledged wallow in what is his life.
       A decent little effort.

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Adam Haberberg: Reviews: Yasmina Reza: Other Books by Yasmina Reza under Review Other books of interest under review:
  • See the index of French literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       French author Yasmina Reza, born in 1959, achieved her first great success with the play 'Art'. She has also written fiction and screenplays.

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© 2007-2018 the complete review

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