Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

buy us books !
Amazon wishlist

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Lecture

Lydie Salvayre

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase The Lecture

Title: The Lecture
Author: Lydie Salvayre
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 131 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Lecture - US
The Lecture - UK
The Lecture - Canada
La conférence de Cintegabelle - Canada
La conférence de Cintegabelle - France
  • French title: La conférence de Cintegabelle
  • Translated by Linda Coverdale

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : amusing monologue by quite the character on the art of conversation

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Economist . 19/6/1999 .
L'Express . 25/3/1999 Martine de Rabaudy
L'Humanité . 25/3/1999 Alain Nicolas
The Village Voice . 22/7/2005 Joy Press

  From the Reviews:
  • "Her latest book combines fiction with a treatise on conversation that parodies the moralist traditions of La Rochefoucauld and Swift. (...) The book is essentially a novel, and the introduction of fictional elements prevents it from becoming too moralistic. (...) Ms Salvayre's book is full of irony and wisdom." - The Economist

  • "Subversif et d'utilité publique." - Martine de Rabaudy, L'Express

  • "The Lecture leaps nimbly between wisdom and inanity, its narrator's striking voice perfectly rendered in Linda Coverdale's deadpan, crystal-clear translation." - Joy Press, The Village Voice

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.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Lecture is entirely in the form of a lecture -- as presented, not as written (i.e. with the occasional unscripted digression and responses (or at least reactions) to audience-questions). The topic is the art of conversation, an art the French -- so the lecturer -- excel at, but that is also being lost.
       The lecture is meant to be methodical and precise, scrupulously following an outline (which he does, after a fashion). The lecturer believes he can offer rigorous analysis of conversation and its benefits. To enliven things he promises ... axioms ("I'm rather fond of axioms").
       It's not the most promising undertaking, in no small part, it is soon evident, because of the speaker himself. "We live, increasingly, without talking to one another", he laments, but his monologue is as one-sided as communication gets. Even the interruptions and questions are readily dismissed rather than responded to: he may idealise the concept of conversation, but he's not very good at it himself (though it must be noted that communication isn't the point of the exercise for him, differentiating as he does between: "conversation, that lily of the soul, and communication, that foul dunghill").
       One excuse he has is that he does have some things weighing on his mind. In particular, the fact that he's recently widowed. His Lucienne, his Lulu, obviously wasn't an ideal mate. Food-obsessed, not much of a talker (of the sort he or anyone might hope for), she sounds quite the gross creature. And though he should probably be glad she's gone, he isn't quite able to let her go. She serves as example for many of the points he wants to make -- while not exactly helping make his case the way he'd like.
       The lecturer lives quite in his own world, as his real-life examples and his attitude demonstrate. And he's full of himself, too, certain he knows best (and philosophical -- if disappointed -- about the fact that the world around him doesn't live up to his standards). Only forty-eight inhabitants of Cintegabelle "are suited to the art of conversation", for example -- and only one of them is a genius ("and guess who that is", he asks rhetorically).
       His rather unpleasant domestic life, his ability to twist reality to fit his world-view, and the occasional cruel but realistic description of, for example, the literary world (as he tries to get his lecture published) make for entertaining background to his grand theorising.
       The lecturer's exposition isn't quite as methodical as he originally intends it to be, but all the more revealing for that. The voice is a strong one: The Lecture could pass for a one-man play, and it's not surprising that it has been repeatedly staged.
       Between the lecturer's grand philosophical ambition and everything that pulls him back down to earth, The Lecture is an amusing little tale. Enjoyable.

- Return to top of the page -


The Lecture: Reviews: La conférence de Cintegabelle - the play: Lydie Salvayre: Other books by Lydie Salvayre under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French author Lydie Salvayre has written numerous books.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2005-2009 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links