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Fermina Márquez (1972)

Fermina Márquez (1972)
3.39 of 5 Votes: 4
2070362256 (ISBN13: 9782070362257)
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Fermina Márquez (1972)
Fermina Márquez (1972)

About book: A very odd little novel, set in an elite boarding school in pre-war Paris, the student body of which more or less models a contemporary idyll of rich people equality: Africans, South Americans and Europeans all hang out together, speaking Spanish just because there are more South Americans than French people. It could just have been a bland coming of age tale; instead, everything gets knocked a little off center. The negro (sic) Demoisel is brutal, violent, huge, in short, every possible cliche you could think of--but just when you're ready to throw the book down in disgust at its racism, our narrator tells us that this is notable mainly because all the other black students are so charming and studious. Or the sensitive, bookish young man turns out to be a little Napoleon, deeply unbalanced. Or, most impressively, Fermina Marquez herself--sister of another student, and the beloved of all the older young men--looks to be nothing more than a handy catalyst for the young men to come of age at, perhaps a gauzy symbol of the unattainable Love. Then she turns out to be a model of Spanish Catholicism, almost inhumanly pious. But then she falls in love, and renounces her religious mania in favor of sensuality. But instead of this being a Love conquers Intolerance moment, she's deeply ambivalent about her behavior. Was she simply a hypocrite? What has she lost? Also, Larbaud handles first person plural narration far more effectively than, e.g., Eugenides in The Virgin Suicides. Another literary mystery for me to obsess over: How 'Le Grand Meaulnes' is a Penguin Classic, while this is out of print. Larbaud himself seems like a fascinating character, too; he translated Joyce, Samuel Butler and Thomas Browne.
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