Saturday, November 06, 2010

About Tristan Garcia's Hate

I just saw in the Times' Book Review that Tristan Garcia's debut novel has been translated under the title Hate (the original is La Meilleure part des hommes, ie The Best Side of Men). I happened to read the book when it came out a couple of years ago, and was a bit startled by Alexander Nazaryan's take.

Well, by one thing mainly: He doesn't mention that the novel, set in the Parisian gay milieu of the 1980s, is a roman à clef. The lead characters are inspired by easily recognizable people, with just enough changes to prevent lawsuits (or so I assume).

Wild boy William Miller, for instance, looks very much like novelist Guillaume Dustan, who made a name for himself by advocating bareback sex. His nemesis, journalist-turned-AIDS-advocate Dominique Rossi, shares quite a few traits with journalist-turned-AIDS-advocate Didier Lestrade. Rossi cofounds an activist group called Stand; Lestrade cofounded the Parisian branch of Act Up. And so on.

Meanwhile, real-life Jewish philosopher and public intellectual Alain Finkielkraut seems to be the model for the novel's Jewish philosopher and public intellectual, Jean-Michel Leibowitz. At least Finkielkraut thought so: When the book came out, he publicly protested "the way I was transparently used," adding, "It's depressing but what can I do? Duels are now illegal."

Come on, this is good stuff!

The novel is so poorly written that trying to figure out who is who and who really did what is the best part. Not mentioning that aspect in a review is like talking about The Devil Wears Prada without mentioning Anna Wintour.

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