Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Who I remind myself of (more mouse than toad)

I often think we are rather cruel when we compare Barnet councillor and Chairman of London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority Brian Coleman*, AM FRSA to Toad in The Wind in the Willows without being prepared to subject ourselves to similiar wounding literary comparisons. So here goes...

I know myself better than anyone else does and, in the spirit of self-criticism, I can tell you now that there is more of a whiff of the Norbert de Varenne about me. If you don't know this character now, you will in a year's time when the upcoming film version of Guy de Maupassant's Bel Ami is released. (I've learned that there's a good 1947 film, "The Private Affairs of Bel Ami", based on this book, which I'll also watch out for.)

Bel Ami is a great story, about a cynical young social climber in 19th-century Paris, Georges Duroy; I read it when I was 20-odd. The gloomy minor character de Varenne fascinated me then, and I think it was because I could already see something of myself in him! The passing years, alas, only confirm that. Norbert de Varenne, I should say, is a morose journalist.

The other literary character I remind myself of is the little French woman in a cafe that so fascinates the hero Meursault in Albert Camus' L’Étranger. She sits ringing the programmes she is going to watch on TV (or is it radio programmes she is going to listen to?!) in a newspaper with a pen. I spend too much time in cafes, and probably look more and more like this strange, middle-aged woman, active but alone.

If both of these images are rather unflattering, I did say that I was doing this exercise in the spirit of self-criticism! I'm sure there are lots of more stirring literary heroes/heroines that I am like (ahem). Is it interesting that these two memorable characters were created by French novelists, or just a coincidence?

* For Coleman's latest indefensible deeds at the LFEPA, see this post on Adam Bienkov's "Tory Troll" blog.


Mrs Angry said...

No: sorry, I think actually we are being unfair to toads, if anything, and there are far more accurate and more unkind comparisons to be made ...

If you are determined to look for role models in French literature, why not go for something more fun: have you read Cheri, by Colette (the original Cougar) or Oh I dunno, Madame Bovary? Live dangerously!

Citizen Barnet said...

I knew this post was a good idea - I've got some new ideas for things to read. Thanks, Mrs A.

I do hate the term cougar - I would though, wouldn't I?!

"Vamp" sounds much more fun, although, I suppose, it didn't necessarily have the connotation of someone getting on in years (an old, female lech!) - one could be a vamp at any age.

Mrs Angry said...

Well, I think the French, and Europeans in general, have a more positive attitude to women over the age of 30, in contrast to the British, Daily Mail type disgust at 'women of a certain age' ... Colette is a fabulous, life enhancing writer, and Cheri is one of her best.