Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: A Fine of 200 Francs

This is a series of stories about the men and women of the French resistance. Triolet secretly published this book during the war, and thus is not merely a chronicle of, but also part of the actual fight against Nazi occupation. Triolet tells stories of men and women who found themselves, either by choice or necessity, engaged with the resistance movement. Given the subject matter, it likely comes as no surprise that these are haunting stories. They are extremely atmospheric: cold, hunger, uncertainty, all are omnipresent in these tales, and are vividly presented to the reader. While these sensory experiences are so vivid, other things have been normalized. Some privations have been so normalized that they pass with minimal comment. Because this was published during wartime by the underground press there are elements of wartime culture Triolet never fully explains. While these must have been self-evident in 1944, they are not necessarily so in 2009. That said, this was a very interesting look at the day-to-day operations of the resistance movement.

Elsa Triolet, A Fine of 200 Francs (Virago, 1986) ISBN: 0140161341

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Review: Generation X

This book was supposed to be the defining statement of a generation. That said, I enjoyed it less than some of Coupland's other work. This is the story of disaffected twenty-somethings who've found that life has little to offer them except escalating home prices, creeping commercialism, and what one can only describe as middle-class ennui. So, they escape to the desert, work minimum-wage jobs, and entertain one another telling stories. All of the stories highlight the emptiness that defines the characters' lives. I'm not entirely sure why I found this less fulfilling than other of Coupland's works. Perhaps it's because I was born at the tail end of Generation X, so these sentiments were hardly revolutionary to me. Perhaps the nearly twenty years that have passed since its first publication have seen the sentiments assimilated into mainstream culture (irony noted.) Whatever it is, I have enjoyed other of Coupland's works far more.

Douglas Coupland, Generation X (St. Martins, 1999) ISBN: 031205436X