Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Joe le Plombier
In a file cabinet in my attic I've found a stack of French reviews of Famous Potatoes, which over there was called Les Tribulations de Willy Crusoe. (Willy Crusoe was the name taken by the main character when he was on the lam from the law.)
All the French reviews make note of my college degree and my occupation of plumber. None of the USA reviews seemed to find it worthy of note.
Here's the one I was thinking of (sorry, I can't type the accents). The reviewer was comparing Famous Potatoes to a recent work of French literature written by somebody who evidently had never dirtied his hands:
En definitive, c'est peut-etre ce qui manque a notre literature: des etres ronds et sales, dont les reves seraient aussi les reves des ecrivains. Des etres capables de s'attendrir, non sur eux-memes (cela, nous n'en manquons pas), mais sur plus pauvre, plus desespere qu'eux.
Rich Amerique qui a encore de pareils vivants. Et des informaticiens-plombiers capables de les observer.
Pauvre Europe, ou les detenteurs de diplomes universitaires ne deviennent jamais errants, ou il n'y a plus ni plombiers, ni reveurs, ni racines. Et ou les livres ne retentissent que de mea culpa...
-Jean Vigneaux in Pourquoi Pas? March 25, 1982
My French is rusty, and I can't be sure there isn't an element of sarcasm in the text. But I think M. Vigneaux was praising my novel and, oddly, the earthy roots of American literature. Would anybody care to translate? What's your take?