intense sensations

Beating la chamade: something only French hearts do

Posted on: March 30, 2012

La ChamadeLa Chamade by Françoise Sagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I felt supremely intellectual and sensitive while I was reading this book, all the more so because I read most of it while standing in the queue for the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy in London. Not that David Hockney is an intellectual. But the standard of badinage in the queues at the Royal Academy is generally pretty high.

I should also point out that the edition I was reading was not chosen lightly. I settled on the translation by Robert Westhoff only after a protracted internal struggle.

Nevertheless, although I liked this book and couldn’t fault individual sentences, it didn’t hold my attention as much as I’d hoped.

The dialogue is a bit precious. There is some wan and winsome philosophizing. The characters drift along in a haze of amorality, without too much to do. But there are some very sensual descriptions, which I adored. Chapter 7 is very good, for example. It’s only a page and a half but it has sentences like this:

I’ll never be able to meet you without blushing,” said Lucile, “or see you leave without feeling pain, or speak to you in public without turning my eyes away.”

and this:

As she turned, he closed his fingers and held the lower part of her face, almost fiercely for a second, her mouth pressed to his palm. Gazing at each other, they wordlessly promised to have thousands of such moments together, no matter what happened.”

Even in English this is very French: classic, simple, understated and intense.

The English have more words but, as one of the characters states in the (very short) closing chapter, “where poetry is concerned, France reigns supreme.”

Françoise Sagan is perhaps not the greatest French writer but she does justice to the tradition of beautiful, clear, poignant love stories into which she was born.


5 Responses to "Beating la chamade: something only French hearts do"

“where poetry is concerned, France reigns supreme.”

This is an interesting sentiment. I suppose all cultures feel they have a special hold on different aspects of art and writing. I’m mulling it over. I’m not as familiar with French works, and my French is very rusty, but I may have to investigate some good works in the language. English still reigns supreme for me.

I’m glad you at least mulled it a little. But in the end we all have our own penchant, I suppose. 🙂

I’m curious, which language do you think has the best works in erotica?

I don’t really know how to answer this question, which is why I’ve delayed for so long. I like to take pleasure in all language, regardless of its country of origin.

I’ve only ever read in English. My reading comprehension is much poorer in other languages and I’m not sure if I’d grasp the nuances.

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Books by Vanessa Wu

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