Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, Le Sonneur and Jane Aitken (translator)
|Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, Le Sonneur and Jane Aitken (translator)
|Category: Literary Fiction
|Reviewer: John Lloyd
|Summary: Here, one of France's more distinctive and popular writers goes greatly against form. Expect high indignation about people trying something different.
|Date: January 2022
|Publisher: Gallic Books
Antoine Laurain books have always been black and white and read in my house. And so was this one, although I could have spelled that more accurately – this one was, and is, black and white and red. Yes, he has an artistic collaborator on this piece, and I think it's possible to say not one page lacks the influence of some striking visual ideas.
Our narrator starts the book by telling his ex how he tried to send her a letter, and instead addressed the three pages of it – whatever it said – to a completely fictional address instead. You just know with Laurain's concept-driven love letters to Paris there'll be a reply, but no. This is a book where connections are not exactly being made – the narrator is breaking his connection to his ex by deleting memories and artefacts from their life together, even if he is also breaking his connection to the reality of the situation.
If this does have a high concept, it is to play with typography – which it does til the cows, well, join in. Bits that look like blank verse, some formatted as per a letter, two-columned pages, right justification – and then we get bits suspended upside down, or marching on their side up the page. Now, in the truth, a lot of this seemed slightly unnecessary – it never felt really vital, even if it certainly gave some sections of the text a different character (those upside down seemed probable asides, and certainly felt like things that should not be said).
The typography, the movement of the text across page, and so on, did kind of help disguise something, which is that this doesn't take half an hour to read. But it's not just the prose sections here, for said collaborator, Le Sonneur, is on the bulk of these pages. He brings a few simple elements to play – a man with a ladder, an unobtainable red sphere of a goal, motifs of tower blocks and window- and keyhole-frames, and definitely seems to provide some affecting imagery about love in the city and all the hopelessness attached with trying to find it.
So Laurain hasn't got his grandiloquent serendipities on the page – even when he's on the page – and for once he certainly hasn't concentrated on the pleasant coincidences and small marvels of life. It's a downer, it's a short story (well, discuss...) and it will be a very Marmite book. But you will seldom have seen the like.
Design bleeds from every pore of Paris by Maarten vande Wiele - which is a completely different kind of book, mind.
You can read more book reviews or buy Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, Le Sonneur and Jane Aitken (translator) at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Red is My Heart by Antoine Laurain, Le Sonneur and Jane Aitken (translator) at Amazon.com.
Check prices, read reviews or buy from Foyles. Foyles currently charges £2.99 (first class £3.99) for orders under £25, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Foyles bookshop at no charge.
Check prices, read reviews or buy from Waterstones. Waterstones currently charges from £2.75 for orders under £20, over which delivery is free. You may also click and collect from a Waterstones bookshop at no charge.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.