Chéri never forgot their nocturnal journey home, the sadness of the lingering crimson in the west, the smell of the grasses, the feathery moths held prisoner in the beam of the headlamps. (p.167)She put back the receiver, showing nothing but the curve of her back. As she moved away, she inhaled and exhaled puffs of blue smoke, and vanished in the midst of her cloud like a magician whose task is accomplished. (p. 181)
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
Year: 1920 and 1926
Rating: 5 out of 5
First sentence (Chéri): Give it me, Léa, give me your pearl necklace!
First sentence (The Last of Chéri): Chéri closed the iron gate of the little garden behind him and sniffed the night air: 'Ah! it's nice out here!'
For a more detailed analysis of the first novella, check out my Sunday Salon post.
The Last of Chéri picks up five years after the end of Chéri. In between, World War I has happened. Chéri seems to be one of the fortunate; he returns home not only alive, but unscathed (at least physically). His wife is fulfilling her patriotic duty working as a nurse at a Parisian verteran's hospital, and financially, he could want for nothing. Yet, while Chéri was sensual, The Last of Chéri is a chilling masterpiece. Unlike the first, this time around we only see the world from Chéri's narcissistic perspective. After visiting a much-aged Léa, he delves into a semi-manic depression, spurred on by his demands on another aged courtesan to recount Léa's younger life.
In all, this has been a great pair of novels to read. I also heard that a film version will be coming out in 2009, with Michelle Pfeiffer in the role of Léa, and Kathy Bates as Madame Peloux (Chéri's mother). I have a feeling it's not going to be in French, but I'm interested to see what they do with it.