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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Sundays of Jean Dézert

Jean de La Ville de Mirmont

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To purchase The Sundays of Jean Dézert

Title: The Sundays of Jean Dézert
Author: Jean de La Ville de Mirmont
Genre: Novel
Written: 1914 (Eng. 2019)
Length: 96 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Sundays of Jean Dézert - US
The Sundays of Jean Dézert - UK
The Sundays of Jean Dézert - Canada
Les dimanches de Jean Dézert - Canada
Les dimanches de Jean Dézert - France
Los domingos de Jean Dézert - España
  • French title: Les dimanches de Jean Dézert
  • Translated and with an Introduction by André Naffis-Sahely

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Our Assessment:

A- : very nicely done (representative-)character portrait

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Le Figaro . 27/6/2019 Etienne de Montety
TLS . 2/10/2020 John Taylor

  From the Reviews:
  • "This quietly captivating novel, self-published in 1914 shortly before the author’s death in the Great War, regularly comes back into print. André Naffis-Sahely has now finely translated it. The Sundays of Jean Dézert encapsulates several trends in modernist literature. (...) Moreover, the novel endearingly exemplifies the literature of strolling." - John Taylor, Times Literary Supplement

  • "(H)is odd and delightful novel prefigures future literary trends. (...) Jean de La Ville's style in this novella is one that many French readers would doubtless term "flat." Yet the author turns that prosaicness into a virtue. The simplicity of the vocabulary, the rhythms and syntax evoking the spoken language, the author's eschewal of the embellishing features of speech so typical of a certain kind of French literary diction, match the main figure perfectly." - John Taylor, Paths to Contemporary French Literature (1) (2004)

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Sundays of Jean Dézert opens: "Let us call this young man Jean Dézert". He is meant to be a sort of everyman, representative of a type, lost and interchangeable (as even he comes to recognize) in the modern-day urban crowd. He is unambitious, a man of routine living a fairly simple life, a cog in the bureaucratic machine, in an undemanding position where his presence hardly matters or is noticed (when his boss asks him for something, a colleague observes that it's not anything he really needed: "He just came in to check you were still here"). Dézert: "has never once gone on a long journey in his dreams" -- much less in real life -- and he: "has resigned himself to his lot".
       To pass the time he might try his hand at writing verse -- and comes up with the likes of:

Conscious of my vague role, I take another breath,
I'll write memos, reports, right up till my death.
       They aren't even self-pitying words, but rather reflect the reality that he accepts with a shrug of the shoulders.
       He has no grand dreams or ambitions, and lives a compartmentalized life. So also:
     Imagination is for outside office hours, especially on Sundays. Sundays are when Jean Dézert's life unfolds.
       And yet it only unfolds so far. Still, he's open to suggestion, and one Saturday night decides he'll spend his Sunday following the advice he finds on the leaflets he's collected, handed out on the street by various: "diminished, generous, and badly dressed old men" -- recommending services, ways of life, and lectures. It makes for a tour of curiosities, cranks, and mild disappointments -- including a bath, a shave, a vegetarian meal, a session with a clairvoyant, a lecture on sexual hygiene. None of it really sticks -- it's all something different, certainly, and yet more of the same, the mildest of adventures in an unadventurous life.
       La Ville de Mirmont does then shake his character's life up a bit: "It was imperative that Jean Dézert made the acquaintance of Elvire Barrochet". And, yes, Dézert meets a woman -- a carefree girl, actually, just seventeen, ten years his junior -- and flirts a little and gives her his card, and young Elvire follows up, seduced by the idea of a little adventure and her own safe (because she understands Dézert is not a threat) audacity. They get along in their way, each quite unsure of what it all means but playing along happily enough and soon even engaged.
       Dézert is willing to go down this path, whatever it may be -- and fatalistic enough then to accept where it unsurprisingly eventually leads, Elvire eventually coming to her senses. He acts out in reaction, but in predictable ways, perfectly described by La Ville de Mirmont, who has Dézert go through all the motions, right up to the (melo)dramatic ultimate one -- which then resolves itself as it must with a man such as Dézert.
       La Ville de Mirmont does not present his character as pitiful or his fate as particularly poignant; Dézert is simply what and as he is -- which is also: like so many others. The Sundays of Jean Dézert isn't coldly matter-of-fact -- the tone is sympathetic, if not warm -- but suggests a cosmopolitan world of souls who, if not entirely empty, drift calmly and boringly in their simple routines, resigned more than anything else but not wallowing in much self-pity.
       A neat little novel and character study, and a deceptively rich little tale.

- M.A.Orthofer, 25 June 2019

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The Sundays of Jean Dézert: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French author Jean de La Ville de Mirmont lived 1886 to 1914.

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© 2019-2021 the complete review

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