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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas

Olivier Adam

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To purchase Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas

Title: Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas
Author: Olivier Adam
Genre: Novel
Written: 1999
Length: 187 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas - Canada
Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas - France
Keine Sorge, mir geht's gut - Deutschland
Stai tranquilla, io sto bene - Italia
DVD: Don't Worry, I'm Fine - UK
  • Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas has not yet been translated into English
  • Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas was made into a film in 2006, directed by Philippe Lioret and starring Mélanie Laurent

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Our Assessment:

B+ : melancholy, but nicely done

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ A 27/7/2007 Niklas Bender

  From the Reviews:
  • "Adams kurze, gewohnt pathosarme Sätze fangen ein wenig klingende Wärme ein. Am Ende bietet die Leere des Verlusts der mutiger werdenden Lili eine ungeahnte Chance: "Dieser nichtssagende Ort. Von dem aus man sich alles erfinden konnte." Genau das tut Adam: Er gibt dem Nicht-Ort seine literarische Heimat und zeigt sich erneut auf der Höhe seines Könnens." - Niklas Bender, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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:

[Note: this review is based on the German translaton of Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas, by Carina von Enzenberg, Keine Sorge, mir geht's gut (2007), which is the edition I happened to get my hands on.]

       Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas centers on Claire [whose name was changed to: 'Lili' for the movie version; she is also Lili in the German translation], still in her early twenties but at sea for the past two years, ever since her younger brother Loïc 'left' -- a sudden but complete disappearance whose nature is long left very vague. Despite being two years younger, he was always the older brother; he even finished high school before she did -- skipping a grade where she repeated two. Despite otherwise doing well academically, the loss of her brother -- vanishing from the family's life -- devastated her, and she retreated completely within herself, edging close to anorexia and not even thinking of continuing her studies. With the arrival of a first letter from the missing brother -- a life sign ! --, she perked up a bit, and took a job as a supermarket cashier and moved to Paris -- to Loïc's favorite neighborhood.
       Claire is reasonably satisfied with her life, and her job. She has no greater ambitions, and she is put off by the superior tones and would-be knowledgeable talk of those her age. She is friends with a fellow cashier, Nadia -- but Nadia is at university, just working over the summer to earn some cash. And Nadia's efforts to introduce Claire to her circle don't work out well; Claire doesn't feel like she fits in -- and she doesn't really want to, either. And Loïc and his fate still dominate her thoughts.
       Claire remains obsessed with Loïc. Always very close, it's like a part of her is missing. The postcards she receives, now regularly two or three a month, give her hope. They come from all over, rarely more than a few in a row from the same place, as Loïc apparently wanders endlessly around France. He doesn't go into what he might be doing; he's merely offering a ... sign of life, at regular intervals.
       Loïc addresses his correspondence to Claire alone, not their parents. Apparently an argument between father Paul and him led to his essentially running away.
       Now, in late summer 1998, Claire looks at the postmark of the latest card -- Portbail -- and makes a plan: she takes some time off from work and plans to head there -- while telling her parents that she is going on vacation elsewhere. She puts her plan into action, and slowly circles Portbail before venturing in. She is not entirely disappointed in her undertaking, though she doesn't find what (i.e. who) she had been looking for. But she does find more answers.
       Her loving parents try to be supportive, but don't entirely know how to help Claire; they do put a lot of effort into it. Claire isn't asocial, and goes out repeatedly, but the men she meets or begins to get involved with aren't an impressive bunch, their interest ultimately fairly shallow (and sex first and foremost on their minds). Claire isn't entirely a victim, but she is taken advantage of, and occasionally harassed. (One off-key note in the novel comes when one admirer physically assaults an (admittedly obnoxious) man hitting on her and she a bit too readily and easily swoons for this white knight.)
       The narrative proceeds quickly, in very short sentences and simple description -- effective both in presenting Claire's life and state of mind. She is nevertheless a complex character -- numbed, but still eager for experience, and with little patience for the bullshit of those her age -- some, but not much. Repeatedly shown as vulnerable, her determination is nevertheless only briefly interrupted; she is sure enough of herself to continue on her own path.
       The resolution sees her finally on the cusp of the kind of relationship she needs; it also reveals what became of Loïc -- making Claire's entire story all the more melancholy. Still, it's quite deftly handled, touching rather than maudlin. Occasionally, Adam seems to be trying too hard in his (over)validation of Claire's simple, routine life, but he does quite a bit of this very well as well (there's some overlap with Murata Sayaka's Convenience Store Woman here).
       If the resolution isn't entirely satisfactorily pulled off and the class-differences-issues are treated a bit too simply (as is far too common in contemporary French novels ...), the novel is still quite successful -- and Adam very good at portraying Claire's condition, all along the way.

- M.A.Orthofer, 11 August 2019

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Je vais bien, ne t'en fais pas: Reviews: Don't Worry, I'm Fine - the film: Other books by Olivier Adam under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of French literature

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About the Author:

       French author Olivier Adam was born in 1974.

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© 2019 the complete review

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