Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Man in a Hurry by Paul Morand

You often hear that the modern world is too fast, that everything is travelling at breakneck speed without a chance to pause, to relax and to take in your surroundings. What if your experience is the opposite? What if as far as you are concerned the world is going too slow & that all your dealings with it could/should be done far quicker, so that you could move on to the next thing, before your patience, or boredom levels reach crisis point.

The Man in a Hurry, tells the story of Parisian antiques dealer Pierre Niox, a man who sees the idea of relaxing as something akin to being buried alive. His life is spent rushing from one deal to the next, moving on before the ink has dried on the contract, flitting impulsively from obsession to obsession with little thought to the consequences of those around, until all those around leave even - his cat. However a lifeline is thrown to him in the shape of Hedwig who is as relaxed and laidback as Pierre is frenetic and fast paced, but to win her heart he will have to learn to slow down. As you can imagine, this is not as easy as it sounds especially for a man whose whole life has been governed by the motto "quickly and badly", who thinks that everything can be sped up regardless of the consequences, and by god are there consequences!

The Man in a Hurry (L'Homme pressé) is a 1941 novel by
Paul Morand
, who was admired by both Ezra Pound and by Marcel Proust as a pioneer craftsman of Modernist French prose. Paul Morand was born in Paris in 1888. After studying at the École libre des sciences politiques, he joined the diplomatic corps, serving in London, Rome, Berne and Bucharest. Tender Shoots his first collection of stories was introduced by Marcel Proust. He wrote poetry, novels, short stories and travel books. Due to his collaboration with the Vichy government during WWII, he was refused admission to the prestigious Académie Française three times before being finally accepted in 1968, despite the protests of Charles de Gaulle.

This is a wonderful, funny book that moves at a frantic pace, almost as fast as Pierre Niox but, unlike Pierre, the writer is fully in control. What surprised me about this book is this is the first English translation, ably done by Euan Cameron, who has also translated other books by Paul Morand, such as Venices, Tender Shoots and The Allure of Chanel, all for Pushkin press. He has also translated biographies on Marcel Proust and Iréne Némirovsky.


The Man in a Hurry, is also Pushkin press's first hardcover & although it's not essential to the reading of the book, they have created a wonderful looking book that still manages to follow the elegant style of their previous titles, I'm looking forward to seeing where they go with this.



Brian Joseph said...

I seem to know people like Pierre Niox.

It seems appropriate that this book moves at a fast pace. I supposed that is part of the modernist aspect.

It is always good to see new titles translated into English.

James said...

I have no problem going at a moderate to slow pace. Therefore I may have to speed up a bit to enjoy this book. It sounds like a great find with recommendations from Pound and Proust.