Dubois, Jean-Paul 1950-
Dubois, Jean-Paul 1950-
Born 1950, in Toulouse, France.
Author. Reporter for Nouvel Observateur (weekly news magazine).
Prix Fémina, 2004, for Vie Française.
Eloge du gaucher dans un monde manchot, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1986.
Tous les matins je me lève (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1988.
Vous aurez de mes nouvelles, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1991.
Une année sous silence (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1992.
Parfois je ris tout seul: Chroniques, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1992.
Prends soin de moi (novel), R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1993.
La vie me fait peur (novel), Seuil (Paris, France), 1994.
Kennedy et moi (novel), Seuil (Paris, France), 1996.
Je pense à autre chose, Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 1997.
Si ce livre pouvait me rapprocher de toi, Editions de L'Olivier (Paris, France), 1999.
Rober Racine, 400 coups (Montréal, Quebec, Canada), 2001.
Jusque-là tout allait bien en Amérique (title means "Until Now, Everything Was Going Well in America"), Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 2002.
L'Amérique m'inquiète (title means "America Worries Me"), Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 2002.
Vie Française (novel), Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 2004, translated by Linda Coverdale as A French Life, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.
Vous plaisantez, monsieur Tanner, Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 2006.
Hommes entre eux, Editions de l'Olivier (Paris, France), 2007.
Kennedy et moi was adapted as a film; plans are being made to turn Vie Française into a television series.
A French reporter, travel writer, and novelist, Jean-Paul Dubois often writes about both French and American society with a cynical, jaded eye. His first novel to be translated into English, Vie Française, or A French Life, continues this characteristic pattern. The winner of the prestigious Prix Fémina in 2004, A French Life spans forty years in the life of its narrator, Paul Blick. A great deal occurs over these years in France, from the presidencies of Charles De Gaulle through Jacques Chirac, the rebellious 1960s, and the increasing Americanization of French culture. Meanwhile, the narrator goes through many changes in his own life, as well. During his childhood, he is saddened when his brother dies at the age of eight. His parents become emotionally withdrawn as a result of this loss. In the 1960s Paul becomes a rebel and during a 1968 riot goes so far as to break the windows of his own father's business. After several sexual liaisons, including one with a woman he considers his most treasured love, Marie, Paul settles for the beautiful and ambitious Anna, who comes to represent everything he despises about the bourgeoisie. Anna dies in a plane accident, along with the man with whom she is having an affair. From the marriage, Paul has one child, a daughter, who eventually goes mad with depression and is institutionalized. Paul's brief taste of success comes when he pursues nature photography and publishes a best-selling coffee-table book on trees in France. Eventually, he loses his money and becomes poor again.
Despite all that goes on in the book, the point of the novel is not so much the events it relates as the musings of its narrator. As Blair Parsons put it in a Booklist review, "The achievement and purpose of Vie Française is in the analysis of these events." Paul becomes increasingly disenchanted with politics and society, but in so doing comes to realize with increasing clarity the importance of the people he cares about in his life. Some reviewers, however, focused on the cynical aspects of the book and the apparent commentary on both French and the invasive American culture. San Francisco Chronicle contributor Susan Comninos noted that the book does not illuminate French society, as the title seems to claim, and instead "it seems that shining a light on the sins of France's leaders reflects more the interest of the author than it does the novel's subject." In the New York Times, however, William Deresiewicz commented that "the dominant role that American culture plays in the novel is one of the most interesting things about it." Still, Deresiewicz felt that the early chapters of the book are its strongest sections and that the later parts descend into whininess. "The main problem is that Paul essentially absents himself from social and economic life."
Some critics have compared Dubois's novel to the writings of Philip Roth and John Updike, especially Portnoy's Complaint and the "Rabbit" books featuring Harry Angstrom. Jules Treneer, writing in the New York Sun, commented: "A few of the humorous anecdotes are a little tired, especially to readers familiar with ‘Portnoy's Complaint.’" Despite such criticisms, however, a number of reviewers enjoyed A French Life, with London Independent contributor Gerry Feehily calling it "a very likeable book," while a Kirkus Reviews writer concluded: "Part realistic novel, part high-class soap opera, and absorbingly readable from first page to last."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, May 15, 2007, Blair Parsons, review of Vie Française, p. 22.
Independent (London, England), September 5, 2007, Gerry Feehily, review of A French Life.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2007, review of Vie Française.
New Statesman, August 23, 2007, Natasha Tripney, "Revolution Betrayed," review of A French Life.
New York Sun, July 11, 2007, Jules Treneer, "An Armchair Nihilist," review of Vie Française.
New York Times, September 2, 2007, William Deresiewicz, "His Generation," review of Vie Française.
San Francisco Chronicle, July 30, 2007, Susan Comninos, "A Malcontent Stuck in a State of Unrest," review of Vie Française.
Fantastic Fiction,http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/ (March 2, 2008), review of A French Life.
Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (March 2, 2008), brief profile of Jean-Paul Dubois.