I want to read as many Nobel Laureate writers as possible. A few weeks ago I got an email from “The Writer’s Almanac” mentioning François Mauriac’s birthday. Intrigued, I looked for some of his books at our library and chose Desert of Love (1925) at random.
I expected a French Graham Greene, but I don’t think he fits that description. I did keep thinking of The End of the Affair, which I read last fall. There’s a lot less explicit Catholic content in Mauriac.
The story involves a middle aged doctor and his teenage (later 34 year old) son, who’re both attracted or obsessed maybe more accurate with Maria Cross, a kept woman who lives in their town. All the neighborhood ostracizes her. Neither father nor son know the extent of the other’s involvement with Maria. This synopsis may lead one to expect a cheesy, Harlequin romance, but Mauriac probes the the motivations and inner thinking of each character shedding light on how Maria’s response or games with Raymond, the son, lead to his future womanizing or dissipation. The style is spare, which I love. I marvel at concise writing where there’s nothing that isn’t required.
It’s a trim 131 pages so that’s quite a difference and break as a reader from Proust, whom I’ll write about after my grades are done.