A Year in the Merde
I had high hopes for entertainment when I got this book, even though the colleague who lent it to me warned me that it might be a bit shallow. I like good-natured fun between European nationalities and there was, at times, just the right amount of facetiousness and snarky remarks to make me giggle, but the passages that had me roll my eyes in annoyance outweighed that by far. Our protagonist, Paul West, is such a bit too much enamoured with himself for my tastes. Yes, he does make fun of himself from time to time, but mostly in relation to his propensity to step into dog excrement, which the streets of Paris are apparently covered in, and his difficulties in ordering beverages like the locals.
Even when he was recounting his mishaps in France, I couldn’t shake the feeling that these were indeed thinly veiled snide remarks to ascertain his superiority.
A great chunk of the book is devoted to his sexual exploits. Obviously, Paul is God’s gift to womankind and Parisian women are one and all floozies in any event. Granted, strong, independent, and confident floozies, but floozies any way.
Well, it was funny to try and decipher what his weird transcriptions of the French accent were supposed to entail. I admit to having snickered a few times when the meaning finally hit home. Then again, our protagonist is an Englishman in Paris. He’s scheduled to remain there for a year, not a brief holiday stint. He doesn’t speak French, or at least not well enough to make himself understood. His failure to communicate in French is more often than not attributed to the Frenchmen’s malice. But mostly everyone is kind enough to speak English for his benefit, only to be completely ridiculed for their efforts – just because Paul cannot adjust to a little bit of French pronunciation and intonation.
All in all, I didn’t have that much fun reading about the “adventures” of an arrogant jackass whose efforts to integrate himself into a welcoming community were supercilious at best. Paul West also does not fit my image of the typical Englishman who is witty, smart, dead-pan, but not an overly sexual being in my book. :)