lip lit: david foenkinos, delicacy
I’m often a little saddened when I read a book that has been translated. I always wonder – how much did I lose? Language is complex, temperamental and beautiful. Words not only create worlds, but they create nuanced characters and a sense of lyrically. When used well, words create a melody that sweeps you away. In reading translations, I’m never scared that the words I’m receiving are inaccurate – I’m just fearful that I’ve lost words that slide down the throat like honey. Delicacy by David Foenkinos, however, is such an engaging and mellifluous novel that it seems unlikely it could be superior in it’s native French.
It’s the story of a young woman named Natalie, who is suddenly widowed. She tries to rebuild her life, throwing herself into her work. Years later, she impulsively kisses Markus, one of her colleagues. He’s in love with her. She isn’t so sure. And so begins a beautiful, realistic, tender, awkward, refreshing love story. Their love isn’t immediate or instant, or full of foot-pops or perfect conversations. Falling in love is tricky, and in Natalie’s case, it’s somewhat terrifying.
The novel is structured in short chapters which really gives attention and importance to subtle moments that are usually lost in larger novels, which in turn gives a lovely stillness to the piece a whole. The narration is directed to the reader and has a slightly teasing and whimsical tone, which makes it so easy to surrender to. The novel also breaks up the narration by incorporating complimentary bits of information — such a a recipe for asparagus risotto, lyrics from a song, astrological signs of characters and text messages. While some authors who employ this technique may be seen as being pretentious, Foenkinos pulls it off with effortless charm.
Delicacy is about grief and second chances. It’s about love and allowing yourself to be vulnerable. And like the title suggests — it’s about how the very nature of love is fragile and exquisite. It has recently been turned into a movie starring Audrey Tatou (who the author actually imagined as Natalie while writing the book), and has generated high praise for it’s faithful adaption. Delicacy is one of those rare books which is heartbreaking and heartwarming, and it’ll leave you with a restored faith in starting again.