A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter

This is a nicely crafted novel, and very atmospheric. It is set in France in the 1950s and concerns, chiefly, two Americans, the narrator and his acquaintance Philip  Dean. The quotes on the cover of the edition I read suggested it was a very erotic book and it is, in parts. But that is not the main focus of the book.

It is written from a dreamy, slightly unreal perspective. The narrator suddenly surprises the reader with a suggestion that the story is untrue, for example. But the evocation of provincial France is delightful and the spare, rather sharp descriptions of the power relationship between rich Americans and French people still recovering from the war are powerful. Perhaps the affair that Dean has with a pretty young French girl, which makes up most of the narrative, is a metaphor for this relationship.

The sexual nature of their relationship is well-described, though the odd detail does not ring true. Not sure what to make of that.

It is a very well written, evocative book. I will seek out more of Salter’s work.


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