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Sunday, October 16, 2011

"The Russian Front", do we need diplomats?

The Russian Front (Le Front Russe, French original title)
Jean-Claude Lalumière

Cutting answer: NO. Or at least we don't need anyone who resembles any of the characters of this book. Because of my job, I have the occasion of meeting/knowing a considerable amount of people from that "world", and I have to say that, sadly, reality doesn't get very far from this. In my opinion, is a useless profession.

But "The Russian Front" doesn't have serious pretensions or aims to denounce the parasitism of diplomacy. Far from it. Author Lalumière only wants to create a lightweight entertainment based on his own experiences. I guess publishers decided to sell the book as a satire without reading it, 'cause you won't find many laughs. Exceptions aside, involving a pigeon or Lalumiere's boss, the book is not funny at all. Which, by itself, doesn't mean to be bad.

The problem is that the scenes of French bureaucracy narrated in first person are going nowhere, lost in a confused tone and a poor development of an argument that had a lot of potential. "The Russian Front"  fails in its goal to provoke smiles but when the character personal situation and its job starts to offer a darker more interesting side, you realize Lalumière won't go further than sketching things. And then, the book is over.

In particular, it is really frustrating to read the weak development of his character/persona, when he is the gravitational force that moves the book. This is not Woody Allen exaggerating tics about his family to make hilarious jokes, or its not a "rather not" Bartleby located into the diplomatic world. This should have been a person with some "issues": a dreamy misconception about what diplomacy is (so real that hurts, I have known so many students/aspiring diplomats who thinks the same) mixed with a notorious ego trapped into a pusillanimous character. The cocktail had a tremendous potential. But we won't see it.

"The Russian Front" is an ok novel to pass the time, not specially funny, and safe when it seemed it could offer a more attractive insight. Not much to highlight, in my opinion.

SCORE: 4,75/10

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