On books: Jules et Jim


2 definitive things  happened to me at the age of 17. I commenced university and I also discovered French cinema. While enrolling for my lectures, I had the opportunity to choose a module that wasn’t related to the Social Sciences and without giving it much thought, other than the fact that I spoke a fair amount of French(and love the language), I signed up for a French cinema class.It was there, in that dark lecture hall for two hours on late Monday evenings,that  a wiry grey haired professor and a projected screen releasing black and white images,led me to Jules et Jim.

That year, we studied only 3 films by the greatest French directors, the most poignant of them being Jules et Jim.The story was the director François Traffaut’s story to tell, but not his to write, because when Henri-Pierre Roché released his partly biographical novel Jules et Jim, his book was neither exalted nor disregarded,until Trauffaut brought it to life in cinema, with the great actress Jeanne Moreau.

Henri-Pierre Roché’s life story, is the epitome of romantic and intellectual bohemia(partly set in the turn of the century Paris)and that is what made me pursue the story in print(despite the film being a cinematic genius). Roché was friends with great authors and artists, ranging from Picasso to Gertrude Stein.His real-life best of friend,(known as  Jules in the story),happened to be Proust’s Greman translator! If this isn’t cool overload I don’t know what is!

Together, Jules and Jim seek the thrilling pleasures of travel,books and art and their generous friendship is of the kind of disposition where they share women as often as they share a good cigarette. This becomes the basis of their friendship which is magnified, toppled over, exaggerated and fiery when they both fall in love with a beautiful and oftentimes volatile woman named Kate, who would romantically love both men on and off…leading to dire consequences…

When I first watched the film based on this book, I was fascinated and that did not change with the book. What a screen shot cannot capture is the abrupt ending of the short and beautifully connected sentences making up the story-which was Roche’s style of writing.I think this is genius, because you don’t have to be stuffed with words for a great story to be made. The lyrics of artistes like Sting are a testament to this(in my opinion).

In Roche’s story, one minute he writes about a little apartment in Paris, the next,you find yourself transported to an obscure German village, where the characters pursue their interests.Their exaggerated mobility is something any traveller will fall in love with or anyone who simply daydreams.

While I enjoyed the culture of the book and style of writing,my view of the story has changed,from what it was 8 years ago. I found the female lead terribly  annoying and my opinion on sexual liberation, the main themes of love and freedom,as well as  little themes that pop up in the course of the book, have certainly altered with time. But that is personal to me. This one is a story one must know, but the choice is your own to make.Will it be the book or film?

For me personally, film.


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