Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Published by: Gallic Books (Sept 2009
Pages: 121 (Hardback)
My Rating: 7/10
THE GOURMET BY MURIEL BARBERY
As the greatest food critic in the world lies on his deathbed, having been told by his physician that he only has 48 hours to live, he looks back on his life and reminisces about the food he has savoured since his childhood.
"I am going to die and there is a flavour that has been teasing my taste buds and my heart and I simply cannot recall it........I know that it is a flavour from childhood or adolescence, an original, marvellous dish that predates my vocation as a critic.........I search, and cannot find."
This is more or less the premise of the book as Pierre Arthens desperately wants to re-live the taste before he dies and the chapters alternate between him and his friends, family, workers and even a beggar who he passed every day for ten years ..... they all spill the beans on their feelings and thoughts about him.
We see that he was not an easy man to live with, he was a cantankerous, authoritarian old man who treated his three children with disdain, his daughter Anna recalls that 'we were like flies to him, unwanted flies that you brush away with a sweep of your hand so you needn't think about them any more'. Yet to his peers and admirers he was a god and was treated with reverance upon entering a restaurant and people hung on his every word.
Pierre described many instances of his favourite meals, who prepared them (his grandmother was his first preferred cook) and where and when they were eaten, in what circumstances, all in meticulous detail.
I thought he was a strange mix, I both liked and disliked him, I was fascinated by his love of food but I was unnerved by the way he treated his family, and couldn't understand what his wife saw in him. Muriel Barbery's extraordinary descriptions of foods I found a little long-winded sometimes and I certainly enjoyed reading everyone else's chapters more than Pierre's.
An interesting book for foodie fans.
This is one of many Gallic Books that have been translated from French and I must thank Lucy at all-leo.com for sending me a copy.