Love and Invention by Benjamin Constable
Editions du Délirium; 10/13/18
paperback; 323 pages
Love and Invention by Benjamin Constable is a highly recommended novel about finding your way in a place you don't belong.
Sixteen-year old Maleck moved to the village of Saint Jean two months
ago and would like to run away - back to Paris where he had friends who
enjoyed making films as much as he does. Now Maleck's plans to escape
have been foiled by the post lady, who inadvertently hit his bike. She
also, surprisingly, delivered a letter to him - a letter from his
grandfather that was sent ten years ago. Ten years ago, in 2003, his
grandfather Abbas Ibn Firnas, 73 years-old, disappeared from the
village. According to Yvette, an 83 year-old widow, Abbas flew away.
Maleck, who drops out of high school to avoid the bullying he receives
there, is originally encouraged by his mother to spend more time with
Yvette, who knew his grandfather. During their visits she often confuses
him with his grandfather, but he also learns more about his
grandfather's life as an inventor and philosopher. She also teaches him
how to dance and lets him know that his grandfather, too, was an
outsider in the village. As Maleck learns more about him, he decides to
make a film about his grandfather's life.
The novel opens with Maleck imprisoned, where he is encouraged to
express himself by writing this book. Chapters alternate between the
lives of Abbas (starting in 1937) and Maleck's life leading up to what
put him in prison. There are also occasionally brief interludes - short
chapters referencing the writing of the book. The chapters featuring
Abbas have the feel of historical fiction while the present day chapters
featuring Maleck feel like a coming-of-age novel. Maleck's chapters
will anger and frustrate you as he deals with the bullies found in Saint
Jean while dreaming of becoming a film maker and rising above, flying
away, from the mundane limiting existence in his small town. Maleck
drops many references to films in his chapters, as a budding film maker
would be prone to do.
Constable does an exquisite job utilizing his beautiful, poetic prose to
weave both narratives together into a complex, complete story. At the
back of the novel are two source guides, one to the origination of the
quotes used by one character and one for Maleck's film references. Both
Abbas and Maleck are well-developed characters. With them Constable has
created complete portraits of complex individuals and the choices, good
and bad, that they made in their lives.
My review copy was courtesy of Benjamin Constable and Editions du Délirium.