Thursday, February 03, 2011

book review: Count D'Orgel's Ball by Raymond Radiguet

Count d'Orgel was unable to perceive the reality of anything but what took place in public.

The themes of love and class dominate this tale of a destructive relationship between a couple and a young man they introduce into their circle of friends.

What starts as a joke takes a more damaging turn as the D'Orgels take the young Francois into the bosom of their lives and the Count, who has a problem expressing his feelings, fails to notice that his wife Mahaut is falling in love with the young man.

The book details a suffocating a rather futile world of rich people who seek pleasure above all else and find themselves empty in-between looking for the next thrill. As a result they perhaps fail to feel with the same depth that others do not knowing what real love is all about.

Having said that the Countess clearly loves her husband but there are suggestions that it is perhaps because of her background which was on the edge of society. For Count d'Orgel the only thing that really matters is the public life, the way people view him and the balls and dances he attends. When confronted with an awkward moment that requires introspection and deep thought he simply is not capable of it. He can act a reaction but not feel it genuinely.

Just as in the way you felt the world that Proust describes in Remembrance of Things Past was largely a hollow one this is the same. The French obsession with aristocracy and position seeps through the pages and you can understand why it was such an interesting subject for numerous writers to cover.

The ball that gives its name to the title marks the point where the unfeeling immaturity of Count d'Orgel reaches its height and leaves you in no doubt that these people are perhaps as damaged as any other but cocooned from reality with their riches and their limited social sphere, which keeps them in a bubble of wealth.